The White Sox would like to determine Jackson's playing status by March 15, because under the terms of his contract that's the date they must either buy out his contract for $150,000 or pick up the option year for $910,000.
Until then speculation will run rampant. "He'll never make it; no one [with his injury] could," says an American League team executive. "They've got so much p.r. tied up in him [the White Sox are pushing a Hip Ticket Plan this year], they're just keeping it alive. He might gimp along for two years, but Bo wouldn't want that."
"Our guys respect Bo for what he has gone through, the pain," says Chicago vice-president of major league operations Ron Schueler. "They're pulling for him."
2. Are Astro fans overly excited about their team?
Who would ever have thought that question would come up? "We've been on the front page in the middle of the winter," says Houston manager Art Howe. "That's unheard-of around here." With the signings of free-agent pitchers Greg Swindell and Doug Drabek, the Astros are the most-improved team in the major leagues.
"We're not in a rebuilding stage anymore," says Howe. "We're in competition for a division title." But it's going to take 100 victories to win the NL West, and the Astros, 81-81 last year, aren't that good yet—not with a shortstop (Andujar Cedeno) who spent half of last season in the minors, a leftfielder (Luis Gonzalez) who hit only .243 and a catcher (Eddie Taubensee) who has played in just 130 major league games.
3. Who is going to replace Barry Bonds in leftfield for the Pirates?
How about Al Martin, nephew of former Los Angeles Raider linebacker Rod Martin? Scouts first discovered Al when they went to Rowland High in West Covina, Calif., to watch his teammate Dave Hansen, now a third baseman with the Dodgers. College-football coaches already knew about Martin, but he gave up a football scholarship to Southern Cal in order to sign with the Atlanta Braves in 1985.
After a slow climb to the Triple A level, Martin was left unprotected by Atlanta after the 1991 season without ever having played in the majors. But Pittsburgh signed him, and Martin had his best season last year with Triple A Buffalo. Though still lacking discipline at the plate, Martin displayed extra-base power, hitting 16 doubles, 15 triples and 20 home runs to bolster his .305 average. A lefthanded hitter, Martin, 25, is expected to platoon with veteran Lonnie Smith, who was picked up from the Braves during the off-season.