Around the NL East - Marlins trying spend big, Nationals and catchers, Mets playing financial chess, Phillies acquire Papelbon

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This is a picture is of J.J. Hoover getting Bryce Harper to ground out in just one pitch, in Surprise Stadium. For four days last week, I was in Arizona for some Fall League baseball.

All I have to say is that now, I am completely ruined when it comes to going to baseball games.

Arizona Fall League baseball was simply the greatest baseball experience ever, and I don't look forward to any other baseball moving forward. I went to five of the six AFL parks. Seven dollar general admission tickets allowing visitors to sit wherever they want, be it behind home plate, or front row behind the dugout, first come first serve. Free parking, everywhere, taking the rock star spots right next to the ticket window. Arizona fall weather that tops out at 75F and doesn't dip below 55F.

A relaxing atmosphere, watching baseball at its purest, most innocent incarnation; no veteran players going through the motions and loafing while they think about making tee time. These are all youngsters who are playing for their careers, hoping their efforts and production will get them to the show sooner rather than later. Being after the regular season, there aren't gigantic crowds of obnoxious kids and autograph hounds annoying players, personnel and other visitors.

All the players are accessible and willing to chat, and most are simply happy if you know what their first names are. I had brief and pleasant chats with several players, including the Braves' own J.J. Hoover, Navery Moore and Todd Cunningham. Christian Bethancourt tossed me a baseball because I knew what his first name was. I saw Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Mike Olt rake. David Nick of the Dbacks had a stretch of seven PAs where he didn't make an out. Speaking of the Dbacks, I met and shared great conversation with the Flag Lady that we often see whenever the Braves play the Dbacks in Arizona. I watched #2 pick in the 2011 draft, Danny Hultzen systematically carve up the Salt River Rafters. And for reasons completely beyond me, San Francisco prospect Joe Panik had a cult following that showed up to pretty much every single game the Scottsdale Scorpions were at.

In my opinion, Phoenix isn't a very interesting city. I found it to be kind of boring, in fact. Tons of strip malls, lots of suburbia, and then more strip malls. Outside of baseball, there wasn't much for a guy like me to take in, except for food, to which Phoenix area has a lot of great eateries (Thanks to all the fine folks at AZ Snake Pit who made great suggestions). But the baseball alone, easily makes it a fantastic trip, and I want to do the AFL again next year. I want to do the AFL every year. I suggest everyone make it out there at least once in your lives, if you truly want to see some beautiful baseball.

Oh, and here's something absolutely fascinating:

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Logan Schafer actually exists. He's a Brewers minor leaguer, and probably going to spend a lot of time with the big club in 2012 and beyond. Like Jordan Schafer, he's 25-years old, 6'1 tall, bats left, throws left, and plays center field. But unlike Jordan Schafer, he wasn't fast-tracked to the major leagues, and has systematically developed through every level of the minor leagues before getting his first cup of coffee in 2011. Hopefully he avoids injury and has a fine career. Except against the Braves. Unless he's traded to the Braves.

Anyway, the AFL was the bomb. Welcome back to the basement.

Marlins supposedly offer Albert Pujols nine-year contract - Yahoo Sports
No actual numbers are given, but they state "competitive," to which the competitive average is stated to be around $25M a year, meaning this could possibly have been 9/$225M, or something along those lines.

Marlins also supposedly offer Jose Reyes six-year contract - FOX Sports
The team refuses to verify the approximate amount, but according to a source, it's 6/$90M. To no surprise, the new Miami Marlins aren't wasting any time in trying to create waves in preparation for their inaugural season. The Herald says both offers to Pujols and Reyes are "inflated," but like those, no actual numbers are given.

Surprise! Hanley Ramirez not happy with idea of moving for Jose Reyes - Marlin Maniac
Now who on god's green earth wouldn't have seen this coming? The guy who declared that he would become the next Mr. Marlin not only being a possible second, or third fiddle to his potential incoming free agent teammates, but also possibly being forced to move positions wouldn't get mad about it? No way! Fish Stripes also takes a look at where he should be moved in the event the Fish manage to sign Jose Reyes.

Apparently Hanley Ramirez forgot how to have fun in 2011 - Sun Sentinel
Your professional wrestling analogy for the week:

Can Jeffrey Loria be trusted? - Marlins Diehards

An interesting read kind of coming from a different approach, mostly from those who have a better understanding of Jeffrey Loria than a lot of neutral baseball fans - an actual Marlins fan. But it's true, in Miami, effort does not equate to fans appreciating it and subsequently showing up. The Marlins kind of need to succeed at landing at least one productive free agent.

A Diehard's Take on the new branding - Fish Stripes
I do not know Ted Hill, but I respect his eye for aesthetics, because I often agree with a lot of the opinions he has on logos and uniforms. And this may come as somewhat of a shocker to some of you, since I'd been trashing the new look since it leaked, but kind of like this post states, I'm kind of a little ambivalent on it, as a whole. Sure, it still reminds me of Pixar's Megamind, but while at the AFL, the Marlins were prompt about having their prospects in Surprise be wearing the new unis the day after their were unveiled, and seeing them on actual players, they weren't as horrible as I expected. I asked Marlins catching prospect Kyle Skipworth if he liked the new unis, and he looked at me like I was crazy and said "of course."

Andrew Volstad feels shunned and lonely - Marlins Diehards
Volstad, who went to school in Palm Beach, who is actually a part of the Marlins organization, and was still in the state of Florida during the unveiling of the new unis and identity, feels a little left out that nobody invited him or thought of him while preparing for the gala. Subsequently, he wonders if his Marlins career is now over.

Miami Marlins Brand Like Jagger - Sun Sentinel
Regardless of the ambivalence towards the logos, the fun with the new logo will likely not stop until it naturally patters out on its own. That being said, view the correlation between Maroon 5's cover art with the Miami Marlins' new logo.

Opening Day ticket availability might rely on a lottery system - Fish Bytes
So apparently the new park's seating capacity must be like 15 seats behind a home plate net, because the Marlins are creating a false demand for Opening Day tickets. In reality, much like every brand new park or Opening Day, the first baseball game of the season will be met with large crowds, but the true story lies in the number of average attendance at the end of the year. Imagine what it would be like for the Megamindfish if they don't land a big free agent?

This will be fun - Palm Beach Post
I miss when ESPN used to do a Sunday Night Baseball for the defending world champions to play in their home park as the very first and only baseball game of the season for a true Opening Day. Because the Marlins are opening a new park, they get to have a Game 1 Grand Opening game on Wednesday, April 4th, but then for some reason, they get shuttled out of town that night, so that they can play in Cincinnati for their day-game home opener. As a result, the Marlins want their grand opening to be in the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday, so that they're not gassed from playing a night game, traveling and immediately playing a day game... fun times!

Logan Morrison drinks snake blood - Palm Beach Post
Somehow, this is still newsworthy. Off-season. Somewhere, there's a Charlie Sheen analogy in this, but I can't come up with it. Instead, imagine Hanley Ramirez in center field like this article also mentions, and get your laughs from that visual.

 

NATIONALS

Wilson Ramos back in Washington D.C. - Nats Insider
A very welcoming sight is Wilson Ramos back stateside, so he can take some physical and mental tests after his captivity. He will be returning to Venezuela to honor his winter ball obligations, the following week however.

Some intense details of Ramos' rescue - The Nats Blog
Heavily armed agents and gunfire involved. This wasn't a John Woo film, it was the very real story of Wilson Ramos' rescue.

Nationals won't stay away from Venezuela - MASN
It's best for all parties, and ultimately for baseball, if Venezuela weren't nixed out of the well for any individual team, let alone Major League Baseball. Although I'm sure teams will definitely expend a few more resources to ensure the safety of the players they're invested in, as well as their families and any other links that could be exploited in another horrific fashion.

Another Nationals catcher in Venezuela raking - Nats Insider
Fellow National and Venezuelan catcher, Jesus Flores has been obliterating the Venezuelan leagues. He leads the league as a whole, batting .414 at the time of this being written.

Scott Boras now selling Ivan Rodriguez as a potential backup catcher - Nationals Journal
The future Hall of Famer, in the twilight of his career is still hoping to march towards the holy grail of 3,000 hits, but at a slower pace. He's 156 hits away, but at his age, he's more relegated to a backup's role, which might put a wrench in those plans. Honestly, I put Pudge in the same category most of us hold Chipper Jones - a guy who brings unmeasurable value for simply having him in the presence of younger guys, to pick their brains and unconsciously/inadvertently coaching them.

In non-Nationals catchers news: Roy Oswalt and C.J. Wilson - Nationals Journal
GM Mike Rizzo recently met with Bob Garber, an agent who represents two available starting pitchers this offseason in Roy Oswalt and C.J. Wilson. Something tells me that as long as the financials are adequate, not every pitcher is going to go "Eww, Nationals" this year, like the year before.

 

METS

Preparing for life without Jose Reyes - Amazin' Avenue
In the end, given the fact that the Mets are in rebuild mode, I seriously think it's really for the best if Reyes goes elsewhere.

David Wright's dream is to win it all and retire as a Met - MetsBlog
Two chicks at the same time.

Wright hopes Reyes at least "gives the Mets a chance" - NY Post
Welp, with the Marlins already throwing down the idea of a 6/$90, at least the Mets kind of know what they're up against in order to make an offer Reyes should give a chance at.

While Marlins woo Reyes, Mets thinking relief help - NY Daily News
I can't really fault this logic, because if in the event that the likely outcome of Reyes leaving happens, the Mets still have options at SS, namely Ruben Tejada. But the bullpen? Parnel(o)l and Isringhausen pretty much failed miserably, so yeah, bolster up that 'pen.

Wally Backman continues to stick around the Mets organization - MLB
After a fairly mediocre season, record wise with the AA club, the Mets have officially moved Backman up a rung, to where he will fill the vacancy of AAA-Buffalo's manager, in place of new third-base coach, Tim Teufel.

Banner Day to return as part of Mets 50 year anniversary - NY Daily News
Oh, this will be good. In today's age of sarcasm, memes and fan vengeance, I can imagine that Banner Day at Citi Field will be pretty memorable in 2012.

Mets will tender contracts to Mike Pelfrey and Angel Pagan - MetsBlog
I think these are solid moves. Both fill needs, and if they rebound somewhat in 2012, they'll have proven their worth.

SABRPORN - Amazin' Avenue
It's funny some commenters are in awe of Jonny Venters' 72.5% GB rate, which is indeed awesome over the span of an entire year, but honestly, I'm kind of in awe of the 96 game score Chris Capuano notched when he completely decimated the Braves back in August. Watching that game, I've seen no-hitters that have had pictures endure more stress than what Capuano went through that night when he iced the Braves in like two hours.

Speaking of Chris Capuano, irony - ESPN
Thanks to performances like that CGSHO, Capuano ended up over doubling his base salary with the Mets, due to all the incentives he hit that essentially said that he was okay after TJS. That being said, the guy that was brought in to stop-gap a vacancy in the rotation is essentially too expensive for the Mets to really keep moving forward. Chien-Ming Wang would call this an opportunity to show some loyalty, but the New York media has pretty much dismissed Capuano as a goner.

Ike Davis says ankle "has been good for quite a while" - NY Post
In a little bit of good news for the Mets, Ike Davis's ankle has been feeling good, and he is very optimistic that he'll be capable of starting his off-season workout regimen early, to make up for lost time in 2011 in preparation for Spring Training.

Daniel Murphy available in trade - MetsBlog
I guess I have to say it's about time? He wasn't really needed all of last year, but filled in adequately offensively. But as far as my opinion is concerned, everything about Murphy screams kind of DH-ey - he's got a good bat, but he's not a good outfielder, not that much better of a first baseman, and has atrocious footwork to be a second baseman. Third base seemed like the only place where he wasn't completely miserable.

Phillies dominance won't last forever - Amazin' Avenue

With Papelbon in the fold, Philadelphia figures to have between $90 and $95 million committed to just five players in 2013: Papelbon, Roy HalladayCliff LeeRyan Howard, and Chase Utley. All five players are already on the wrong side of 30.

I would love it if Papelbon essentially marks the beginning of the end for the Phillies' run of dominance. It just seems so kind of fitting.

"Mets' OF search could have happy Endy" - NY Daily News
What we have here is a completely worthless story that was green lit for absolutely no reason than to have a clever tagline. Cue inappropriate jokes about Happy Endys and the Mets LOL.

Buffalo may cut ties with the Mets after 2012 - ESPN
The AAA-Buffalo Bisons aren't really happy with the commitment they're getting from the Mets. And much like in 2006 when the Norfolk Tides kicked the Mets out, it could happen to them again in Buffalo.

New Mets t-shirt suggests team even more committed to bunting - The Apple
Amidst all the pictures of Jose Reyes in various colored underwear (Gee thanks, Randy) is this ironic t-shirt that apparently actually exists. I'm actually afraid that there's one of these with an Atlanta A on it for sale, and if so, if it will be what every Brave wears underneath their jerseys throughout the 2012 season?

 

PHILLIES

Phillies sign closer Jonathan Papelbon to four-year, $50M deal - The Good Phight
Make that $50,000,058. Gotta get your lame jersey number in there, somewhere. As an opposing fan, I like this. Team I root against signs a once neutral, but notorious headcase closer with a giant ego, to also root against. This actually brings me back to the point when the Phillies got Brad Lidge when Brad Lidge was super good, so whenever Matt Diaz went nuts on him, it was always awesome. But Lidge kept getting hurt and/or regressing, and Ryan Madson was always so low-key and hard to really root against. But Papelbon, he brings us back to a good point.

Phillies supposedly irked Scott Boras with Ryan Madson usage - Chicago Tribune
It's not often that I really care about what a player thinks or feels, but given the reverse-Furcaling the Phillies did to Scott Boras, I can't help but wonder what's going on in the head of the only real loser in this whole thing - Ryan Madson. As I said, Madson is a quiet, nondescript guy who was hard to dislike; and as kind of expected, there hasn't really been any news in regards to him, about how he feels about this whole situation, and I'm actually very curious. Any Phillies lurkers have any idea?

Clayton Kershaw wins National League Cy Young over every Phillie pitcher - Yahoo Sports
To be honest, this doesn't have much to do with the NL East. I've just always been a fan of Kershaw since lucking into seeing his debut at Dodger Stadium live, and an opportunity to tout his close superiority over every single ace the Phillies trotted out in 2011.

Health updates - Phillies Zone
Placido Polanco is running after hernia surgery, Joe Blanton threw a little bit with no pain after elbow problems that shelved him throughout 2011, and Jose Contreras should be back to throwing again in January.

Phillies supposedly still have flexibility in the wake of the Papelbon signing - High Cheese
According to Ruben Amaro, the Phillies still have plenty of flexibility to sign players, like Jimmy Rollins. Currently sitting at $120M, if they stick to the the $175M payroll budget of the year prior, then they still have plenty of room to operate. Must be nice to have that much money.

Like Cole Hamels, maybe? - Phillies Zone
Fact: Cole Hamels just finished out a three-year deal. He's going into his final arbitration year, and will extremely likely be tendered a contract, if not extended outright. But the fact that it hasn't been done yet has lots of speculation swirling around the Phillies blogosphere. In all likelihood, Hamels isn't going anywhere. He's really too good to let go, to state the obvious.

Brian Schneider brings his immense wealth of knowledge of the NL East back to Philadelphia - Phillies Nation
You know it's a really slow news week, when Brian Schneider is making headlines.

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