Cincinnati baseball fans had an out-of-body experience last winter when the Reds, contrary to their nature, actually spent money for the sake of self-improvement. Add Eric Milton and Ramon Ortiz to a suspect rotation and Joe Randa for stability at third, and a team that had averaged 72 wins since 2001 figured to be markedly better.
Up the road in Cleveland, the mood was similarly upbeat. The Indians were far enough along in their rebuilding process to hope that a jump from 80 wins to contention was a legitimate possibility. Some people even picked them as a dark horse to unseat the Twins in the American League Central.
So much for Grapefruit League projections. In both cities, the euphoria lasted just long enough for those Florida tans to fade and the warts to emerge.