DARTING HERE and there ...

-Frank Thomas, Milton Bradley or perhaps Mike Piazza? Thomas may offer

the biggest potential reward but also presents the biggest injury risk, so the Oakland A's had better have a contingency plan to roll those Big Hurt dice. Right now, there doesn't appear to be one.

-Whenever I hear "bad feet," I can't help but conjure up the limping image of John Jaha. The A's were fortunate to get one year out of Jaha before he ultimately blew up. Thomas could be the same kind of ticking time bomb, only a more expensive and untimely one. It's a big dilemma for Billy Beane, who definitely expects the A's to make a run at it next year.

-He's not a "Moneyball" type of player, so the odds were against it, but it would have been nice to see Beane and the A's take a run at Alfonso Soriano, who would have given Oakland more speed in addition to power and run production. Thomas, on the other hand, immediately would become the slowest of the station-to-station A's if he signs.

-The Rangers traded Soriano to Washington for prospects and then let Kenny Rogers go to Detroit. Well, if nothing else, there's one less team the A's will have to worry about next year.

-The Giants, meanwhile, signed Mark Sweeney when they really needed Mike. Hopefully, they land Matt Morris and not Warren.

-Grady Little as manager and $13 mil a year for Rafael Furcal. Wow, not a real great start to the Ned Colletti era in L.A., at least from this view.

-Attaboy, Rickey, keep on plugging all the way to 50. Hey, wait a minute ... right-handed, good on-base ... maybe Henderson's the Frank Thomas contingency. He'd play cheap, too.

-Miguel Tejada wants out of Baltimore just when Ramon Hernandez is arriving? Maybe Miggy hadn't gotten the word yet about his former teammate ... or maybe he had.

-For once, I'm on board with Bud Selig: The World Baseball Classic should be a gas, particularly if it breaks up the monotony of all those meaningless 13-11 spring training games.

-Speaking of international events, were you one of the 320 million people worldwide who watched the World Cup draw Friday? If you were, you watched the United States suffer one of the worst draws imaginable, not only landing in Italy's Group E but also the Czech Republic, currently ranked second in the world behind Brazil by FIFA. Say "ouch" in any language you want.

-It definitely hurt the Americans to lose one of the top eight seeds to Mexico, which leads a comparatively cupcake Group D. Getting out of its group definitely will be tough for the U.S.

-It matters that Kansas' basketball team is under .500 entering this morning's against Cal. The Jayhawks are still significantly better than any team the Golden Bears have played to date.

-Most 49ers fans root passionately against the Raiders anyway, but they'll really be against them Sunday, what with the New York Jets currently ahead of the Niners in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes.

-Kerry Collins is no doubt muttering, "Oh fine, Tui gets the Jets and Browns." True, but Marques Tuiasosopo also gets the Broncos and Giants if he can stay in there, so it'll all even out.

-On the other hand, I would echo the legions of Raiders fans out there (and Dave Del Grande) who believe Andrew Walter should get a look, too. Tui and Walter should each get two starts in the four remaining games.

-Even Rick Neuheisel must look good to Colorado now that Gary Barnett is out. But the Buffaloes may have to beat the Raiders to Neuheisel if one is to believe last weekend's New York Post story that "Slick Rick" already is on Al Davis' short list if he decides to axe Norv Turner.

-Hey, it must be a result of the great job Neuheisel has done with those Baltimore Ravens quarterbacks this year.

-Finally, to great relief, Tom Brady is Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. Why relief? One of SI's writers had nominated Jose Canseco.

Carl Steward can be reached at

(510) 293-2451 or by e-mail at

csteward@angnewspapers.com.