1. Jordan rules: Megastar Michael Jordan goes to spring training with the Chicago White Sox just months after announcing his NBA retirement. The public embraces the possibility that Jordan might win a major-league job, but baseball insiders reason that the sport's skills and instincts cannot be acquired in the space of a few weeks. Jordan reports to the minors, proving that in baseball, at least, life does not begin at 30.
2. One strike and everybody's out: The owners finally agree on a revenue-sharing program to subsidize small-market clubs, but the second half of their economic recovery program -- a salary cap -- could lead to a late-season work stoppage. The Major League Players Association is skeptical of both the plan and the premise that baseball is on the brink of financial ruin. If the players do not strike late in the season, the owners might impose the cap unilaterally during the off-season.
3. Cancer strikes: In a series of sobering spring training reports that put baseball into perspective, doctors diagnosed cancer in Philadelphia Phillies first baseman John Kruk, White Sox pitcher Scott Radinsky and Cleveland Indians pitcher Jerry DiPoto. The prognoses for all three are positive. Additionally, Orioles prospect Manny Alexander was found to have a skin tumor, but '' doctors indicated that the growth, though technically a form of cancer, was not life-threatening.
4. Baseball brought in for a realignment: It took late-inning negotiations, but the owners and players struck a deal in January that realigned divisions and added a tier of playoffs. Come Opening Day, the powerful Atlanta Braves will play in the same division with the defending National League champion Phillies and the American League West will be without two of the top three contenders from 1993. Come September, there is the possibility of six close races, plus interdivisional competition for the wild-card berth in each league's four-team postseason tournament.
5. Camden Yards wanna-bes: The Indians figure to have their lowest Opening Day attendance in a generation, and they can't wait. The team was famous for giant Opening Day crowds at Cleveland Stadium, but management has traded in that cavernous football facility for 42,400-seat Jacobs Field. The downtown stadium will be christened by an upgraded team that has a chance to be the first AL Central champion. The Texas Rangers will open their new stadium a week later. The Ballpark in Arlington features a two-tiered home run porch in right field and a manual out-of-town scoreboard in left. Like the Orioles' Camden Yards, it is a modern tribute to the ballparks of old, with traditional architecture and asymmetrical dimensions.
6. Iron Horse hears footsteps: Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken embarks on the last full season he needs in his quest to break Lou Gehrig's record of playing 2,130 consecutive games. If all goes well, Ripken will stretch his streak to 2,059 by the end of this year and break Gehrig's record midway through 1995. But the Orioles won't wait that long to recognize his achievement. They'll undoubtedly acknowledge his 1,900th straight game, next Friday night at Camden Yards, and are planning a big ceremony when Ripken plays in his historic 2,000th straight game July 30 -- also at home. No doubt, the club has lobbied to make sure that the record-breaking game in 1995 also is scheduled for Oriole Park, with cushion days built in to absorb early season rainouts.
7. Blue Jays set for a fall: The Toronto Blue Jays still might have the best all-around talent in the AL East, but a difficult spring could signal the end of their divisional dominance. Camp started with a barroom brawl that put pitchers Dave Stewart and Todd Stottlemyre on the police blotter and things went downhill from there, with closer Duane Ward developing biceps tendinitis and perennial MVP candidate Joe Carter sidelined several weeks with the broken thumb.
8. Maddux has it down to a Cy-ience: Atlanta's Greg Maddux is in position to become the first pitcher to win the Cy Young Award three consecutive times. Maddux won for the Chicago Cubs in 1992 and came back last season with a 20-10 record and a 2.36 ERA to win it with the Braves; he's just the second pitcher in the NL and fifth overall to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Can he do it again? He figures to get support from a solid lineup, but so does another contender: teammate Tom Glavine, who won the award in 1991.
9. Special delivery from South Korea: Chan Ho Park, a South Korean, signs a $1.2 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and displays a sizzling fastball during spring training. He might start the season in the minors, but his lively arm and quirky motion could get to Dodger Stadium soon. Park's arrival ++ adds to baseball's increasingly international flavor. Along with the dozens of Latin American-born players already on major-league rosters, there now are three players from Australia, two from The Netherlands and one from Japan.