Around the NL East - Marlins trade for Carlos Zambrano, Nationals eyeing Prince Fielder, Roy Halladay rescues people from snakes, R. A. Dickey scales mountains

Welcome to the toughest division in baseball, Z.

Happy New Years, Braves Country! Here's to hoping for a 2012 of excellent baseball, beautiful baseball weather, exciting baseball travels, delicious baseball park foods, and MOAR baseball winz.

Now I'm going to go straight from happy post-holiday greeting, to hopping up on my soapbox here. Now most of us are very well aware of the vastly changing landscape of the prestigious National League East division. The Marlins have spared absolutely no expense at going from the team that once had a combined payroll less than Chan-Ho Park's salary to suddenly signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buerhle to large, multi-million dollar contracts, to play in their mockery of a new baseball park. The Nationals acquired a few useful veterans here and there, and then went for the jugular, trading for Gio Gonzalez who slots into a rotation, if healthy and not inhibited by kid gloves too much, is almost on the cusp of excellence. The Phillies haven't really done that much, but being the Phillies, until proven otherwise, will continue to win on a combination of their excellent, existing starting pitching, reputation, intimidation and anomalous contributions from guys like Wilson Valdez and John Mayberry, Jr., no matter which key players are injured. And even the Mets, while practically in full rebuild-mode, have made a few acquisitions, to shake up the look of their 40-man roster.

All while the Braves, as it's popularly believed, "have done nothing." That's not true at all. Eric Hinske had his option picked up. And they unloaded Derek Lowe. And several other guys, via non-tender. But they've kind of been killing it on the waiver wire!

An annoying trend I'm seeing here a lot lately are people popping up out of nowhere to do nothing but complain and whine about all of the nothing that the Braves have done this off-season, more so, with each subsequent move that a division rival makes. First of all, it's in the past now, no amount of whining about it is going to suddenly make the Houston Astros look at the Braves and go "aww, you guys want Jed Lowrie? Fine, you can have him for Mauro Gomez and the last guy on Gwinnett's bench, no matter who it is!" Carlos Beltran isn't legally allowed to dissolve his contract with the Cardinals and sign a team-friendly one with the Braves instead.

But you know what, I can understand the griping; what I can't really understand are the contingent of people who feel that the Braves are required to make moves right now in order to have a modicum of hope for 2012. I would have loved to have seen the Braves manage to find ways to get guys like Carlos Beltran, or trade for Jed Lowrie. Or snag a Cody Ross, or even bring back Andruw Jones, or Rafael Furcal. But pretty much all those names, along with many other popularly suggested players, are off the board now. So then what? Go down the ladder and pursue their less-talented counterparts, but offer the same money/players for them? If these mythical team-improving moves for the sake of countering others' moves were made, then the Braves would sign Johnny Damon, trade Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado for Seth Smith and not Tim Wheeler, signed a soon-to-be-45-year-old Omar Vizquel, and traded Julio Teheran for Scott Westbrook straight up.

I play trivia every week with a group of friends. One night, my team was doing well, and we were in third place going into the final question, where you could bet zero to 15 points. The question ended up being something really obscure like "what was Princess Leia's cell block number." Obviously, we had no idea what the answer was, so instead, we wrote down a dirty remark about the host's mother and bet zero points, knowing fully well that anyone behind us who got it right could very well pass us, but anyone in front of it who got it wrong and wagered anything substantial, would fall beneath us. The answer to the question was "cell block 1138 in detention block AA-23." Nobody in the bar got it right. First and second place wagered numbers that would have prevented any correct chasers from surpassing them, but by getting the question wrong, those points were deducted from their totals. By making no move at all, my team won first place.

Seldom is making a move for the sole sake of making a move the right decision. The 2012 Braves certainly have some weaknesses, but they don't have any genuine holes. People act as if Tyler Pastornicky isn't a real human being let alone a shortstop, and that Martin Prado patrols the outfield via Professor X hoverchair instead of legs. Until proven otherwise, the Nationals and Marlins both realize they have to overtake Atlanta, before getting a crack at Philadelphia.

But hey, Orlando Cabrera appears to be available, and since the team NEEDS a short stop, why not?? Between him and Eric Hinske, there's two insta-playoff streaks that need to be rekindled.

The current theme is "ugly hats." What's that you say? The Marlins hat is actually one of their in-game hats? Well I'll be. Que sera, sera. Welcome back to the basement.

2012mia_medium

Marlins acquire Carlos Zambrano from Cubs for Chris Volstad - Fish Stripes
The Cubs are essentially paying $15.5M to get rid of Big-Z. Here's the thing though, although it's well documented how Carlos Zambrano has not had much success against Atlanta, which is good for us Braves fans, the fact of the matter is that the Braves aren't the only team he'll be facing. Even if Zambrano were to go 0-5 against the Braves this year, if the Marlins were to go 18-7 in all of Zambrano's other starts, then he's still doing his job pretty well. And hell, simply getting rid of Chris Volstad has to make the Marlins better by like 2-3 wins.

Chris Volstad shocked (SHOCKED) that hometown team traded him - Palm Beach Post
And he found out about it, through a reporter. Cue "that's just business, kid" metaphors. But I feel that he shouldn't be surprised; the team didn't call him when it came time for new uniform unveiling, where everyone from Jose Reyes down to the prospects in the AFL got their uniforms, so why would they call him when they were trading him? And lest we forget, he simply was not that good.

Naturally, BFF Ozzie Guillen had a lot to do with Zambrano's acquisition - Sun Sentinel

"I love, love the way he handles himself on the field," Guillen said. "Many people say he’s crazy, he’s out of his mind. I love that, I like that attitude. I don’t want people to fall asleep on the stinking mound."

This is going to be a great year to be watching the Marlins.

Just in case throwing at Chipper Jones was all you knew about Carlos Zambrano - Fish Bytes
Here's a primer on a good bit of the crazy, wacked out (crap) Big-Z's done throughout the years.

Hanley Ramirez offers up some lip-service this week - Yahoo Sports
Of course he'll accept the switch to third base. It's a lot more fortuitous for his career to do that than accepting a switch to the restricted list, for insubordination. There are some precariously interesting ways of phrasing throughout this article that leads to some searching between the lines for some verification that not all water is under the bridge here, too.

Greg Dobbs re-signs for three years, $2M - Sun Sentinel
Dobbs was smart to lurk around while the Fish were throwing money around, and it's paid off. With practically $30M going to Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Heath Bell and Big-Z in 2012, the $1.5M annual salary that a -1.9 career WAR utility guy will be making each of the next two years seems a lot like chump change in comparison.

Chad Gaudin signs with Fish to minor league deal with spring training invite - WaPo
Journeyman pitcher is in a good position to possibly be a place holder, or contingency plan for Josh Johnson, depending on the tumultuous state of health he may or may not be in by Spring Training.

Miami Marlins popularity increasing? - Marlin Maniac
I hate to break it to you, stany19, but just because a team's merch sells well doesn't mean people actually like the team, let alone know who they are. It's like all the people who wear Atlanta A-hats because Usher wears them. Or people named William with curly-W hats. Or anyone that happens to like Pittsburgh's P-hat. Ugly as I may think it is, the Miami M-hat doesn't exactly have sterling competition with the dated-looking Minnesota hat, or the barley-incorporated Milwaukee Brewers hat, it's probably because it's simply a new, "fresh" hat.

2012was_medium

The Nationals and the pursuit of Prince - The Nats Blog
A week ago, GM Mike Rizzo stated that Adam LaRoche was going to be the starting first baseman unless something extraordinary happened. Well, I guess if Prince Fielder brings is extraordinary girth to Washington, that means Roachy's out of a job. Personally, I still think the Texas Rangers are the logical favorite for Fielder, and the Nationals are being used to create the demand necessary to have him land in Texas.

Adam LaRoche uncertain about his future - MLB
Say what you want about Roachy, but I still love the guy. And it kind of stinks to see him in this state of limbo here, but it's still respectable and admirable about his professional, team-first approach to the situation as a whole. No matter who he plays for, I still root for him to succeed. (Except when facing the Braves)

Zimmerman or Fielder ... or both? - Nationals Journal
One of the arguments arising from the Prince Fielder-to-Washington scenario is that Fielder would usurp the payroll necessary to lock-up Ryan Zimmerman, and vice versa. But here's the thing - Washington D.C. isn't exactly Kansas City or Minnesota - it's a giant market, with the potential to support a larger payroll, one that could accommodate for both talents. They have a television deal, fresh new ballpark, and are on the cusp of becoming an upper-echelon team, which would theoretically bring in profit there too. If the organization could get out of the mindset that they're middle-market, and spend more like the Phillies than the Braves, they could afford cake, and eat it too.

In 2012, there won't be many jobs up for grabs - Nats Insider
Back in like 2008, I remember reading stories about how in Viera, the Nationals had almost a hundred guys on a practice field at any given time, because there was literally that much weeding out and scouting to do for a variety of vacant positions. Such will hardly be the case going into this year, due to the fact that simply put, most of the positions are currently rather secured already. All that truly remains is an outfield spot, the fifth starter, and a few bench and bullpen roles, but for the most part, the Nats aren't going to be packing the buses and locker rooms with nearly as many hopefuls this year.

In this regard, I feel for you Nats fans - Nationals Journal
Bob Carpenter, for another year? Stab my (genitalia) with a rusty knife instead, please.

P-Nats getting new grass for 2012, rest of park will still suck however - MASN

The team has also hired a full-time groundskeeper, who is overseeing the maintenance of the new field.

Wait what? I mean, it explains everything so clearly now, but I just figured the Pfitz just had an incompetent groundskeeper, and not ... nobody in the first place.

It's time for the Nationals to start marketing winning - Nats Insider
Just replace all mentions of Nats with Braves, and all Nationals players with Braves names, and I pretty much go through this same diatribe every year.

2012phi_medium

Cole Hamels: How Much is Too Much? - TGP
An excellent read involving a perfect blend of analysis, understanding of what a homegrown guy like Cole Hamels means to an organization, while maintaining objectivity throughout it all.

Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter and B.J. Ryan rescue snakebit man in the Amazon - The Star
As much as it sounds like the plot to a SyFy original, apparently during a fishing expedition in Brazil, the three former Blue Jays pitchers rescued a man who was at first bitten, but managed to escape with "just" an anaconda ripping off the motor to his boat, and being naked and stranded.

Is Jonathan Papelbon the next Mariano Rivera? - Crashburn Alley
Stats and peripherals are certainly one thing, but the real answer is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHANO. At the current rate Rivera is "declining," I'd honestly believe that there's a sliver of a chance that his career can go longer than Papelbon's career could. Even when Rivera is 50, and Papelbon is 39.

One guy who will really really miss Chris Volstad - Phillies Zone
Ryan Howard's stats versus Volstad in 31 career plate appearances: eight HR, 13 RBI, .500/.581/1.462. That's an OPS of 2.042.

2012nym_medium

How Bad Will The Mets Be In 2012? - Amazin' Avenue
Man, things really can only look up when the year starts off with posts like this.

Sandy Alderson now expects Johan Santana to be ready by Spring Training - NY Post
I give it three weeks tops before there's a contradicting article stating that Johan Santana will be back to questionable for Spring Training.

Regardless of risk of voiding contract, R.A. Dickey to climb Mount Kilmanjaro - NY Daily News
I can't say I'm the least bit surprised that he's doing it anyway. Best wishes for a successful climb, and I hope he returns back to the states intact and healthy. And he's off!

Putting a little too much faith in Mr. Met - NY Times
Kinda a fluff piece, but if anything at all, worth looking at the very first picture presented on the click.

Mets sign shortstop Omar Quintanilla to back up - NY Daily News
It should be worth mentioning that he also was busted in 2010 for testing positive for a banned substance and served a 50-game suspension. Otherwise, he's a light slappy hitter, but brings a decent glove.

Mets sign OF Scott Hairston - TedQuarters
Not a bad move at all, Hairy can play all three outfield spots, and has a bit of pop in his bat. Perfect for a fourth outfielder type.

Citi Field still not the confirmed home of the 2013 All-Star Game - The Mets Police
Supposedly Miami could get it first, or even possibly Washington, depending on whom you ask.

Apparently the Mets still owe Darryl Strawberry back money too, and his ex-wife wants it - Amazin' Avenue
Most of us are aware of the LOLMets situation that is having them paying the long-retired Bobby Bonilla almost $2M a year until 2035, but amazingly, Bonilla isn't the only guy making deferred money from them! Darryl Strawberry, although not making $2M is making close to $107K a year from the Mets, and his wife wants it. How much longer, is unknown, but the judge has judicially sided with Straw, and his wife can't touch it... yet.

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