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Wednesday a.m. stuff

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As you can see from the clock at the top, Opening Day is just 54 days away.

That seems kind of weird to me...while the offseason seems to have lasted for a long time, it still feels like baseball season should be more than two months away.

Bruce Chen was officially signed, finally. Evan Grant suggests that participating in the World Baseball Classic may have hurt Chen last season...if that was the problem, that would be a good thing, because it would suggest that Chen would be a better candidate to bounce back and be a solid starter for Texas in 2007.

Grant also talks about Tom Hicks investing in Liverpool. I don't particularly care about this one way or the other, but I do think it is interesting that, just a year or two after Hicks hired someone to look into finding a buyer for the Stars, and on the heels of all these reports that he's going broke, he's now able to pony up $225 million for a soccer team.

T.R. Sullivan has a requiem for Rick Helling, who just announced his retirement.

Craig Brown at BTB has a piece up making the case for Will Clark as a Hall of Famer. I've seen the arguments before -- they mainly center around Candlestick's pitcher-friendly nature depressing the raw numbers in what were some truly dominant seasons by Clark -- but I'm not convinced he's a Hall of Fame caliber player.

He does provide an interesting contrast with the guy he replaced, and ended up replacing him, in Texas...I don't think Rafael Palmeiro ever had a season as good as Will Clark's best couple of seasons, but Palmeiro was better for longer than Clark. The steroid thing makes Palmeiro's HOF possibilities seem almost irrelevant now, but if Palmeiro were to be elected to the Hall, one would have a hard time explaining why he is in and Clark is out.

Also at BTB, John Barten has a profile up on a prospect for the hated Mariners, first baseman Bryan LaHair.

Finally, Aaron Harang has signed a 4 year, $36 million extension with the Cincinnati Reds, buying out his final two arbitration years and his first two free agency years.

Harang, of course, is another one who got away, a pitcher dealt (along with Ryan Cullen) to the Oakland A's for Randy Velarde prior to the 2001 season.

But his development is another small data point in the ongoing debate of the baseball version of nature versus nurture...did the Rangers just happen to trade away the only good pitcher they drafted over a several year span, or did Aaron Harang become as good as he has because he wasn't developed within the Rangers organization, but instead by the A's organization, which has a sterling track record for developing pitchers?

In other words, when we complain about the bad drafts Doug Melvin had in the late 90s, particularly pitching-wise, was the problem with the players that were drafted, or with what the team did with those players once the Rangers had them?