Pirates equipment trucks departed from the home office bound for Florida this week, and that's deserving of mention because a Pirates equipment truck remains one of the few elements within the organization that actually gets where it is going, and besides, it's always a potentially feel-good development in any fairly miserable meteorological winter.
Usually that kind of news is followed by a reminder of exactly when pitchers and catchers are due to report to various spring training camps, then by a forced Hallmark sentiment on what spring means to baseball that you can only hope does not include the phrase "hope springs eternal," then by a brief tempering advisory on a well-known pitcher who's out for the season way before the season even begins.
Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals is apparently the unfortunate winner of this year's Sigh Young.
And, oh yes, happy birthday to Hank Aaron, 79 years young on Tuesday.
Did Barry Bonds happen to call?
But no springtime baseball valentine can work its romantic way around the HGH-enhanced elephant in the room, namely the proceedings in Miami relative to the latest drug mess.
Frankly, the old indignation glands are so dry right now you can barely get a drop out of 'em with some heavy duty Channellock pliers. It isn't even a month since the doors of baseball's Hall of Fame did a full, crashing steroids slam that echoed across the landscape. Lance Armstrong's halting, partial confessional for Oprah The Great And Powerful left little doubt he's a conniving, bullying fraud, and Baltimore talisman Ray Lewis might well have just won the Super Bowl by 3 points on a banned substance emanating from deer antler extract.
He'd likely have been just as effective wearing actual deer antlers, but that's not the point.
So when you hear that soon-to-be-former New York Yankees superstar A-Fraud Rodriguez was allegedly pounding 19 performance enhancing drugs into his system over the past three years according to documents procured from a shuttered Florida "wellness" clinic investigated by the Miami New Times, I mean, how high can you shrug?
It's like Beyonce being accused of exploiting provocative attire.
Virtually no one has seriously considered Rodriguez to be anything but a chemically turbo-charged RBI machine since his spring training confession four years ago this month, the one regarding steroid use as a Texas Ranger from 2001-03. His story then, and he sticks to it even now, was that he became almost unwittingly part of baseball's drug culture at the time, that he didn't really know what he was taking, or at least couldn't pronounce some of the drugs (a mitigating circumstance in A-Fraud's head?), and that he hadn't used any banned substance since.
Might I refer you once again, Your Honor, to 2007.
In his three juicy years in Texas, A-Fraud averaged 52 homers and 131 RBI. In his next three years in New York, under about 1,000 times the scrutiny, he averaged 40 homers and 119 RBI. But suddenly, after three consecutive Yankees postseason failures and a black forest of criticism falling on A-Fraud for it, suddenly, in 2007, he hits 54 homers and drives in 156 runs.
Unbelievable. Literally, physiologically unbelievable, at least in my view.
But again, there is only so much indignation left for A-Fraud and the others named in Dr. Tony Bosch's personal dosage notebook, the one Major League Baseball would dearly love for the New Times to turn over in its unabridged version.
The only indignation left is for baseball. For its late and inadequate testing and penalties to this point. I could spare that indignation as well if Bud Selig would seize this moment and finally make the penalties commensurate with the offenses, a moment he has been working toward too slowly, but working toward nonetheless.
For the first time this year, baseball will test players for human growth hormone during the season. For the first time this year, through a fresh agreement with the players union within the game's formal drug policy, the commissioner can suspend players without a positive test. He can do it for "just cause."
After going on a decade of adjudicating drug policy, baseball continues to be laughed at by players whose primary objective is to dodge its protocols and occasionally take a 50-game suspension for the greater glory of the self.
Time for one-and-done, Bud.
First offense, one-year suspension. Second offense, you're done.
And when you're banned from baseball, don't even think about applying to drive that Pirates equipment truck.
Gene Collier: email@example.com.