Around the NL East - Johan Santana might not be ready, J-Roll still unsigned, Nationals' efforts, Marlins back to penny-pinching

ay dios mio! who knew throwing at chipper jones would make him unfriend me on fb! qq

Well, that didn't take long - Carlos Zambrano is (as far as I'm aware) the first to declare the magic words: In the Best Shape of My Life (ITBSOML). And unlike several players of the past who have done similarly through various other means, Big Z didn't go on any new-age diets, do P90X, go to some high-tech fitness institutes, or take anabolic horse werewolf steroids like many before him. Instead, Zambrano is more or less speaking as if he's been doing Rocky Balboa workout montages, by climbing large mountains and running on the beach.

Now I'm all for exercise and physical improvement, but the thing with Zambrano is that the problem's never really been the physical aspect of the game; he's built like a truck, and when he's on, he's capable of brilliance, and "for just a pitcher," he's a threat with the bat as well. Instead, Carlos Zambrano has the mental fortitude of a 13-year old girl on Facebook facing her peers, and lets his emotions consume him on a regular basis, complete with the fake walkouts and tantrum meltdowns.

Screw the mountains and the beaches, Carlos Zambrano should be sat down in front of a computer, and be forced to read dossiers on himself written by the biggest stat geeks on the internet. Or watch repeated David Fincher films. Either way, by the time he's done with either, thinking about baseball will be like picking daisies. He doesn't need to get ITBSOML, he needs to get ITBMentalSOML.

Welcome back to the basement.

METS

Stop me if you've heard this one before - Hardball Talk
Johan Santana "might not be" ready for Opening Day. He hasn't pitched since September 2nd.. 2010. Shoulder injuries! They're worse than Tommy John Surgeries, I tells yous guys.

All eyes on Ruben Tejada now - Amazin' Avenue
With the departure of Jose Reyes, the vacant starting shortstop job is pretty much Ruben Tejada's to lose, barring any "veteran" free agent acquisition by the Mets. I'm actually looking forward to the idea of comparing Tejada with Tyler Pastornicky in 2012, given the fact that they're both 21 and sort of appearing to be circumstantially possibly getting starting jobs. Tejada does have more time spent in AAA, though, if the whole experience factor matters to you.

Look who made an offer for Alex Gonzalez - MetsBlog
To some degree, I'm not the least bit surprised, and in spite of the numbers we endured in Atlanta, I'm kind of glad the Braves don't have to see him 18 times a year. His defense is still top-tier, and he's always a threat to simply run into a homer every now and then.

Daniel Murphy ready for second base challenge. Again - ESPN NY
The difference so far is that there also aren't three other guys in the mix that are up in the air for the starting job at second base. Murphy's bat has always been ready, but being in the National League, he kind of has to play some defense too.

Jonathan Niese is available - for the right price - MetsBlog
Granted, Sandy Alderson's pretty much said that anyone is available at this point, but at Niese's age and tenure, I'd have to imagine he's kind of an asset worth keeping.

Because clearly they don't need a rotation filler like Niese when they got Chuck James - MetsBlog
The most amazing thing to me is the fact that Chuck James has a Twitter account; here's a guy who installed windows during the off-season and had no idea who Barry Bonds or Todd Helton were when he first faced them.

You know it's bad when Manny Acosta is tendered - NY Post
Also, Ronny Paulino predictably non-tendered, because he's a crappy player and wasn't worth the $1.35M he made in 2011.

Mets get another gigantic loan, this time $40M from Bank of America - NY Times
I'm not going to pretend to be any sort of expert on financial matters, but as far as the voice of the people go, there's a joke somewhere about how this loan came from Bank of America.

Traid in Jose Reyes jerseys for beer - NY Daily News
Uh, just one beer? I know it would have the name of the "traitor" Jose Reyes on it, but still, MLB jerseys aren't cheap. Even the "cheap" replicas are just under $100. Traiding it for just a single beer simply is a bad investment.

I doubt even Orlando Cabrera could take the 2012 Mets to a playoff appearance - MetsBlog
Besides, the streak ended last year when the Giants narrowly failed to make the playoffs, even with the power of O-Cab aboard.

PHILLIES

The longer it takes, the worse it is - Beerleaguer
Beerleaguer received an email from someone who works in the entertainment industry; who gave an educated insight to what they felt about the Jimmy Rollins contract situation, and that the longer this goes unresolved, the worse it's going to be for all parties involved, when it ultimately is.

It's long overdue, bring J-Roll home - TGP

Phillies sign Dontrelle Willis - Crashburn Alley
One year, $1M base with tons of incentives. A fairly low-risk, high-reward kind of deal. The D-Train has all but lost his ability to be a decent starter anymore, but if utilized correctly (read: LOOGY), he could become a very important component to a rebuilt Phillies bullpen.

And D-Train expect Rollins to re-sign - Phillies Zone
The two are good friends stemming from their friendly rivalry, and similarities in upbringing in the Bay Area. They've always wanted to be teammates, and with Willis now a Phillie, the other piece of the puzzle needs to settle back in for them to live out a small dream.

Ben Francisco traded to Toronto Blue Jays for minor league relief - TGP
This seems likely purely a financial move, because Francisco wasn't ever really that bad as a bench player, but entering his Arb-2 year, it seems like the Phillies would rather shed a potential $1.5M salary for a left-handed minor league reliever who is 25, and hasn't made it past AA instead.

The mother of all darkhorses in the dark history of dark horses - Phillies Nation
If Brian Schneider, and his McCann-humbling D wins the National League MVP or the World Series MVP (or both!), his contract dictates a $100,000 bonus. I guess the IRS better keep their eyes peeled next fall for $200,000 to magically appear in the Schneider family accounts!

NATIONALS

How the Albert Pujols situation might want to make the Nationals think about extending Ryan Zimmerman - Nats Insider
Over the recent years, we've seen several teams locking up young cornerstone-caliber talent, well before they're even available for free agency. With the predictive debacle that probably could have been avoided had the Cardinals made more of an effort to retain Albert Pujols, the Nationals might want to make Ryan Zimmerman feel a little more secure, much like guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez to name a few.

Nationals made a legit play for Mark Buerhle too - Nationals Journal
Unfortunately it was a year shorter, and just a smidge lower in annual value. Buerhle won on all accounts going to Miami instead.

Can Mike Morse do it again? - Nats Insider
Personally, I call it one good year. Now I understand the argument that he may have proven something in an everyday role with the way Morse went nuts on 2011, but I for one don't think he'll come really that close to repeating such outstanding numbers in 2012.

Jedi Master Livo: These are the strikes you were calling - The Nats Blog
Fascinating read about Livan Hernandez's pitching tendencies and how not everything he threw were actually strikes. 1997, rabble rabble:

Livan had 225 more strikes called than he actually threw. Put another way, 11.2% of the strikes Livan threw were not actually strikes. 11.2%!

225 balls is enough for 56 walks and 225 extra strikes surely put hitters into worse counts than they otherwise would have seen.

Nationals Park will have brand new grass starting in 2012 - MASN
Too bad the grass has little to do with the actual game when it comes to plays like this.

Nationals trade Collin Balester to the Tigers for an option year - Nats Insider
Metaphorically speaking, that is. Inconsistent RHRP Collin Balester is sent to the Tigers for inconsistent RHRP Ryan Perry. They're sort of the same pitcher, except that Ballester is out of options meaning that he'd have to be passed through waivers in order to be retained, whereas Perry still has one left. The Tigers must see something in Balester to be willing to do business in order to get him.

Minor League pitcher proposes to girlfriend dressed as Santa Claus - The Bog
RHP Ben Graham, last seen in Low-A, proposed to his girlfriend, a Tennessee Titans cheerleader, during halftime in a game between the Titans and Saints. She said yes, and what a catch she is.

Marlins fail to excite "new fans" with blockbuster moves trading Burke Badenhop, signing Aaron Rowand, Miami residents go back to clubbing or doing whatever they do aside from not supporting their teams - Fish Bytes
Reliever Burke Badenhop was shipped upstate to Tampa Bay, for minor league catcher Jake Jeffries. The unemployed Aaron Rowand was signed to a minor league deal, to which if he sneaks onto the 40-man roster, would make league minimum from the Marlins, while the Giants are still on the hook for $11.5M remaining on the deal they cut him from.

Burke Badenhop did not expect this - Palm Beach Post
That's kind of naive. Being on the Marlins, or rather being in baseball at all, a player has to know that if they're too poor, or too good, they can be moved. Badenhop was the last component of the entire Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade that brought him to the Marlins from the Tigers organization.

Reasons why Hanley Ramirez won't be traded - Fish Stripes
As much as I think that Hanley's upset, no matter what is said/speculated/rumored, the truth of the matter is that he very very likely will not be traded, unless the team wants to be selling extremely low, or Hanley decides to put himself on the disqualified (unpaid) list for belligerence.

David Samson explains why the team didn't bother with Prince Fielder after pursuing Pujols so hard - Sun Sentinel
Let's play a game of twist-the-words around:

Albert Pujols was an interesting fit if it worked at our parameters. It didn’t and we move on, but we never viewed Prince the way we viewed Albert, either on or off the field.

Albert Pujols is not fat and Prince Fielder is very fat. He would not fit into the jersey we would have wanted Pujols to wear, so we moved on. Besides, we feel that Prince is a bigger headcase than Pujols could possibly be on the field as well as off the field.

Tendering Leo Nunez was nonsense - Fish Stripes
Screw it, I'm calling him Leo Nunez. I don't care that his name is Juan Carlos Oviedo, it's a pain in the ass to write out. But regardless, he was among the Marlins players that were tendered contracts, and Fish Stripes has the overall same reaction to it that I do: why?

he makes so little sense that one has to question why the Marlins are working so hard to accommodate a player who right now appears to be nothing but a mediocre, unspectacular reliever.

Was not getting Pujols a blessing in disguise? - Marlin Maniac
In the end, it doesn't hurt the Marlins that they didn't get him; it's safe, and fiscally more responsible.

I am no verified expert, but I am confident in saying Albert will not be a top ten hitter at the age of 36.

I am no verified expert, but I'd be willing to put a friendly wager and say that he is, at age 36. I'd bet that the drastic drops begin at 38-39, but by then, having gotten star output from a guy for 7-8 years sounds a lot more optimistic than having gotten it for just five.

John Buck is kind of the most interesting guy on the Marlins - Palm Beach Post
From heroically flipping overturned cars to rescue elderly ladies to hunting deers in Texas, he had a pretty eventful week, before he found out that the Marlins signed pretty much everyone.

LOLMarlins: New ballpark allegedly cut corners - CBS Miami
Can anyone really say they're surprised, given the controversy behind this park as a whole, and the involvement of the penny-pinching Marlins and Jeffrey Loria? Even if the re-inspections say that the welding is fine and everything is adequate, it's hard to not really be skeptical at anything in regards to the Marlins and money spending.

MegaMarlins might skimp on Mermaids and fat guys aptly named Manatees - Sun Sentinel
Despite offering up the world for free agents, the Fish are currently debating on whether or not to retain the in-game entertainment troups that they've had since 2003 - the Mermaids and Manatees. Obviously, I couldn't care less about the Manatees, but I'll be the first to admit that despite relative ambivalence towards cheerleaders in baseball, I certainly didn't mind the several times seeing the Mermaids when I went to Miami for a few games.

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