04/16/1979 at 01:00 AM EST
Perhaps the best played and most dramatic baseball off-season in history came to an exciting close April 3. Over the previous six months a sum roughly equal to the annual budget of Upper Volta was committed to indenturing the services of players who in some cases had previously been scraping along on a couple of hundred thou or so a year. Dave Parker of Pittsburgh won the National League title, signing for about $1 million a season for five years; Rod Carew, designated bitter after his old boss, the Minnesota Twins' Calvin Griffith, blurted some racially offensive remarks, led the American League with $900,000 (for five years) extracted from the California Angels. Pete Rose at $750,000 (four years), George Foster $750,000 (three years) and Jim Rice $700,000 (seven years) had productive off-seasons, too. The Yankees were world champs again, of course, signing two more high-priced chattels (Tommy John and Luis Tiant) even though Carew had the effrontery to reject an offer from the House That Steinbrenner Built. But the teams in baseball's underprivileged Third World—the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, for instance—had uneventful hot-stove seasons, because they were found wanting in money and/or ambience by the flannel mercenaries. That means the 1979 championships may involve seriously only the Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, L.A. Dodgers and (in the only divisional race) the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Sound familiar? Most fans may while away the dreary months from April to October speculating on personnel maneuvers. Already Bobby Bonds of the Indians (his sixth team in six years) has announced he wants to be traded after this campaign, and Nolan Ryan of California says he will become a free agent. It's never too early to sound the traditional baseball chorus, "Wait till next off-season."