Around the NL East - Ozzie loves booze and Fidel, Hot David Wright gets hurt, Storen, Morse ailing, Pat the Bat retiring in Philly

Can't we all, just get along?

You know these days, I've sometimes been questioning the direction of my baseball fandom. Seeing the Braves win undoubtedly makes me pleased, but seeing them lose doesn't make me flinch in the least bit. I guess I've kind of gotten over the point where a loss drives me to the insanity and anger that prompts irrational posting or inflammatory commentary. Or perhaps I'm not quite in midseason form yet, maybe. On the flip side, I'm definitely happy that baseball is back, and that I have a fairly default plan for just about every day for the next six months, but at the same time, I'm not super excited and itching to get to the ballpark just yet. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's because I'm still trying to shake this mystery illness, or maybe I'm getting old; if I were a ballplayer, I'd be right at the age where statgeeks would be pointing the "time to begin the decline phase" stick at, and I'd scoff with disdain for their numbers and mom's basement analysis.

The biggest thing I'm noticing, is the lack of irrational hate. I once said I hated the Astros; for 2005, and the obnoxious way they always locked the Braves into stupidly-long, extra inning games. I hated the Giants, stemming back to 1993, Barry Bonds, and the way their pitching always felt so overrated. And most importantly, to a degree, I hated division rivals, namely the Phillies and Mets for being who they were, and I was always torn with the Nationals, because they do represent my home town, several of my closest friends, but at the same time, it didn't matter if they were a 103-loss team, they played the Braves like war, and often won.

I don't know what it is, but all that animosity is gone. I don't really hate any other teams anymore, and on the flipside, I've grown to like and admire lots of players and entire other teams in the process. Even the division rivals. Especially the division rivals. Maybe the latter is as a result of how much I read and learn about the division rivals and their players from doing this column over the last three years, but I have to admit that there's a sliver of fandom I have for all of them, in some capacity. Perhaps it's a "keep your enemies closer" mentality in play or something, but it kind of feels liberating to admit this.

Shane Victorino is hated by many, and many took sadistic pleasure at laughing at his fashion show which paraded out Phillies players and other Philadelphia athletes, but it still rasied $325,000 for his foundation, focused on helping the underprivileged in Philadelphia and Hawaii. Ike Davis and Jason Bay take criticism for always being injured or always underperforming, but they still take time out of their personal time to go painting New York rooftops white, for assisted energy reduction and keeping buildings cooler. There's something amusing about the quiet demeanor of Ryan Zimmerman, yet he goes and buys and installs a 7-Eleven slurpee machine in the locker room of the UVA baseball team, his alma mater. Carlos Zambrano takes a lot of flack for his temper and hotheadedness, but just this past season, he flew down to Guatemala to adopt a boy, who was legally abandoned, instantly giving him a massive second chance in life.

If you asked me who my favorite team was, I'd still respond "the Atlanta Braves" in a heartbeat. But just because I prefer one team over all the others, doesn't necessarily mean I have to hate them, like I used to feel for some of them in the past. Everyone's taking the field and playing their hardest, because that's what they're getting paid to do, and in the process we have winners and we have losers. But very little of what happens on the field, should have any reflection of what they do off it, which is often times, the more important arena of play.

Whatever, I'm probably just a bad baseball fan. Welcome back to the basement.

2012mia_medium

Ozzie Guillen says he loves Fidel Castro, suspended five games - Fish Stripes
Well, that didn't take long at all. In fewer games than the number of games he's been suspended, Ozzie's mouth has already gotten him in trouble with the organization. Even I didn't see that coming.

Ozzie also loves to get hammered at the hotel bars where he stays on the road - TSN
Well, it's kind of true, that at least the routine prevents him from getting seen somewhere he shouldn't be seen, but it's sort of amazing that he's managed to stay out of trouble all these years with such a routine.

But back to loving Fidel, it's apparently the biggest mistake of his life - Palm Beach Post
I would have said "using Willie Harris in game 4 of the 2005 WS" would be up there, but if you recall, Harris actually got on base, and ended up scoring the Series-deciding run. So I guess loving Fidel is up there by default. Joey Cora, will end up managing during the suspension.

It's okay Ozzie, Charles Barkley's got your back - Fish Bytes
When it comes to making turrible, turrible decisions, there's nobody who knows more about such than former NBA player and current basketball analyst, Charles Barkley. Barkley doesn't necessarily condone Ozzie's comments, but as someone who has been publicly shamed and punished, Barkley can relate, and is there for Ozzie if he's ever in need.

Should Marlins fans be worried about Josh Johnson? - Fish Bytes
The funny thing is, as I read this, I often think the same things about Tommy Hanson, whom like Johnson, was shelved with shoulder tendinitis.

Giancarlo's knee will probably ail him all year long - Palm Beach Post
Diagnosis - unknown. Well that's fantastic to know. Unfortunate for one of baseball's brightest young sluggers, who will require more periodic days off than someone his age should be getting, in order to rest his bad knee with unknown reasoning.

A primer on what the Marlins' running game will impact - Fish Stripes
Ozzie's made no secret that he wants his team to run at will. But to the sabermetrically inclined, it's unnecessary risk, sometimes. It's too early to tell so far, but here's a crash course on the typical results of certain events, such as successful steals, and unsuccessful steals.

Omar Infante misses hitting for the cycle - the single - Fish Bytes
Now that really sucks, because nine times out of ten, you hear of a guy missing the cycle because they couldn't hit the triple. But the single? Now that's brutal. What's worse? Seeing it live, like I did, when Kelly Johnson missed hitting for the cycle in rainy Fenway Park, when of all people, Wily Mo Pena, laid out in right field to rob his 9th inning plate appearance which would have secured it.

Jersey Shore meets Dumb and Dumber - Sun Sentinel
Just click and it all makes sense.

If you've never hated Logan Morrison before, here's a reason to do so - Palm Beach Post
Lucky ***** ****** gets to spend an off-day with a Victoria's Secret model, in promoting those gaudy clothing line with team logos an suggestive tag lines. But as one commenter on this page is quick to point out:

He should spend his time in the batting cage or gym, hes hitting .180, Morrison screws off to much with twitter & other BS not a true ballplayer. Trade him for pitching help while we can before he gets a bad knee flare up again.

THE GREAT RACE - Marlins Diehards
I remember when UK Top Gear did this kind of race, but some of Miami New Times staff decided to do the same thing to see which mode of transportation gets to new Marlins Park the most efficiently, putting up a kayak, potato sack, car, transit, rickshaw and bicycle. Small spoiler: NEVER bet on the car in these kinds of races.

2012nym_medium

The Mets will definitively acknowledge Chipper Jones' retirement - MetsBlog
This is nice to know, and it kind of makes me want to explore looking into going up to New York in September, to see for myself. I remember when Yankee Stadium honored Cal Ripken, Jr. in his last plate-appearance in New York; not that I'm expecting such a magnitude, but I do expect, whether it's LARRY chants or actual cheers, a lot of loud noise when it happens.

Yeah, yeah, whatever, Mets sweep Braves to open season 3-0 - Amazin' Avenue
Sure, it's definitely not the way we in Braves Country really want to start the season. But now that it's in the past, file it in under "anomalies which we're hoping nobody will remember in the end of the year when the Braves are contending and the Mets are wallowing in the bottom of the standing." Jon Niese is the latest in close-calls to miss a no-hitter, leaving the Mets still one of two franchises in history without a no-no on record. (Other is San Diego)

Mets celebrate sweep over Atlanta with cheeseburgers - Yahoo Sports
Shake Shack burgers are indeed pretty good, I'll gladly admit. But I can't help but think about the Marlins of 2011, after they celebrated a sweep of the Giants with a plane full of In-N-Out cheeseburgers. Not sure how many others remember, but the Marlins went something like 4-21 in the month of June, which began just days after their burger binge.

Yep, figures; David Wright solid start derailed by fracture in pinky finger - NY Post
Done while sliding back to first during a pick-off attempt. Wright continued to play and even played the following game with a splint on it, but I can't imagine that it's really better to splint it and continue to play on it, rather than to actually let it properly heal. Decision on the DL is still pending, awaiting a visit to a hand specialist.

Health appears to take precedence over production in terms of extension negotiation - NY Daily News
Despite the good start to the season, the fact that David Wright is once again looking at an injury is the team's biggest concern. Bad luck accident, or simply physically prone to injury, he's still limited regardless. If his people can quell the notion that such isn't the norm with him, maybe David Wright could actually be extended.

Ike Davis didn't think Valley Fever was going to affect him, some suspect Valley Fever is reason for slow start - NY Daily News
It's known that Conor Jackson's career was essentially lost to Valley Fever, but the scariest thing is that Bob Uecker's son died last Friday, due to Valley Fever. Granted, he was 52, but still, that's pretty extreme for an ailment that Ike Davis is nonchalantly thinking isn't going to affect him.

Jason Bay is not having a very good start to his year - NY Daily News
Even the home crowd is letting Bay know their disdain for his performance, as he's been showered with boos over the first six games of the season. The usually quiet Bay boiled over finally, arguing balls and strikes, earning him an uncerimonious ejection.

Terry Collins acknowledges that he'd consider dropping Bay in the order - MetsBlog
Well, hopefully he'll do it sooner rather than later, instead of mulling about it for several games while Bay chokes in key scenarios, before actually deciding to make a move.

Never question the Post's ability to rain in on any parade - NY Post
Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his first ever major league home run in a win against the Nationals on Monday - such an occasion is a grand one for any young player. But the Post is quick to point out that it was pretty much a fluke in old Citi Field, because the homer crossed the wall at one of the points where the wall was brought in.

This might be interesting to track - The Apple
Daniel Murphy made no errors during the series with the Braves, but that's mostly due to the fact that the Braves could barely make contact to challenge the "second baseman's" questionable defense. Regardless, the bat is definitely legit, and it will be a fun thing to track, the contrast of his offensive prowess and his defense, but I don't wish any injuries on anyone.

Clearly, Frank Francisco is better than all those other crappy closers - Amazin' Avenue
Yes, going 3/3 in the very first three save chances of a season clearly means that he's better than the all-time saves leader from a lefty and the all-time single-season leader in saves. Let alone "dominant."

Kind of a win-win for the Mets, overall - NY Daily News
Sandy Alderson took a gamble at the end of Spring Training, by having a game against the Yankees in Florida on the final day of Spring Training, instead of actually being back in Flushing, preparing for the Braves, who were already up in New York, working out. Justification? Money. Sandy couldn't resist not cashing in on the bank from sell-out crowds at Digital Domain Park, even if it came at the expense of the players who didn't actually get to really ready themselves in the big park. Fortunately for the team, things still worked out to their favor, but it was set up pretty much for a rocky start.

2012was_medium

Drew Storen to see the dreaded Dr. James Andrews - The Nats Blog
I wonder what it's like being the most dreaded name in professional sports? Seriously, if I'm DJA, I have a replica Doctor Doom mask hanging in my office when I'm giving consultations, because ain't nobody in professional sports doesn't have night sweats thinking about if they ever have to visit him.

I guess it should be fortunate that it's "just" a bone chip - MASN
Drew Storen underwent surgery after meeting with DJA, to remove a bone chip from his elbow, which was caused to be the culprit with tightness in his throwing arm. He'll miss a few months, but is expected to be out of action until around the all-star break. Normally, this kind of news is not welcome, but considering it's not Tommy John, there's something to be thankful for.

Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez to share closing duties in the interim - Nationals Journal
Naturally, Tyler Clippard is nowhere in the picture for closing duties. But we have one well-reputable veteran, and one young gun who throws 100 mph doing the closing duties until Drew Storen's fate is revealed.

Mike Morse out indefinitely with setback to lat injury - Nats Enquirer
While playing in a rehab game out at Low-A Hagerstown, apparently Mike Morse re-strained his lat muscle that he was trying to recover from. He had to be removed from the game, when he couldn't even throw the ball back to the shortstop. Sounds like it could be more severe than everyone thought it was. Just in: shut down for six more weeks. Bummer.

Chien-Ming Wang supposedly set to return in late-April - Nationals Journal
He's throwing off a mound again, recovering from the hamstring strain while fielding first. But seriously, Wang's gotta do something about his hamstrings, because this isn't the first time he's strained it running to first, be it on the basepaths, or now, fielding his position.

GM Mike Rizzo essentially says 160 inning limit is myth to be contrarian - Big League Stew
Pretty much everyone and their mother knows that Stephen Strasburg is going to be deactivated when his innings limit hits around the neighborhood of 160 innings, but for whatever reason, probably because he's throwing so well, Nats GM Mike Rizzo is backpedaling a little bit and claiming that such wasn't really his idea, and that they'll "re-evaluate."

No slow start this year - Nats Insider
After LaRoche his his second homer of the day, one that left the Friendly Confines, there's little doubt that our old pal, Adam LaRoche just might finally be healthy. I'm glad for him, and hope he has a productive season. Except against Atlanta.

Jesus Flores is feeling good and still thinks he can start - Nationals Journal
I get the feeling there will be plenty more of these cryptic statements out of Jesus Flores that are going to eventually bristle the hairs of management. But for what it's worth, Flores could be amongst the best backup catchers in baseball if he kind of kept his mouth shut and did his work, but he's still convinced he can start, even if it's not in Washington.

O's skipper takes unnecessary jab at Nationals Park - The Bog
I'll be honest, if you asked me what my favorite baseball park was, I really would say Camden Yards in Baltimore, despite the fact that I think the city is a cesspool, and the state of Maryland is the nation's armpit. But for some reason, Buck Showalter decided to get up on a high horse for a team he's barely helmed (poorly) for a little over two years, and exalt Camden Yards by putting down other ballparks. I've been to both Washington and Cincinnati, and both are perfectly fine ballparks; they might not have a gigantic warehouse like Camden Yards does, but it's safe to expect that both of them will easily hold out over the next 20 years, just like Camden Yards has currently done. Maybe Buck doesn't like Jim Bowden, who was a big part of both those cities' teams' fortunes.

Anthony Rendon suffers badly sprained ankle - Nats Insider
Not good news. Ideally, the Nationals would like to see Rendon progress, and ultimately make Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa expendable in the near future, but this is the kind of injury that could really derail. Why? Also suffering "badly sprained ankles" in recent years - Ryan Howard, Ike Davis.

The hindsight machine - Yahoo Sports
While Gio Gonzalez had a less than stellar Major League debut with the Nationals, one of the pitchers sent to Oakland to get him, naturally thrust into a starting role out of necessity, Tommy Milone, had a dazzling debut, holding the Royals to just three hits in an outstanding 8.0 IP, zero run outing.

More reason to hope for a Jayson Werth revival - Nats Enquirer
Duffy's Irish Pub, right in the heart of D.C., near the 9:30 Club I'd gone to a few times back when I still lived there, sometimes it's hard to tell if they're supporting the Nationals or not, based on their back-handed promotion of offering PBRs at the cost of Jayson Werth's batting average. But this year, they're taking it one step further, and for every time Jayson Werth hits a dinger while you're present and happen to be wearing any Nats gear, you get a free shot of Jameson. Well shoot, I've got two promotional gate giveaway Nats hats, maybe I should head on over to Duffy's the next time I'm up there.

2012phi_medium

Pat Burrell will retire as a member of the Phillies - Phillies Nation
You know, I get why it's done, but I always think it's kind of like cheating. The one-day contract, so they can officially retire as a member of such-and-such team. I thought it was a cop-out when guys like Emmitt Smith did it with the Cowboys after floundering out in Arizona, and kind of think it's cheap that Burrell's doing it with the Phillies. Although he'll probably get cheered and standing O'd, but a part of me is curious to know how much booing he'll get too; after all, he was quite the target for hometown ire towards the later days of his Phillies career.

Injury updates - Phillies Zone
Howard, still injured. Utley, still injured. That's really the meat of it. Howard's infection has finally subsided, and now, the more extensive rehabilitation part actually can start. Utley is still out in Arizona, but there's still no determined timeline for him. Chad Qualls' heel that I touch on below is kind of gone, and Jose Contreras is slowly making some progress.

Simulated lineups that could actually feasibly happen - TGP
Lineup simulators have existed for years now, but typically, they tend to spit things out that are very appealing to stat-minded folks, but almost nobody else. And since Major League managers are the only ones who have the power to influence a lineup, we tend to see lineups with occasional archaic decisions, such as a guy batting fourth, because "he looks like a cleanup hitter." But in the case of the Phillies, who are about as offensively futile as the Braves have been, the simulated lineups presented at TGP, actually look like something even and old guy like Charlie Manuel could get aboard - but his logic would be "speed up top, young kids at the bottom."

Speaking of old archaic decisions - Phillies Zone
Newly acquired Jonathan Papelbon hasn't seen much work early on, because the Phillies started on the road, and hadn't seen any ties let alone leads that needed protection. But look at the bright side, at least Paps has gotten into a game so far, at the time of me writing this, while the reigning NL Rookie of the Year is one more appearance away from fusing to the pine.

Who's on first? No, really. - Beerleaguer
Well gosh darn, of course, there's someone playing first base, but offensively, there may as well not be anyone. The three-headed monster taking turns at first base, between Jim Thome, Laynce Nix, and John Mayberry, Jr., haven't exactly been lighting the world on fire there.

Chad Qualls sidelined by heel injury, Phillies pen thins out even more - Phillies Zone
Qualls' right heel was bothering him, and nobody yet knows what the diagnosis is. But regardless, he's not pitching while it's in this much pain, so a maligned bullpen with a closer ineligible to come in unless it is a dire save situation, the Phillies' bullpen is pretty stretched thin these days.

Jim Thome returns to the field - CSN
Many years later, Jim Thome is announced as the Phillies first baseman. Big Jim Slade reflects on his off-season of preparation and what he did to ready himself for fielding drills and taking grounders again.

Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson's epic battles - Phillies Zone
Despite the fact that the most recent matchup that occurred just days ago was less than epic, there should still be no reason to not get excited at the idea of seeing these two pitchers face off against each other.

Pssh, it's not going to work - High Cheese
Pictured is Jimmy Rollins' new-fangled bat knob on the bats he'll be using this year. I'll tell you, I had a bat like that, where the knob turned that way, because I was a stupid kid, doing stupid non-baseball things with a metal bat, and ended up warping the knob in a similar fashion. And when I took it back to the fields, I didn't feel a lick of difference from it.

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