© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2003
Sometimes it seems unfair to pick on Major League Baseball. After all, the grand old game has a rogue's gallery of problems to address, from voodoo economics to players, if David Wells is to be believed, besmirching the game's integrity and the records their chemical-addled bodies are 'roid-raging into submission.
Instead, MLB decided to make its stand on player uniforms.
This, after all, is the first collective bargaining agreement under which MLB has stronger leverage to enforce what players where or augment, so the league has decided to kick players square in the baggy pants.
The new deal includes three full pages pertaining to dress code, from distracting jewelry to the fact a shoe must be 51 percent team colors. The rule will be enforced with fines, according to the commissioner's office, to prevent violators from fashioning a competitive edge.
Pirates first baseman Kevin Young, who admittedly sports some of the most spacious trousers in the game to make room for a protective knee brace, has been told he is more apt to be hit by a pitch without the downside of the ball actually touching his body.
What's next? Will bat boys run to the mound to tuck in Wells' shirt after a particularly muscled-up fastball? Will a winning ALCS homer be overturned because Manny Ramirez's shoes are 49 percent team issue?
Some sense of order is needed, certainly, but baseball fashion polices itself. Those mid-'70s vintage polyester hip-huggers will be back around eventually. And won't we all be so much happier then?
Jassen Cullimore could have ridden this one all the way into summer, done his couple of hours a day in the weight room, skated in practice and enjoyed the best seat in the house for the Lightning's playoff games.
Luckily for the Lightning, he shares that same competitive ego that augments other gamers: My team needs me. Then there was the thought that after six seasons in Tampa Bay he wanted to be on the ice for the breakthrough that seemingly would never come. As a result, the defenseman trimmed two weeks off the optimistic projections for his return from rotator cuff surgery and played his first game on Thursday after missing the past 54.
Cullimore was arguably the Lightning's best defenseman when he sustained his injury in late November, and his presence will greatly augment a line suddenly without Brad Lukowich, who is likely to miss a month after sustaining a broken bone around his eye Monday.
The Lightning had options if Cullimore did not return by his April 9 target date. Janne Laukkanen and Marc Bergevin would welcome the chance to dress for a game after being acquired March 11. But getting Cullimore back now is as if the trade deadline was extended for the Lightning.
If Cullimore addresses the playoffs with the same determination that got him back in the lineup Thursday, the Lightning defense won't be reminded anymore that it lacks a top-4 guy.