Around the NL East - Chase Utley's future in jeopardy, Bryce Harper sent down, Mets take big step towards financial recovery, HanRam teasing maturity?

I imagine there will no shortage of epic Chipper Jones photography this year.

Of all of the good Chipper Jones memories I have in my lifetime, I would have to say that my favorite one is more of a recent one. 2008, to be exact. For the Braves, it was an abysmal year, in fact the 72-90 record says it was the worst year since 1990. But 2008 was also a magical year for our beloved Larry Wayne Jones, III, as it was the year where he had captured the batting title, one of the few accolades that had eluded him throughout his illustrious career. But it wasn't just the batting title alone that so magical about that season; it was a myriad of events, occasions and moments that culminated in a season in which the Braves didn't do so well, but we watched an "old guy" at 36 years old, looking like he was having the best time of his life.

  • On the night Chipper Jones turned 36, he went 3-for-3 with a homer, and the Braves beat the Florida Marlins. But more importantly, forever imprinted in our heads was the sight of Chipper Jones practically on his knees, braced against the dugout railing, laughing himself to tears, at the sight of Brian McCann belly-flopping onto third base after hitting what was his first-ever major league triple.
  • On June 5th, the country was enamored with the fact that Chipper Jones was still holding a batting average, significantly north of the immortal .400 mark. The attention he was getting was easily making him the unanimous favorite to start the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium at third base. But more importantly, on this night, Chipper Jones went into a the game with yet again, the Florida Marlins, at 399 home runs. This would be the night where Ricky Nolasco would be the unfortunate soul to hang a curveball that Chipper Jones would deposit into the right field seats for home run #400. He ended the night going 4-for-5, to improve his average to a majors-best .418, and the Braves won.
  • By June 18th, the magic was on its last legs, and it went from "Can Chipper Jones bat .400 for the year?" to "When will Chipper Jones' average drop below .400?" And in the defining at-bat, where an out breaks the threshold, guess what the old man does? In the blazing Texas heat of the Ballpark of Arlington, Chipper Jones launches an Eric Hurley pitch into the grassy center field patch for a go-ahead home run. For one more night, 74 games into the 2008 season, the .400 batting average was safe.

  • (ED: Embed doesn't work on all browsers. Click view epic HR) On September 24th, the Braves were well out of contention at this point. Furthermore, the were 3-14 against the Phillies going into their final matchup with the eventual World Series champions. Chipper's batting average was still a major's best .365, and whether it was voluntary, or Bobby Cox protecting the lead, Chipper was more or less a glorified pinch-hitter in the Braves' last ten games or so. But for one night, and in one at-bat, Chipper Jones reminded everyone that although people know him more as the de facto Mets-killer, there's no team in the division he punished worse than the Phillies.

I just remember one night, J.C. Romero of the Phillies then, had the most incredulous look on his face where he could do nothing but smile and shake his head, after Chipper Jones poked a perfect single through the hole to left. As much as I will relish and relate and enjoy the many Chipper stories that will surface throughout the duration of the season out of Braves Country, I'm actually more interested in the stories that will arise outside of it. Although most of them will likely be smeared with tasteless Hooters jokes and injury prone accusations, most anyone with a remote understanding of what makes a unique great career, and sticks to the baseball aspect of his life should and will, have mostly respect for the old man.

Welcome back to the basement.

2012phi_medium

Chase Utley leaves camp to see specialist about his knees - Philly.com
Evidently, the pain from patellar tendinitis has gotten to be too much for the hard-nosed one, and Chase Utley appears to be on the path to start the 2012 season on the DL, and many, contemplating his future entirely. To be honest, I'm amazed he played so much of last year, given the harrowing warnings from Detroit's Brandon Inge who suffers the exact same patellar tendinitis in his left knee, about how "there's always pain." And if Utley goes the route of Inge, then well, he may as well kiss a chunk of 2012 goodbye, because it's a long and also painful rehabilitation process.

Chase Utley's going to address the media on Sunday - TGP
Gulp. It's never a good sign when any player decides to press conference after news of an injury.

The Utley Era wasn't supposed to be like this - Phillies Nation
Lots of emotion in this piece. But it mostly rings true to a fan perspective. And even as someone who roots against the Phillies, I can have some empathy for sports fans who are witnessing a time when one of their teams' franchise players is suddenly approaching the downhill part of their careers, whether it was age or injury causing it. For what it's worth, I would rather see the Braves beat the Phillies with a healthy Chase Utley on board, as opposed to a Phillies team with an addled, or no Chase Utley at all.

Placido Polanco injures finger, reportedly not that bad - Phillies Zone
He'll only miss a few days because of it, but in light of the Chase Utley woes, this can't be something Phillies fans are happy to hear about.

Michael Martinez breaks bone in right foot, likely out 4-6 weeks - Beerleaguer
The good news just keeps on coming for the Phillies this week - utility infielder, and likely first in line to play any second, third or short in a pinch, Michael Martinez, has a broken bone in his right foot after being HBP. The Phillies now need some infield depth, because all they really have left is, none other than the last reigning Connect Four champion, Pete Orr.

A reminder for all those bringing up the traded-away Wilson Valdez - TGP
Yes; statistically, overall, Wilson Valdez is probably not that great of a baseball player. His numbers are believed to be easily replaceable, his defense is rated in numbers as mediocre, and every person that now believes losing Wilson Valdez means the end of the world for the Phillies is clearly dumb. But the thing is, so many people are quick to grieve for the absence of Wilson Valdez, because the contributions he made in a backup capacity were clearly adequate enough for people to remember him, and more importantly, keep the Phillies afloat during all those times over the last two years where either Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, or Placido Polanco were on the DL for periods of time.

A small glimpse at the slowly deteriorating velocity of Roy Halladay - Phillies Zone
The fact that Doc's velocity is creeping to an average that is under 90 mph, kind of reminds me of that cringe-inducing reality that Greg Maddux's later years kept creeping his career ERA to a point where it finally hit and rose above 3.00. Like when Michael Jordan kept coming back repeatedly, and finally his career PPG went from the insane 30+ mark to a number with a leading 2.

Domonic Brown option to AAA - Beerleaguer
Despite the fact that he was bent on breaking camp with the big squad, it turns out to be mostly his poor fielding and lack of concentration that did him in. He certainly hit well enough, but dropped balls and bad routes leads the brass to think that he is still in need of more of the cliched "seasoning."

Phillies release Joel Pinero - Phillies Nation
I'm not entirely sure why they did, because like the article points out, he would have been a great option to stash at AAA, and would easily be an adequate option to make a spot start if there were ever an injury to the pitching. But oh well.

If Jamie Moyer breaks camp, he can become the oldest pitcher to ever win a decision - NY Times
Technically since he's no longer a Philly, I don't have much reason to bother reaching out for Jamie Moyer stories. But there's a reason why sites like the Times, and TGP, and people like me still bother - because Jamie Moyer is kind of fascinating, and some may even like him. Especially, now that Moyer's not a Philly, I can without hesitation root for the old man, and although his chances are taking a dip since the last time I checked on him, I'd love to see him break the Rockies' roster and continue on the dream.

Moyer is a father of eight who wears old-fashioned stirrups and thanks the plate umpire whenever he leaves a game. He is older than 8 current managers and 16 current general managers. He has pitched in 49 major league ballparks, and started the last game at Wrigley Field before lights were installed there.

Right on cue, Chipper Jones makes list of players Phillies Nation despises - Phillies Nation
Respect.

2012was_medium

Stephen Strasburg named Opening Day starter - Nats Insider
Um, duh?

Comparing Stephen Strasburg's delivery to Greg Maddux - The Bog
Interesting comparison, but for what it's worth, it's not a bad idea to make the comparison, considering Maddux was like, never injured ever, and the Nats should want that kind of future outlook from Strasburg.

Bryce Harper optioned to AAA, sky is also blue - Nationals Journal
Seriously, I'm still amazed at how many people legitimately thought Bryce Harper had any chance to become a Super-Two and actually break big league camp. Interestingly though, there are plans to give him a lot of innings in CF, perhaps leading to the idea that he might be the CF of their future.

Davey Johnson thinks the Nationals could win the pennant* - The Bog
* If guys start doing things I know they’re capable of doing.
But apparently, no other way.

Nationals concerned that Chien-Ming Wang's hamstring injury serious - Nats Insider
Regardless of how severe it is, the Nationals aren't going to rush him back, given the fact that they have an excess of starting pitching, and the fact that Wang is made of glass in the first place. Davey Johnson predicts Wang misses a month.

Nationals scouting Gerardo Parra despite high asking price from Arizona - The Nats Blog
Despite the fact that the Diamondbacks are going to ask for a catcher, shortstop and likely minor leaguers, the Nationals are still scouting Gerardo Parra. He has experience with all outfield positions, but for all intents and purposes, he's still a fourth outfielder on their team. For what it's worth, I thought his Gold Glove from last year was overrated, considering he made a name for himself gunning down slow runners but collecting outfield assists nonetheless.

Drew Storen has inflammation in the elbow - Nationals Journal
MRIs came back clean, but you never want to hear of any elbow troubles, especially from a young guy that a lot is riding on.

Nationals might not have any first basemen for Opening Day - MASN
Adam LaRoche has a bum left foot. Mike Morse, despite not being any prep at first, still has a strained lat. Chris Marrero is still out with a hamstring injury. As sad as it sounds, the Nationals really could have Chad Tracy of all people, playing first base on Opening Day, if their other options don't get better soon. A quick glimpse shows that Marrero thinks he's ahead of schedule, but he'll still not be anywhere close for Opening Day.

To make matters worse, Mike Morse might not be ready at all - Nats Insider
Undergoing an unusual platelet-rich plasma injection to help alleviate the lat injury, the Nationals aren't optimistic that he'll be ready at all for Opening Day. When he comes back, will he have another pre-stance pose to add to remind himself to not over-strain?

Unless they stick the newly acquired Xavier Nady at first - Nationals Journal
Despite being mostly an outfielder, Nady can play first in a pinch. A minor league deal, obviously for bolstering depth.

2012nym_medium

David Wright muses on Chipper's upcoming retirement - NY Times
This is the kind of stuff that's beautiful about sports. Despite the fact that both are on opposing teams, there's still a monumental amount of mutual respect and admiration for the others. Chipper heaps praise onto David Wright, and Wright does everything he can to reciprocate. Times like this, it makes me as a witness, not want to rag on David Wright for five minutes. That being said, he's feeling better and has taken some live swings finally.

MetsBlog muses on Chipper's upcoming retirement - MetsBlog
I think that Matthew Cerrone sums it up best by quoting Chuck Klosterman (even though I'm not a fan of his books) about the perceived relationship between Chipper Jones and the Mets fanbase. Most hated the ever living crap out of Chipper, but at the same time, it was out of respect; simply put, even though Chipper was often the victor, both parties still very much cared about the matches.

Al Leiter and the Post muse on Chipper's upcoming retirement - NY Post

Leiter remembers facing Jones in a tight game in the 1990s at Turner Field and throwing what he thought was the perfect pitch — a changeup he didn’t often use — only to watch Jones "flick it" for a two-run double.

"I remember him sliding into second base," Leiter said. "It was a big moment, the middle of the game, tight game, and I looked at him, ‘Are you [bleeping] kidding me? Really? You were looking for a changeup?’ And he looked at me like, ‘I don’t know.’ "

Amazin' Avenue simplifies the meaning of the Mets' Wilpon family settlement - Amazin' Avenue
I'm not even going to pretend like I have any iota of understanding of the whole situation as a whole, since business and legal matters are more or less completely lost on someone like me. But to anyone with a shred of logic should surmise, the Mets' owners getting settlement in regards to a major, gigantic legal matter sounds beneficial to the organization, if for anything at all, to get one giant distraction out of the way. AA explains the finer points.

With media like the Post, who needs enemies? - NY Post
The headline is great - it essentially says the Mets have nothing really redeeming anywhere on the team. Even Johan Santana and David Wright are reduced to injury-prone what-ifs.

Prevention and Recovery even affects new guys: Andres Torres strains left calf - NY Post
At this point, the Mets realize that they don't really have a very adequate reserve centerfield option, because Scott Hairston is hurt, and Adam Loewen is like a poor man's poor man - Rick Ankiel.

But don't worry! Jason Bay volunteers to play some CF if needed! - NY Daily News
A position he hasn't played since 2005, and only 2% of his career innings were spent at. Not to mention the -14.8 UZR, either.

Mike Pelfrey's having a rough spring. Should he be cut? - Amazin' Avenue
And I agree with AA's assessment - no. Especially for a team like the Mets who are in penny-pinching mode, any sort of eating of cost isn't a good idea. Besides, at $5.7M due in 2012, really, Mike Pelfrey doesn't have to be that extraordinary in order to actually earn back the cost of his salary.

But get this, he's been playing almost all spring with a high ankle sprain - NY Post
I wonder if this is going to result in a tirade of tweets from ESPN's Adam Rubin again.

Mets predicted to have a dramatic dropoff in attendance - Biz of Baseball
Apparently, the Braves are too, but not "dramatic" but "moderate." LOLBothteams?

I don't typically make bets like these - Amazin' Avenue
But the guys at AA seem optimistic about Manny Acosta. I'm pretty sure I'll forget about it, as will probably most people who even bother to care about a guy like Manny Acosta, but if he actually notches 1.0 or more Fangraphs WAR after 2012, I will eat my hat.

2012mia_medium

What's this? Even the Marlins media has something to say about Chipper Jones? - Palm Beach Post
It's funny, because due to their relative age, I don't really ever think about the Marlins as amongst Chipper's rivals. But the fact is that Chipper Jones emerged in the Majors at about the same time as the Marlins franchise did. And so we have:

In 236 career games against the Marlins, Jones his hitting .299 (249-for-834) with 40 home runs and 161 RBI.

Jones’ home runs also lead all Marlins opponents, ahead of Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard (34) and Andruw Jones (31).

Apparently it's getting to the point where Chipper Jones was pretty much owned all the teams in the current alignment of NL East squads throughout the 90s and most of 2000s.

I'm still not convinced, but Hanley Ramirez showing glimpse of maturing - Fish Stripes
So Hanley Ramirez is showing up to get in his drills and exercise at 5:30 in the morning these days, and has been showing some legitimate dedication to preparing for the season. He's also having an extremely strong spring so far too. For me, the true mark of maturity lies in how he deals with a slump, and how co-exists with his teammates.

Mike Stanton still not running, hopes to be ready by April - Palm Beach Post
He'll be cutting it close, but Giancarlo wants to be ready by the time the Fish host the Yankees in exhibition action at the new joint.

Ozzie Guillen doesn't care about the past when it comes to filling out roster - Sun Sentinel
It's almost like a nice way of telling minor league deal flyers like Aaron Rowand and Austin Kearns that they're not going to make it on reputation alone.

John Smoltz gives tons of praise to Josh Johnson - Palm Beach Post

"To me, a front-line guy like him, when the league starts knowing he’s healthy it’s the ‘uh-oh factor,"’ Smoltz said of Johnson.

I couldn't really say it any better myself. I still stand firm on the stance that when healthy, I think Johnson is a more dominating pitcher than anyone in Philadelphia.

Marlins being depended on to rescue Miami sports - Marlin Maniac
You know, I read this article, and I can't help but wonder if every instance of "Miami" were replaced by "Atlanta." If anything at all, it goes to show the lack of respect baseball gets compared to NFL and NBA; just because the Dolphins stink and the Heat are LeBron'd doesn't mean Miami is this city of broken sports dreams. The Dolphins used to be legendary, the Heat have won a championship, and the Marlins have won twice. The Falcons have never won, the Atlanta Hawks haven't ever made it to the Finals, and the Braves have their one World Series. One to speak?

A good story about Greg Dobbs - Fish Bytes
I know I said some critical things about Greg Dobbs and his ill-advised proclomation of crowning the Marlins, but when it comes to giving back to the fans, he hit a grand slam, in this testament to his dedication to the baseball youth of tomorrow.

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