Around the NL East - Marlins are the worst ever, Phillies are the best ever, Nationals have the most potential ever, Mets are as hopeless as ever

Quietly arguably the best third baseman in the National League, what kind of dollars would be necessary to keep him in the east for the remainder of Ryan Zimmerman's career?

Prince Fielder is off the board, Yu Darvish is now America-bound. Pipe dreams like Cody Ross, and the possibility for an Andruw Jones return are both gone too. Needless to say, in regards to free agency, there's hardly anyone left at all, that's remotely intriguing to me. Now all that's really left is counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report, and then it's the countdown to Spring Training. Man, this off season certainly feels like it's flown by this year. I'm still trying to iron out baseball trips, and the season's already looming right ahead.

But anyway, with little for me to really talk about, I'll share a different interest, which is still somewhat related to baseball. I'm somewhat of a literary nerd, who likes to read books from time to time, and every now and then, a sports book will catch my fancy. One of the best books I read in 2011 was Dan Barry's The Bottom of the 33rd, which is the story of a 1981 minor league game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox, which holds to distinction of being the longest game ever played in the entire history of baseball.

It's a beautiful narration of all of the elements within the game as well as those the game touched on a fateful April night. From the fans in the stands, the clubhouse attendants that prepared food for the players, the radio announcers, the AAAA mainstays, umpires that read and re-read the rulebook a little too closely, to the now Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken, Jr. and Wade Boggs; it's an emotional cruise through what seemed like an ordinary baseball game turned into a historic occasion.

There comes a point in every baseball game that goes into extra innings, where everyone kind of feels a sense of dread at the idea; it's obviously different if the circumstances were going into extras as the result of coming from behind, but definitely a lot worse when it involves your team blowing a lead. But the 10th and 11th innings are always a feeling of dread and anxiety whenever the opposition gets a base runner or an extra-base hit. By the 13th inning, sometimes we lose care of who wins and loses, as long as we can just simply get out of there. By the time the 15th inning ends, this is where not only do I not care who wins or loses, at this point, I'm already balls in, so may as well cheer for the fruitless attempt to hit 34 innings.

Imagine if Jerry Meals didn't decide he had enough, and actually called Julio Lugo out at home in that crazy night against the Pirates last year? Although it would probably never happen again, it was still a beautiful night in its own right; a major league stadium still operating with less than a thousand people left. Cups Guy and Pirates Girl becoming internet famous in the span of EST AM hours. And a parade of relief pitchers, most notably Cristhian Martinez and Daniel McCutchen, unrelenting, pitching well above expectations, not wanting to be the guy that let their team down, holding Major League lineups scoreless for a combined 11.2 innings. But even throughout all of that, that game was still 14 innings away from just tying the record of 33 innings. Madness.

So while we've still got time in the off season, go out and give The Bottom of the 33rd a whirl. It may not be as thought-provoking and intellectually satiating as a Moneyball or The Extra 2%, but it's a beautiful narration in its own right, and a good reminder of what craziness this game we all love is capable of producing at the drop of a hat.

Welcome back to the basement.

2012mia_medium

The Miami Marlins are the worst thing ever - SBNation
Now I like Al Yellon; he's always been cordial and polite to me whenever I visit Bleed Cubbie Blue, and among the Baseball Nation rotation, I favor his pieces often, but I'll be the first to admit that I find this a little uncharacteristic and unexpected. Obviously as fans of a bunch of kids' games that adults play for, for a lot of money, we're all subject to irrational prejudice from time to time, but I kind of feel that a lot of these reasons are kind of a stretch. I will admit that I, like many am not fond of the logo either, but this is the kind of stuff I do for a living, and I'm actually more curious to see what kind of creative sell tactics were employed when the logo was presented in a conceptual stage.

Naturally, there are rebuttals - Fish Stripes
With obvious reason, Fish Stripes comes to defend a fairly unwarranted attack on their team. And a lot of it is valid, to be perfectly honest. Prior to the identity change, and hoarding of free agents, it's no secret that I quietly rooted for the Marlins in the background. I admired the way they often stayed competitive on a pauper's budget, I liked their old colors, and there comes a charm with an underpaid team playing in an empty stadium, that fought hard and tough almost out of rebellion. But then the identity changed, the team ditched the old guard of making do and just dropped boatloads of cash to bring in hired guns, and built a gaudy new park through shady means. I can't say I feel close to the same way about the Marlins as I did prior to the revamp, but what everyone needs to realize that the new wave of anti-Marlins sentiment comes from one very simple premise: fans typically don't like players/teams that spend/make tons of money. The Marlins went from the poor kid making ends meet, to the arrogant rich dbag in the Porsche Boxter with the windows up, top down, wearing leather driving gloves, metaphorically.

Speaking of arrogant rich dbags, Jeffrey Loria was nearly killed by LeBron James - Marlins Diehards
During a game between the Lakers and the Heat, a loose ball went into the stands, and a charging 6'8, 250 lb. LeBron James crashed into Jeffrey Loria, who was sitting in the Jack Nicholson seats, and tipped him backward. But before his head crashed into the hardwoods and bring salvation to all Marlins fans, LeBron had to go and disappoint Miami yet again - he caught him, and raised him back to safety.

Josh Johnson threw off a mound this week - Fish Bytes
I agree with a lot of the sentiment in this post; no matter how good Mark Buerhle might be, no matter if Carlos Zambrano doesn't disappoint, no more pitcher is more important to the Marlins rotation than Josh Johnson, who's looking to return from major shoulder issues.

Like dogs? Support the Buehrles - Sun Sentinel
Forced to live in outlying Broward county due to a ban on pitbulls in Miami-Dade county, the Buehrles are trying to rectify a problem stemming from bad pet owners. If you love dogs, help make Miami a slightly more tolerable place, by allowing more dogs to be a part of it.

Austin Kearns signed to minor league deal to bolster outfield - Fish Bytes
The 10-year veteran who previously served with the Indians, Nationals and Reds is trying to stay employed, with a minor league deal with the Marlins. He'll join guys like Chris Coghlan, Aaron Rowand and others to break camp with the Fish.

Dear god it's gigantic - SBNation
In before TWSS jokes - the home run monstrosity's base shell is up, and it's certainly large. Squint your eyes enough, and it's kind of like a gigantic middle finger shape that serves to obscure the entire field for a good bit of patrons who might be walking around the park how dare they try to watch from the outfield

It'd be nice if people actually cared about the homeless - Miami Herald
The interesting thing is just how many of you guys emailed this link to me; I guess trainwrecks and my weekend posts go hand-in-hand. But in short, there's a law that states that any tax-funded sporting venue is to serve as auxiliary homeless shelters in days they're not scheduled for use. It hasn't been enforced since it was adopted in 24 years ago, so despite the ironic trainwreck humor that would be the visuals of homeless people lounging all over the new ballpark, it's likely never to happen, nor the supposed reparation of $30M in benefits various Florida sporting venues would be required to payback for not following through. I know how it all happened though; it started with trying to get homeless people into Tropicana Field, and when the homeless balked and preferred being homeless on the streets instead of having to stay in the Trop, it kind of resulted in a "if the Trop doesn't have to do it, neither do we" mentality amongst the rest of the Florida venues.

For now, the homeless shelter will remain "Marlins Park" - Sun Sentinel
Apparently when the team became interesting, the cost of the naming rights went up and up to the point where all existing rumored deals fell through, and renegotiations are in place. And I was really hoping it would be something like Pollo Tropical Park, or Royal Caribbean Field or something chintzy like that.

2012phi_medium

The Phillies are gods amongst men, they can do no wrong, they are more perfect than Mr. Perfect, rabble rabble - Philly.com
While it's hard to refute the idea that the Phillies will probably remain amongst the upper echelon of MLB for longer rather than shorter, this line is pushing it way over the top:

there is reason to believe that the Phillies will never stink again.

Uh, sorry chief, sports are cyclical, if you haven't noticed. It doesn't matter if it's within four years when the aces grow old and begin to falter, or twenty years, there will be a time again when the Phillies will be a 4th or 5th place team for a few years.

Desperately seeking silver lining - Phillies Zone
Using the blockbuster deals of several other marquee first basemen, Ryan Howard's 5/$125 is attempted to made look pedestrian in comparison. Sure, there is some merit to the fact that Howard's contract ends the soonest, but at $25M a year, it's still easily the highest per-year value, compared to other highly-talented first basemen.

Jim Thome preparing to play first base again - Phillies Zone
In case you missed it, Ryan Howard will miss as much as a third of the season due to the ankle injury suffered in the very last AB of the NLDS. Supposedly taking his place will be a likely platooning of Ty Wigginton, and the 41-year old who hasn't seen first base in seven years.

Wilson Valdez traded to Cincinnati for a real relief pitcher - Phillies Nation
The funny thing is that pretty much every outlet that has written something about this trade makes the very first point to notate the 19-inning marathon game in which Valdez pitched in relief after starting the game as an infielder, and won the decision. Personally, I think this is a bad move for the Phillies, which is kinda cool, considering the fact that Valdez has only played pretty much a season's worth of games over the last two years, subbing for the oft-injured troika of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco. In return, the Phillies get Jeremy Horst, a LHRP who wasn't horrible, but at least is due nothing but league minimum if he breaks camp.

Interestingly, moving Valdez was in benefit of improving depth, according to Ruben Amaro, Jr. - Beerleaguer
I find it hard to believe that such improves depth, considering the tendency for injuries to the aforementioned infielders. I would kind of weigh the importance of position player depth slightly above depth in the bullpen. But whatever, I hope the Phillies go out and get Felipe Lopez. He's like an anti-Orlando Cabrera, he's been around forever, but never sniffed the playoffs before.

Phillies AA-affiliates go all nuts for minor league HR derby - Yahoo Sports
Man, I have to imagine would be a blast, and way more fun than watching the MLB State Farm Presents Home Run Marathon Derby sponsored by Easy Chairs, Gatorade and Mizuno. Reading all the rules, stipulations, and conditions kind of reminds of the days of playing NBA Jam Tournament Edition when I was in the fifth grade, where they had that mode where they had wacky conditions like 7-pointers and half-court dunks.

2012was_medium

They tried, they failed - WaPo
The Nationals legitimately made a play for Prince Fielder, but couldn't come close to competing with the monstrous 9-year, $214M deal that Fielder ultimately ended up accepting from Detroit.

Washingtonians have nothing on folks in Milwaukee - Nats NQ
What I don't really get is that pretty much everyone knew that Milwaukee had no chance at retaining Fielder, yet here we have a classic example of the widely irrational reaction of burning $90+ jerseys to a former team's fanbase scorned. Are people in Milwaukee actually surprised that he left to this point, or is it just an isolated case?

Laid Back LaRoche's thoughts on potentially losing his starting gig - Nationals Journal

"I can’t say I cared about it," LaRoche said.

Gotta love Roachy. Glad to see that he's keeping his starting job.

Probably because he was too busy accepting awards for his hunting contributions - Nats NQ
As many of us are very aware, Adam LaRoche is a huge hunting enthusiast. To the point, where he contributes to hunting companies and has supposedly a part to do with an Outdoor Channel program known as Buck Commander, which won some hunting programming award for best production value, out in Las Vegas.

Ryan Zimmerman extention talks "within reach" - The Nats Blog
The Franchise made some progress with the Nationals, submitting the starting requisite numbers he would like to see in order to extend his career with the Nationals, with the team feeling that they're possibly reasonable. Like many players, he will cease to negotiate or discuss such matters once the season begins, so it's good for both parties to engage earlier rather than later. Fangraphs thinks what Zim is worthy of sounds something around seven years and $120M+.

Brad Lidge signs one-year deal with Nationals, Matt Diaz relieved - MASN
The injury-prone reliever stays in the NL East, moving from Philadelphia to Washington, on a one-year deal. Whereas he was pretty much solidfied as the 8th inning guy amidst the escalation of Ryan Madson, he'll have more guys to compete with in Washington with existing names such as Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez and Drew Storen. Supposedly $1M with incentives. And already thinks he's going to be on another playoff team.

Gio Gonzalez is really, really excited to be in D.C. - Nats Insider
I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the idea that the Nationals are on the verge of becoming something good, but frankly, based on reputation alone, simply getting out of Oakland seems to be adequate at generating a ton of excitement for a professional player.

Michael Morse signs two-year extension, worth $10.5M - Nationals Journal
So apparently the arb numbers that were submitted last week were merely a formality, since at the time of their submission, the discussions for this extension were already being ironed out. A career-high 3.4 WAR guy in 2011, if he can contribute such output in both years, the Nationals have gotten a great bargain for Morse. But if he regresses back to closer to the guy who accumulated just 2.5 WAR in the five combined years prior, then there's a problem.

The importance of 200 innings - Nats Insider
Since 2005, the Nationals have had four instances where a pitcher delivered a 200+ IP season; and two of those times were Livan Hernandez. (Braves have had 11) Bottom line is, pitching 200 innings implies a lot of good things, and the Nationals have been unfortunate to have not enough pitchers achieving this plateau. But with a pitching staff with possibly three guys clipping 200, better times could be just ahead.

If you haven't noticed, the Nationals have a pretty impressive pitching staff on paper - Nationals Journal
There are some obvious holes here and there, but overall, the Nationals' staff is pretty good overall, barring the obvious injuries. John Lannan might get owned by the Phillies but he owns the Braves. Gio walks too many. Burnett is owned by the Braves. Matt Diaz owns Brad Lidge. Actually, the only guy I'd say is bad throughout is Sloth.

2012nym_medium

R.A. Dickey interview on CNN about climbing Kilimanjaro - The Mets Police
Awesome human being. Totally gets it.

Daniel Murphy as an allegory for the 2012 Mets - Ted Berg
With no money, and practically no other options, the Mets don't really have much choice but to put Daniel Murphy back out at second base, the position that's resulted in season-ending injuries over the last two seasons. Most are aware he's fairly competent with the bat, but if he can wring out some degree of competency out of the second base position, as a whole, he could be just like the squad - not terrible.

The best two words in the English language "De-fault" - MetsBlog
Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are now in the AL, Ryan Howard is practically dead, and Freddie Freeman and Gaby Sanchez are slightly more refined hitters. In terms of Bill James projections of the only three stats that matter (AVG/HR/RBI) and OPS, only Joey Votto remains, that separates Ike Davis from being the best first baseman in the National League.

Carlos Beltran urges Mets fans to forget about 2006 - NY Daily News
Here's a guy I never thought truly appreciated his time in New York. He went nuts in the 2005 playoffs with no other reason than that he wanted to get a big fatty contract, which he ended up getting from the Mets. But during his whole time with the Mets, he had little personality and seemed more like a hired gun rather than an acquired teammate. Ducking from team functions, being standoffish with the media, etc, etc. Although he's reportedly great to his teammates, his persona with the fans and media often seemed less than pleasant. But it's hard to forget 2006, because that really was a beauty of a Wainwright curveball which got him in the first place.

Jason Isringhausen probably regrets saying it - NY Post

[In 2011] Isringhausen came at the bargain-basement price of $500,000. It was a salary he said he wouldn’t be willing to play for again.

Yeah, he probably priced himself out of a job. The good news is that will probably get picked up somewhere, and it wouldn't be for $500,000. The bad news is that it will probably be a minor league deal, where he would be making less.

John Franco to be inducted into Mets Hall of Fame - Amazin' Avenue
The all-time leader in saves by a LHP, and fourth overall, all-time, John Franco Day will be on June 3, when he's inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

Mike Piazza would like to go into the baseball Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on - ESPN
Although he has no say in which hat he goes in with when he's likely inducted next year, it probably will be with the Mets, the team he enjoyed the most success with, a pennant and a World Series appearance.

A PSA video for Mariners fans - The Apple
I tip my e-cap to Randy for this fine piece of work, that succinctly describes what's coming to the Mariners' organization with their acquisition of Oliver Perez.

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