Around the NL East - Playoff-projected Nationals, Mets full of injuries, Phillies creating false hopes for everyone else, Ozzie Guillen is crushing hard on Jose Reyes

Either the robot is showing some glimpses of a possible decline, or he's playing possum with the rest of the league, and sadistically giving fans false hope. Probably the latter.

I'm out of town this weekend, so I don't really have much to say in this week's introduction. But for all intents and purposes, despite being possibly the brightest and most optimistic Spring in the history of Natstown, the media up here in the Virginia/Washington D.C. area, still can't stop talking about the Washington Redskins. Now, being a native of the area, I do support the Redskins, but let's be honest here - they haven't been good or relevant in almost literally, decades. Daniel Snyder has a worse reputation up here than Liberty Media has for many Braves fans, and the team can't figure out a way to rebuild successfully no matter how much they spend or who they acquire. But the culture of the Redskins prevails over everything else, even if the Nationals are poised to put what's projected to be their most successful season in their short Nationals-lineage on the field in less than a month. Baffling.

Welcome back to the basement.


Baseball America picks the Nationals as a playoff team - The Nats Blog
One of baseball's most reputable publications, Baseball America has gone out and declared the Nationals as a playoff team. Now it doesn't specify if they even make it to the first round, or get knocked out in the play-in game for the Wild Card, but the fact of the matter is that they're being predicted to have the chance.

Ryan Zimmerman wants to see more breaking balls - Nationals Journal
Fresh off his extension, the Franchise has been murdering baseballs this Spring. But he's still not content at hitting what he knows he can hit, he wants to improve at what he struggles to hit - breaking stuff. So despite his acceptance that he's an XBH machine so far, he wants to see more breaking stuff, to work on it while it still doesn't count.

Bryce Harper no longer thinks he'll make the Opening Day roster - Nats Enquirer
After starting off hot, and leading people to believe that he stood a chance, a calf strain shelved him over the last week. As a result of all the missed at-bats and probably the babying nature he'll have to endure so he doesn't hurt himself worse, Harper no longer thinks he's got a legitimate chance to break camp this year.

Bryce Harper in GQ Magazine - The Bog
Interviewed by none other than Will Leitch, you know it's a fairly candid interview with the intent in mind, getting the real, unadulterated Bryce Harper. Oh, and he doesn't disappoint, but what else could you expect from a high self-esteemed, 19-year old professional athlete?

Will Mike Morse do it again? - Nationals Journal
Stats say he's lucky, according to his high BABIP, and that it's unlikely that he'll be able to emulate his .303 batting average and 31 HR of 2011. Personally, I don't think he'll do it again, because last year just seemed like a freakishly fluky year for me. But if he does it again, or close to it, I may just become a believer.

Why the Nationals should wait on trading John Lannan - The Nats Blog
As many are aware, the Nationals have a little bit of a logjam with the starting rotation, and sitting on the bubble is John Lannan. He's due $5M, but is the only possible fifth starter on the squad with minor league options left. Needless to say, his name is floating around trade land a lot lately, because he's a lefty starter that can eat innings and is somewhat reliably durable. But, the Nats traded three starting pitching prospects to get to Gio, so their depth is a little thing right now. And with Stephen Strasburg on an innings limit, and the tumultuous health of Chien-Ming Wang, maybe it's a better idea to stash him in AAA-Syracuse, perhaps?

And right on cue, Chien-Ming Wang strains his hamstring - Nats NQ
At first, I thought he probably did it batting, like he did the first major time, when he was on the Yankees, but it turns out that he strained it, attempting to cover first base, something that pitchers in both leagues have to do. Regardless, it's safe to assume that John Lannan's ticket to Syracuse is pretty much being ripped up as we speak.

Davey Johnson goes LOLd school with Tyler Clippard - MASN
Part of the reason why Tyler Clippard was among the top relievers in baseball all of 2011, was the fact that he really was a genuine fireman. He'd come in as early as the sixth inning, and finish with more than one inning. Or he'd come in with the bases loaded in the seventh and get strikeouts. Or he'd be the adequate bridge the Nats needed to get to Drew Storen. But throw all that out the window, because Davey Johnson has decided to give his relief ace, what pundits call "roles," and pretty much we can expect to see Tyler Clippard only in the eighth innings from now on, and only if the Nats are up or down by a slim margin.

Gio Gonzalez wants to change the culture in D.C. - Nats NQ
As the NQ points out, this is something that has been said many times out in D.C. But due to circumstance, Gio Gonzalez probably stands the best chance yet, to bring this to fruition, joining the squad while its at its very strongest.

Prince Fielder really liked Washington, but couldn't ignore the money - Nationals Journal
More proof that money almost always wins out. After being wined, dined, and fiercely courted by the Nationals, Fielder went with the highest bidder, who essentially made the bid as a knee-jerk reaction to Victor Martinez getting shelved.

Rick Ankiel still has the best outfield arm in baseball - MASN
According to the latest edition of the Fielding Bible, that is. Despite not being able to throw a strike from 60'6", he's still apparently somewhat competent at throwing one from 390 ft.

Brad Lidge on Stephen Strasburg - Nats Enquirer
When asked if Stephen Strasburg is better than Roy Halladay, straight up:

No. I'm not going to say he's better than Roy Halladay. But he throws 103.

You know who else throws 100+? Joel Zumaya (pretty much dead), Bobby Parnell (who sucks), Aroldis Chapman (inconsistent).

The mother of all StrasBurgers to be at Nationals Park - The Bog
And as much as I love a good food challenge, this is a bit out of my realm. Thankfully, it doesn't appear to be a challenge, and is more being advertised as a novelty item to share with friends, which makes a lot more sense. But the Nationals Park StrasBurger is an eight-pound monstrosity, available at the Red Porch in their CF pavilion area. I think I'll have to get my friends up there, and take it to town. No surprise, it's really really really really bad for you.

Catching up with the Chief - Citizens of Natstown
An interesting listen as former All-Star closer for the Nationals, Chad Cordero fields questions and takes an interview from bloggers all around.


David Wright ribs worse than thought? - Amazin' Avenue
I want to make a witty or attempted humorous caption for this, but it's getting to the point where it's like beating a dead horse. David Wright, whose ribs were sore, and thought to have needed just some rest, is suddenly flying back to New York to meet with physicians. Those are sure some severely sore ribs, thar.

It's not ribs, it's abdominal - NY Times
As in David Wright's been diagnosed with a small tear in an abdominal muscle. He's back in PSL, but received a cortisone shot whilst in New York.

A real doctor's hypothesis for all these gosh-darn oblique injuries - NY Daily News
Either guys are ramping up on the Creatine and working out way too much, creating inflexible muscles, or they're working out all the wrong things. The team that secures their rosters early and puts them on mandatory structured workout regimens will find the next Moneyball.

Cynical headlines via the Post FTW - NY Post
Johan Santana has having a good spring dot-dot-dot for now.

Byrdakmania to likely hit DL before it could run wild on MLB - Amazin' Avenue
All Hulk Hogan jokes aside, what this means for the Mets is that they really don't have a lefty specialist in their bullpen in the absence of Byrdak. Names such as former Braves like Chuck James and the still available Mike Gonzalez are thrown about.

Ruben Tejada strains groin; Terry Collins "tired of" injuries - NY Post
Can anyone blame him? It's not like these are serious injuries that give the Mets a clear understanding of what they need to do in order to stand by, it's a whole lot of niggling injuries that are good enough to sit guys out, but not put them on the DL, and tax the bench and handcuff the team to where they can't really make any reactionary moves.

Ronny Cedeno has tendinitis in his knees - MetsBlog
It's being downplayed a lot, but you know who else has a bad case of tendinitis in his knees? Chase Utley. Sure, Cedeno is mostly there as a backup infielder, but with Wright's injuries, Tejada's groin, and Daniel Murphy's spotty defense, he'll be expected to contribute more than the average backup.

ESPN's Adam Ruben has another brain dump, this time in regards to Carlos Beltran - Amazin' Avenue
At this point, it almost feels like there's some what of a vendetta against the Mets, the way he's apparently allowed to open up the floodgates in regards to certain Mets' topics, such as how they deal with injuries, and this time, how they apparently spun the story of Carlos Beltran not visiting Walter Reed back in 2010.

And speaking of Carlos Beltran, he thinks Mets fans should just be patient - NY Post
He says some polite things about current Mets players, but when asked when the Mets might be competitive again, solemnly answers:

when that day’s going to be, only God knows.

Apparently also only God knows when Beltran is going to pay for Niese's nose job - NY Daily News
Despite being in PSL with the Cardinals to play the Mets, Carlos Beltran and Jon Niese didn't even speak to one another. But, Carlos Beltran found a fiver on the ground and said to give it to Niese. Also, I love the fact that the Daily News probably only ran this story because they could make a nose picking joke out of it. Seriously, witty headlines from the Daily News are about as funny as John McCain's "bomb Iran" joke from a few years ago.

Mets bullpen catcher busted for DUI - MetsBlog
One of these days. Just one of these days, we'll have a Spring Training where no baseball player, coach, or member is busted for a DUI. At least there's the Cactus League left. Oh wait nevermind

Digital Domain Park seems to be building a second clubhouse - NY Times
All theorized parties are tight-lipped about it, but it's seeming like the Mets want another team to move into Digital Domain Park to share as a Spring Training facility. The suspected teams are the Nationals and Astros, who play in Viera and Kissimmee respectively, but are also rumored to be trying to get out of their current ST homes, with the latter once even being believed to be moving in with the Braves. But all parties aren't saying anything despite the fact that a new structure is being constructed at Digital Domain Park.


Jimmy Rollins doesn't sound that optimistic about Ryan Howard's recovery - High Cheese
While speaking with Jayson Stark, J-Roll had some fairly cryptic and kind of woeful things to say in regards to his prediction of Ryan Howard's recovery. At least two months is what he guarantees, but wouldn't be surprised if he were to miss out on the whole season.

Is Joe Blanton drawing some interest? - Crashburn Alley
Despite the fact that there are many who don't take Spring Training stats beyond a grain of salt, there are those who believe it to be more telling than the former might give it credit. Take for example Blue Jays GM, Alex Anthopolous, spotted at a Phillies game where Joe Blanton started, and immediately left upon Blanton's departure. Should the Phillies trade Blanton? Most definitely. They might have to eat some of the $8.5M he's owed, but from this outsider's perspective, the team has the depth to make up for Joe Blanton.

Kyle Kendrick's cutter is so money and he doesn't even know it - Phillies Zone
Part of the reason the Phillies had little qualms with extending Kyle Kendrick and why it won't hurt too much to unload Joe Blanton is the fact that Kendrick's simply improved on where he was weakest - facing LHBs. A cutter he worked on prior to 2011 changed everything as he went from a ROOGY type to someone who held LHBs to a cumulative .234 batting average. I imagine one day when I'm all old and decrepit and talking about baseball, I'll probably be referring to the 2010-decade as the era of the cutter, because it seems like every pitcher's success and failures seem to lie on having a good one in their arsenal.

Roy Halladay next pitcher to 300 wins? - Crashburn Alley
It's gotta be close, but I'm going to err on the side of no. At 34-years old with 188 wins, he'll need to be churning out 20+ win seasons every single year for the next six to get to 300 wins, and that's no shallow goal thar.

Especially when his velocity is down and he's getting fairly lit up this Spring - High Cheese
In his last start, Halladay was noticed to be throwing from a slightly lower arm slot, and topping out at 89mph, down from his usual 91-93mph range. The peripherals are similar, but the results have been very detrimental, to the tune of nine runs and five HR at the time of me writing this.

Dontrelle Willis cut by Phillies - TGP
As much as it was for the Phillies, I still stand that I like D-Train the person. So it's sad to see that his attempt to get back into the good graces of the Major Leagues fell short, but it's not like the Phillies didn't give him ample opportunities that he didn't quite live up to.

Is Chase Utley the most important player in MLB? - Crashburn Alley
Admittedly, he is among the best players in baseball, without question. My only objection is the notion that suddenly as long as it's talking about Chase Utley, second base is now suddenly classified as a premium position. This is probably the first time I've heard such, since the old adage of power at the corners, defense up the middle has kind of gone wayside in this era.

Despite having Placido Polanco, the Phillies would like some more infield utility - Beerleaguer
I'm still not sure why the Phillies unloaded Wilson Valdez, who was literally Mr. Everyposition for the Phillies. Arb 1? If that's true, it's a weak and penny-pinching excuse for the team with a $165M payroll.

Brad Lidge feels 2012 Nationals most talented team evar - Phillies Zone
It should be worth noting that Brad Lidge contributed heavily to the 2008 World Series champion Phillies.

Jamie Moyer has a Posse - TGP
As a fan of Andre the Giant, but not the unoriginal, idea-recycling Shepard Fairey, I can get behind this image of Jamie Moyer.


Ozzie Guillen credits Jose Reyes for Hanley's positive transition, curing cancer, world famine - Palm Beach Post
The reason I went all snarky there is because nowhere in this article does it really say how Jose Reyes has been beneficial to Hanley's move to third base. Instead, it's a whole lot of veiled slaps to Hanley Ramirez's skills at shortstop by proclaiming Jose Reyes the greatest shortstop to play the game while Hanley "probably won't win a gold glove."

Does Ozzie Guillen have a man-crush on Jose Reyes? - Sun Sentinel
Believe it or not, that's not my fake headline, it's the actual verbatim headline provided by the folks at the Sun Sentinel.

Cancel the season, Mike Stanton hurt his wrist - Fish Stripes
He was hit by a pitch on the wrist, and Ozzie Guillen initially thought it was broken. Turns out it's just a contusion (a bruise), but this is still really dreadful news for the Fish. I have to ask which is worse, a team with no Mike Stanton, out with a broken wrist, or a Mike Stanton with a stunted wrist, unknown to how much power and mobility it has. After Jordan Schafer, we in Braves Country are sensitive to wrist injuries, y'see.

The wrist is okay, but guess what - now there's a knee problem! - Palm Beach Post
There's nothing clear about it other than "sore knee," but the fact of the matter is that it is hampering the big slugger. Including Stanton, outfielders Logan Morrison and Chris Coghlan also are plagued by bad knees as well.

Just how bad is a theoretical loss of Mike Stanton? - Fish Stripes
Using weighted runs created (wRC), just look at the difference that the loss of Mike Stanton would do to the Marlins.

Two insufferable managers and their corresponding behaviors - Fish Bytes
Ozzie Guillen was ejected from a Spring Training game. Bobby Valentine playfully waved goodbye. Ozzie's take on the behavior he didn't actually see:

"I would have told him to go (expletive himself), too. That’s the way Ozzie Guillen is."

Did you know Aaron Rowand is related to James Shields? - Sun Sentinel
No, I did not know this. But interestingly enough, Aaron Rowand and James Shields are cousins. The difference is that James Shields is actually still talented while his little cousin is still technically trying to even make the Marlins' roster.

Marlins are actually setting up pitching machines to shoot baseballs into their aquarium back wall - Miami New Times
I'm willing to bet that of the 100 fish that are allegedly in the tanks right now, over half of them will be replaced by season's end. Too bad there won't be any news of it, but I do look forward to seeing Flickr pages dedicated to dead fish being nibbled at by their living brethren during Marlins games throughout the season.

Oh, how fun will it be hearing about these logistic nightmare stories - Fish Chunks

in the stadium's first game with prepaid parking, people who didn't prepay had to scramble to get spots anywhere they could find them - some for as long as an hour-and-a half.

And this was for an exhibition game.

Heath Bell Ice Cream - Palm Beach Post
I'll save the criticism for the design, since I like Heath Bell - but if you're going to spoof the Blue Bell ice cream company's logo, may as well take the efforts to replicate the correct typefaces and weights, and not skimp on the textures either.

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