Around the NL East - Tyler Clippard guarantees playoffs for Nats, David Wright reaches milestone, Ozzie returns, Phillies still playing patsy

Tyler Clippard believes the Nationals are playoff bound. After 14 games.

Literally since Opening Day, I've been on the DL with some weird sickness that came out of nowhere, and has been nagging me over the span of the last two weeks. I don't get sick easily, which is why this was odd for me to comprehend. But regardless, because of it, I thought better of going out in public and hacking all over everyone else, and as a result, I haven't been to a single baseball game yet. Weather permitting, I am rectifying this dilemma immediately.

I'm coming off of the 15-day DL, and actually going outside and heading to a ballpark. But since the Atlanta Braves are out west right now, I'm going to venture out and find some damn Braves baseball myself. I'm going to swing through Birmingham on Sunday to catch our AA-Mississippi Braves take on the Barons. It never occurred to me before, but while I'm in Birmingham, I'm going to drive by Dr. James Andrews' office. I'm curious to see what Doctor Doom's stronghold actually looks like. Maybe I'll get a glimpse of Brian Wilson, Drew Storen, or Hong-Chih Kuo in the process.

So if you're also headed to Birmingham to see the M-Braves on Sunday, look for me. I'll likely be the only person in the park wearing a green Lynchburg Hillcats cap, and I'll be wandering around to take pictures of Andrelton Simmons, Sean Gilmartin, Christian Bethancourt and Mycal Jones, amongst our favorite M-Braves.

Welcome back to the basement.

2012was_medium

Tyler Clippard has guaranteed playoffs for the Nationals - Nats NQ

When asked whether he thinks the Nationals will make the playoffs this year, Clippard responded "Ok, I guarantee that we will be in the playoffs."

I think it would help if playoffs were defined better, what with the second wild card, and the essentially play-in game. Does that count as playoffs, or once the official wild card is declared, does that team become a playoff team?

The NL-best Nationals comfortable in close games - Nationals Journal
Don't look now, but the Nationals are the first team in the NL to hit 10 wins. And at the time of me writing this, the Nationals have played in seven out of 13 games that were decided by one run, with the Nats winning five of them. Now, this is where we have to ask, how long can this kind of tight-rope walking last, or is their very strong-starting pitching rotation legit or not?

Clearly, two weeks' worth of games definitively determines Adam LaRoche > Pujols, Fielder - The Nats Blog
Need a good laugh this week? Here you go.

Time to think about extending Zimmermann? - Nationals Journal
No silly, not Ryan Zimmerman, with one N. Jordan Zimmermann, the one with two N's, the pitcher who's also pitching great lately, in spite of the poor-looking record. With the recent trend of young pitchers getting locked up early, Jordan Zimmermann, two years removed from Tommy John surgery appears to be fully healthy with no restraints now, and might be something the Nationals might want to think about securing for the future.

Brad Lidge has vertigo, Chien-Ming Wang on the slow road to recovery again - Nats Insider
That's kind of scary to think, that in an occupation which requires throwing a small ball into a precise target 60'6" away, a guy has vertigo. In other news, Wang threw in a simulated game. The Nats are in absolutely no rush to bring him back anytime soon either. Obviously, that just addresses the logjam in the rotation further, with Ross Detwiler pitching well, too.

Mike Morse almost needed season-ending surgery - Nationals Journal
Interestingly, another player to have suffered a similar injury to Morse's lat injury, was Jake Peavy. Once a dominant Cy Young award winner for the Padres, after getting shipped to the White Sox and enduring injury, it took him the better part of two years to really emerge again. Morse opted for rest for six weeks, and seeing what happens next.

If you missed it, here's the Rick Ankiel throw from CF everyone's making a fuss over - The Bog
In summary, Jordan Schafer on third with less than two outs, ball hit to center, Rick Ankiel fields, throws a perfect strike to home plate, Schafer doesn't even bother running. Repsect.

MASN network in disputes with Nationals - The Nats Blog
Up in the DC/VA/MD area, Nationals and Orioles games are viewable via MASN, the network run by O's owner, the much maligned Peter Angelos, which was initially set up kind of as hush-tactic to keep him from bitching when the Expos moved to D.C. and threatened the O's market. Resultingly, despite the fact that independent TV channels are amongst the biggest revenue generators in the sport, the Nationals are absurdly short-changed by the network. Obviously, they need to rectify this so that they can make more money, and thus have the funds to secure and acquire talent. But hey, it could be worse, at least they're not locked in for 25 years.

Nationals experiment with another prospect in the outfield - MASN
Long forgotten in the Strasburg and Harper heydays is Tyler Moore, a first baseman, who has his approximately 31 home runs in both 2010 and 2011 in High-A and Double-A respectively. He still strikes out a little too much, and could afford to take a walk here and there, but the power potential is very legit. But with the currently injured Chris Marrero ideally slotted at first ahead of Moore, the Nats are experimenting with him in left field, with hopes that they can one day have a powerful outfield of Moore, Harper and Werth.

Ryan Zimmerman engaged to his smoking hot, now-fiancee - WaPo
I guess that now that he's secured his $100M deal, Zim feels confident that he's financially ready for the responsibilities that come with marriage. $45M from his prior deal doesn't stretch as far for these pro-athletes as they once did, I suppose. Also, I feel old.

2012nym_medium

Jose Reyes is going to get a tribute too; but isn't as deserving as Chipper - NY Post
Now they're kind of cheapening the tributes. When the Marlins head to Flushing, the Mets are planning on giving him a video tribute to honor the nine years he spent playing for the Mets. Let me summarize what it's going to be - a lot of handshakes, triples, stealing bases, and a whole lot of running, and then more handshakes. But this also kind of sets the bar to what Chipper Jones might get when he gets honored.

Would Mets fans pay to see Chipper Jones play one last time? - Amazin' Avenue
I might. But I'm obviously biased. But I'm seriously considering going to New York to try to catch that last game at Citi, whether the two teams have something to play for or not.

Chipper Jones is skeptical of what honoring might occur - NY Post

"It’s no secret [about] my relationship with the fans of New York and I can only say some of the games I’ve had on that stage up there is the reason why," Jones said.

It's like he's convinced that he'll get pied or have a video montage of him screwing up, but it's almost inevitable, that there are going to be a monumentous amount of LARRY chanting going on.

Mets "shouldn't dare" let David Wright hit free agency - MetsBlog
There will be several teams looking for third basemen after this season, and frankly, the Mets would probably want to avoid another backlash like the punting on Jose Reyes from a year ago.

Mets catching credited as big factor in team's good start - NY Times
Josh Thole has adjusted his catching position, placement and taken up a steady regimen of video, planning and meeting in preparation for each start. Terry Collins gives due credit for Thole, and Mike Nickeas' hard work, as contributing factors to the Mets' strong start.

But he still fell for fake foul ball trick - Deadspin
Seriously, this is like something straight out of a movie. You'll learn, young Padawan... or maybe it's the base coaches' job to ensure that they're the only ones to be trusted.

David Wright ties Darryl Strawberry for Mets' RBI record - NY Post
Let's just hope that it's just baseball talent in which David Wright's name will always be mentioned in the same breath with 'ol Straw.

Supreme Court takes a moment to troll the Mets - The Mets Police
I kinda think this is worse than when Bobby Cox was mentioned in Congressional Record statements, and then presented with a cake with his copies, but misspelled "Cox" with "Cocks."

Former Mets clubhouse manager sentenced to probation for stealing memorabilia - NY Daily News
What comes to my mind off the bat is the fact that he's mostly sentenced based on the street value of the things he swiped from the Mets' clubhouse, which was estimated at $2.3M. But in reality, he stole a small cache of $200 jerseys, $15 baseballs, bats, helmets, and other everyday equipment, that only has a value because they're used in professional sport. At the end of the day, I don't really care, nor do I condone theft, but whatever.

I didn't think about it UNTIL NOW THANKS RANDY - The Apple
And a little bit of Mets-related toilet humor to cap off the Mets segment of the column, this week.

2012mia_medium

Of all the guys, Omar Infante is first to light up the sculpture - Sun Sentinel
I wonder what the odds were on which home player was going to hit the first home run at new Marlins Park. I bet most everyone figured it would have to be Giancarlo. But instead, it's out old friend, Omar Infante, who looped a J.A. Happ pitch over the wall, and got to be the first guy to put the godawful sculpture in motion.

Speaking of Giancarlo, he's not worried about the drought - Fish Bytes
12 games in, and no home runs yet? Perhaps that balky knee is having more impact on his performance than people are willing to give credit for, but the last time I checked, your legs are pretty integral in getting power out of your swing.

Ozzie Guillen wants Hanley Ramirez to be happy and cocky - Palm Beach Post
Some opposing players and opposing fans might not like seeing a guy pointing at the stands or smiling too much when rounding the bases after a home run, but when it comes to Hanley Ramirez, Ozzie claims to speak "for everyone," and that they want "more" of it. Cockiness is apparently confidence to him, but perhaps he's been watching too much WWE and Dolph Ziggler these days.

The Rally (Dead) Bird - Marlins Diehards
In St. Louis, they have the squirrel, in Anaheim, they have the monkey, but go figure, down in Miami, they have a Rally Dead Bird:

During Sunday's come from behind victory over Houston, a bird fell to its death in the top of the eighth inning. It landed in the outfield with the Marlins in the middle of a bases-loaded jam and already down 2 runs.

Immediately thereafter, reliever Mike Dunn escaped the jam, then Hanley Ramirez hit a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the inning. Ramirez would eventually finish off the Astros with a walk-off, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Something that hasn't changed: Marlins still worst defensive team - Sun Sentinel
I can't say that such is a big surprise, but where the biggest culprits are, kind of are. I would have pegged the outfield being the worst, with two bad-knee corner outfielders and a utility guy playing in center, but it turns out that the worst fielders on the team have been Jose Reyes, and whomever is starting, followed by naturally, first-year third baseman, Hanley Ramirez.

No need for panic, says David Samson in regards to empty park, already - Palm Beach Post
I kind of would say there is a little room for panic, especially if Marlins Park can't draw at least 20,000+ when the very well-traveling Cubs and their fans come to town.

Apparently, Emilio Bonifacio is the only guy with the permanent green light - Fish Bytes
No mention on whether or not Jose Reyes has one too, but it's really no surprise; Bonfacio is amongst the fastest runners in the game today, which makes his thefts more effective, if he can just get on base at an effective clip.

Marlins logos that could have been - some guy's Twitter
Man, it kind of makes sense how they came to be. If these were the options, I guess they kind of did pick the lesser of all evils. But let me let you guys in on a little bit of design tactic - a designer makes one option that they really like, and often times, they make several other options that they couldn't give two turds about, to present along side with it. The quality often shows, and if fed enough BS, the client goes with what the designer would have wanted them to go with. Although, the fourth from the left is practically the same trident on the Eastbound & Down jersey, Kenny Powers' Myrtle Beach Mermen M style.

2012phi_medium

It's almost like sports media is trying to goad the Phillies into locking up Hamels - Beerleaguer
Deadspin released an article earlier this week about how young, left-handed starters were being locked up with almost an alarming frequency lately, and pretty much, the only really notable lefty ready to hit the market in a year or less, is none other than Cole Hamels. It's like they actually think he's not already aware of this kind of intel or something.

Cliff Lee probably wants to shoot someone after a start like this - Crashburn Alley
TEN innings pitched, no runs allowed, Phillies still lose to the Giants. The funny thing to me is that I actually remembered Aaron Harang being the last pitcher previously to pitch ten innings, because I remember how my friend and I often pointed out the whole "Dusty Baker ruins young arms" meme, and cited that as an example.

Good defense is why the Phillies haven't been completely horrendous - Phillies Zone
Namely, Freddy Galvis' outstanding play in the absence of Chase Utley. But when the team has a hard time scoring runs, the best thing to do is to prevent the other team from putting up more, obviously.

Placido Polanco is really kind of going downhill these days - Beerleaguer
An article about how Polanco's offense has been consistently been going downhill over the span of the last two years, and that it's perhaps time to consider moving him down the lineup, if even start at all...

Jose Contreras finally activated - Phillies Zone
The sparsely used Joe Savery is sent back down to Triple-A as a result of the activation.

Y'know, if Nails weren't a former professional athlete, he'd probably be in a lot worse - NY Daily News
Aside from the grand theft auto sentence of three years, he's currently serving, apparently, tack on three more months in the slammer for Lenny Dykstra. Reason? Craigslist, indecent exposure, threats with deadly weapons, and seeking happy endings.

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