You asked for a scouting report on the likely 2012 Republican presidential candidates, so here it is.
The good news is that there are a couple of decent prospects who might be ready to play in the big leagues. The bad news is that overall, this is the weakest lineup since the '62 New York Mets.
Here's my take on the ones I followed in spring training. Only a handful, most of them former governors, are worth a second look, starting with Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney: Mitt, great name for a guy who's good field, no hit. He looks like a president and talks like one too, but he has two problems: One, he's from Massachusetts, and two, he can't handle inside pitching by the right wing.
The last Massachusetts Republican who could hit the high hard one was Cotton Mather, who thought burning witches was the way to win votes. Romney figured a better way was to use the Bay State as a laboratory for national health insurance, but he struck out in his 2008 Iowa tryout, and the Tea Party crowd would like to dump him into Boston Harbor. Besides, the Kennedys own the White House franchise in Massachusetts.
There's also the Mormon thing, which could be a problem. You may have thought religion wasn't an issue after Jack Kennedy's election, but unfortunately, that stuff about polygamy and sacred underwear still bothers a lot of people, according to the sportswriters.
Tim Pawlenty: He's from Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes and almost as many presidential candidates. (See Harold Stassen, Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Jesse Ventura, and now Michele Bachmann.) He's no Harmon Killebrew, but he can hit for distance as he did while cutting spending and balancing the state budget. John McCain almost picked him as his running mate in 2008 until he called up Sarah Palin from the Wasilla farm team. Problem is Pawlenty's too Minnesota nice and won't break up a double play by taking out the shortstop.
Mike Huckabee: When's the last time Arkansas produced a president? Oh that's right, Bill Clinton, but he was a Democrat. The Huckster's popular in the GOP clubhouse and had a decent season in 2008, he likes his gig on Fox News more than schlepping through the snow in New Hampshire. Besides, America isn't ready for a President Huckabee.
Haley Barbour: He's a proven big leaguer as a Washington lobbyist, GOP fundraiser and kingmaker, and governor of Mississippi, but his uncertain fielding of questions about the White Citizens Council in Yazoo City and his image as an archetypical good old boy and political fixer may not play well with voters when his team heads north after spring training.
Sarah Palin: Mama Grizzly's still a star despite her dismal performance as McCain's running mate when she failed to hit in the clutch against Katie Couric, and she can still fill a stadium with adoring fans. But her refusal to finish the game in Alaska's statehouse and her anemic batting average on policy issues, especially foreign relations, makes her a big question mark in 2012.
Now for the others, who probably won't make it past Double A. They remind me of the rookie in spring training who wrote to his mother, "Ma, I'll be home soon, they're starting to throw curve balls."
Donald Trump: For sheer New York chutzpah and comic relief, he'd make a great pinch hitter, but the Donald should be disqualified for his "birther" obsession, if not his hair alone. If I was his manager, I'd tell him, "You're Fired."
Newt Gingrich: Talk about retreads. The Newtster's been trying to make it back to the majors ever since House Republicans gave him his release as speaker in 1999. Probably the brightest and most original thinker among the GOP prospects, but there's that problem of his multiple wives. As Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recently told a Washington audience, "He may have more war positions than he's had wives."
Ron Paul: The Texas congressman and father of Rand Paul is a good switch hitter, having run for president as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008. He still has a small but loyal army of fans who love to see him throw knockdown pitches at nearly every government agency. But if he sees any action in 2012, it'll strictly be as a long reliever.
Rudy Giuliani: He pitched a perfect game on 9/11, but he'll need the political equivalent of Tommy John surgery if he hopes to win any games in 2012.
Rick Santorum: Losing his Pennsylvania Senate seat two years ago by the biggest margin of any incumbent in 30 years isn't the best way to impress GOP kingmakers, but he's working hard to impress the fans in the conservative grassroots bleachers. Could be the Richard Nixon or the Barry Goldwater of 2012.
Mitch Daniels: Many Republicans consider him the best prospect from Indiana since Dan Quayle, but he doesn't seem to have the fire in his belly. Probably needs a better fast ball and a couple more seasons in the minors.
Michele Bachmann: The outspoken Minnesota congresswoman is the darling of the Tea Party and a media star who knows how to rally the grassroots and raise tons of money, as she proved with a $13 million haul in her last House race. With a better change-up and a little more control, she could be the Sarah Palin of 2012.
Jon Huntsman: The former Utah governor and ambassador to China could give Mitt Romney a run for his money and prove that a Mormon can win it all.
Chris Christie: He may be hitting .300 in New Jersey, but he better lose 50 pounds and quit bad mouthing opposing players if he hopes to make it to the big leagues.
John Bolton: The last Republican presidential candidate with a mustache was Tom Dewey, and you know what happened to him.