Around the NL East - Chase Utley returns, Ryan Zimmerman playing through pain, HanRam tries to be leader Ozzie doesn't want, Mets bullpen woes

We'll be seeing a lot of guys mopping their heads all weekend long.

In 2006, I went to a game at the Ted where the Mets were playing the Braves. I don't remember many details of the game, except for the fact that it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit on that day, and I was slightly hungover, thinking an afternoon at the ballpark might be a relaxing thing. The Braves got absolutely demolished early on, capped off by a Carlos Beltran grand slam. Naturally, the atmosphere in the park took a turn for the worst as the mass numbers of fairweather Mets fans in attendance felt good about themselves, some fights broke out, and the Braves were getting creamed.

I don't often leave games early very often, but the combination of seeing the Braves getting annihilated, the ringing in my head and the 101F heat while sitting in the outfield, I decided to throw in the towel, and I was gone by the fourth inning. I vaguely remember as I was driving home listening to the game, Tom Glavine, still then pitching for the Mets was becoming affected by the heat himself, and despite the massive lead, simply couldn't get out of the fifth inning and be the pitcher of record for the win.

Welp, this weekend's projected forecast is 105F, 105F, 105F for the Nationals series. And I'm going to be at all three games, because I have a friend in from out of town who's visiting; to root for the Nationals. So that being said, if there's no MVP/LVP post, or column next weekend, it can only mean one thing - I died.

Welcome back to the basement.

2012phi_medium

Chase Utley activated, homers in first at-bat - MLB
You know, I kind of predicted that this was going to happen. There's something about franchise player types that seem to always seem to homer in their first games back, after some sort of injury or anything that kept them out for a while. Alex Rodriguez did it before, Joe Mauer did it before, and even earlier this year, Chipper Jones did it as well. It took just five pitches in his first at-bat, but Utley knocked a James McDonald curveball out of the park. So far, so good.

Ryan Howard begins rehab assignment - Phillies Nation
Start the clock, with Ryan Howard beginning a rehab assignment in Lakewood, he now has approximately 20 days max before the Phillies have to call him back up to the big club. They might be down in the standings, but I'll be the first to say that I'm a little curious to see what's going to happen once Howard joins Utley in the lineup again.

Howard claims achilles is a "non-factor" - Phillies Zone
His bigger concern is simply regaining strength in the leg that spent so much time in a variety of casts throughout the initial healing process.

Cliff Lee has zero wins this year, he clearly sucks - Crashburn Alley
Obviously, I'm joking, but the sad thing is that there really are people out there that see the zero-win total, and still actually think so. Crashburn Alley reveals some realistic numbers that prove otherwise.

Jonathan Papelbon owes Jim Thome $5,000; status unknown - Crossing Broad
After blowing his first save of the season against the Rays, Jonathan Papelbon claimed to have offered five grand to whomever could walk-off on them instead. Jim Thome delivers a walk-off homer; Paps says he wrote a check, Thome says no money was exchanged. Who would you believe, the nicest guy on the planet, or the loud-mouthed overrated closer?

Brian Schneider to DL for sprained ankle from home-plate collision - Phillies Nation
1.) Notice the lack of coverage when a backup catcher of marginal talent is bowled over and injured at home plate. 2.) Brian McCann can rest easy, knowing that Schneider's world-beating D is on the shelf, allowing him to blossom offensively.

Chad Qualls DFA'd, Phillies bullpen gets younger - TGP
After leading the majors in blown saves (5), Chad Qualls was given the slip. If he refuses assignment (which he did), he'll join Livan Hernandez and Brad Lidge as fellow NL East relievers to hit the road after disappointing their teams. 25-year old Jeremy Horst is called up, and joins Brian Sanches, the guy who gave up the Chipper walk-off who was called up when Joe Savery was demoted.

Domonic Brown officially put on DL for knee sprain - Phillies Nation
The soreness kept him out of action over the last few days, but now he's officially been put on the DL. Expected 2-3 weeks.

Phillies' Clearwater facilities flooded by Tropical Storm Debby - Phillies Nation
Imagine if baseball were still attempted in these kinds of conditions. Those FIP scores would really come into play with knee-deep water all around.

2012was_medium

Ryan Zimmerman gets cortisone shot, plans to play through pain all season instead of go on DL - Nationals Journal
After thoughts that Zimmerman's shoulder woes might warrant another DL stint, he instead got the magic cortisone shot, and it instantly yielded postive results. Now that's a great outcome and all, but I just remember reading David Wells' book a few years ago, and the big whale of a man recalled throughout his career how cortisone worked less and less with each shot he got during his career. At some point, Zim's going to need to let his shoulder recover naturally.

Tyler Clippard would remain as closer even when Drew Storen returns - Nationals Journal
Whatever prevented Clippard from being able to earn saves throughout his first few years has clearly left the building, and he is now dominating in the vacant closer's role, converting 12 of 12 saves, and having allowed just a single hit since taking over, while striking out 16. That's good and all, but I'm not sure how it's possible, but Craig Kimbrel's current FIP is -0.71; it's like he's owning the opposition so badly they're losing runs, which would kind of be awesome if it were really possible.

Drew Storen is okay with a setup role - Nats Insider
I would hope he were okay with the role-reversal; Storen and Clippard are roommates, and it would make things really awkward if there was some prevalent job-related jealousy floating around at work and at home.

Stephen Strasburg goes to Coors Field for the first time - Nationals Journal
At first, it looked like his college experience pitching for SDSU in the Mountain West Conference, which does play some of its games at altitude were going to pay dividends for Strasburg, but then he accidentally nailed Marco Scutaro in the head with a 95 mph fastball. Rattled, Strasburg then became victim to repeated Coors singles, and then his lead was gone, and the Nationals lost.

Xavier Nady goes on the DL; Mark DeRosa conveniently activated - Nats Enquirer
How's that for timing? One veteran multi-position utility goes down, another veteran multi-position utility guy comes off of the DL.

Second time around much better for Tyler Moore - Nats Insider
His first time up, he didn't impress anyone, hitting a woeful .158, but clearly going back to the quiet sleepy low-populated playing fields of the International League might have put some things into perspective for Tyler Moore. After getting called back up to the big club, Moore has responded positively, showing glimpses of the former Carolina League MVP, hitting .455 with four homers, 10 RIBz and six walks.

Ryan Zimmerman awarded Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for charitable contributions - Nationals Journal
He might be having a down year on the field, but his always off-the-field excellence has yielded him some notoriety this year. The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award is presented by Colombia University, Gehrig's alma mater, to the player who best exemplifies strong character and good will. Zimmerman joins the ranks of Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and Shane Victorino as previous winners.

Nats merch sales up 60 percent this year - The Bog
In prior years, I accused Nats merch sales for being inflated due to all the people who have a curly W hat for no other reason than that their name must start with W, much like the appeal of the Pittsburgh P hat and why many people have them. But this is quick to point out that shirseys and jerseys, mostly Strasburg, Harper and Zimmerman have been flying off the shelves this year, and giving a glimpse of what a winning club does to a fanbase.

Clown Beer made as a joke, ends up being used for good - Nationals Journal
Go an entire week without any Bryce Harper mention? Pffth. A Denver brewery decided to run with the Clown Question meme and made a special batch of lager, named appropriately, apparently in preparation for the Nationals' visit to Colorado. What they didn't expect, was that they were contacted by Harper's camp, with a suggestion that a portion of the proceeds of Clown Question Bro beer go towards a memorial for a local Denver police officer who was unfortunately recently slain on duty. The line may have come as a joke, and came close to overkill, but it's good to see some legitimate good come out of it.

2012nym_medium

Frank Francisco put on DL with oblique strain - NY Times
After calling the Yankees chickens, Francisco actually went out and converted an unnecessarily tough save against the Yankees, although he didn't strike out the side like he claimed he would, but afterward, he claimed soreness in his oblique, and then was immediately put on the DL. Fortunately for him, he wouldn't be needed the rest of the series, because the Mets lost the two other games.

Cash could be the key to finding reinforcements - NY Post
Instead of trading away minor leaguers and prospects, the Mets are hoping to use cash to try and reinforce their bullpen, which has been in disarray almost all year long.

But until then, it's back to Bobby Parnell in the meantime - NY Post
lol

Is Ike Davis becoming too much of a complainer? - MetsBlog
While in Chicago, the Mets executed a perfect snap throw to first and caught the runner off the bag. Unfortunately, umpire Manny Gonzalez saw differently and called the runner safe, resulting in an explosion and ejection of Ike Davis. Sure he was justified, but given the fact that it's no secret that umps talk amongst themselves and they do have a little too much power, it might not be a good idea for Ike to further build upon the growing notion that he might be a whiner.

Mets will actually allow Johan Santana to pitch in the All-Star game - NY Post
Should he be selected. He rightfully should, but who knows if the whole "every team must be represented" clause screws anyone out of a rightful berth.

Jason Bay is riding a bike - MetsBlog
But that's about it. He's not doing any other baseball activities.

And he's also no longer concerned about Santana's health - NY Post
A lot was made of the 130+ pitch count Johan needed to get his no-hitter, and after an abysmal start following it, it led to belief that maybe it wasn't such a great idea. But things have since settled down, and Terry Collins doesn't feel like there are any ill-effects from the no-hitter any further.

Mets among many other teams unhappy with Wrigley Field visitor's locker room - NY Times
It may be one of baseball's last remaining cathedrals, but the sad truth for the players is that it's also one of baseball's last archaic, cramped, crappy visitor's locker rooms as well.

2012mia_medium

Marlins suffer worst 9th inning collapse in team history - Fish Bytes
I thought I had seen the worst 9th inning collapse in Marlins history when they blew a huge lead against the Braves back in like 2006, but apparently that all happened in the 10th inning. But Heath Bell collapsing against the Cardinals with a four-run lead happened in the ninth, and was the worst 9th inning in team's history. Bell claims he deserves to be slapped in the face because he sucked.

Giancarlo will participate in Home Run Derby - Marlin Maniac
Oh noes, whatever will happen to his swing afterward?

Hanley Ramirez calls team meeting for struggling team - Fish Bytes
When things get rough, a leader emerges and does his best efforts to straighten out the ship. In the time of need, with the Marlins having lost 15 out of the last 17 games, Hanley Ramirez decided that he should be the one to emerge and call forth a team meeting to get everyone's heads straight.

But naturally, Ozzie Guillen wants players and not leaders - Sun Sentinel
It's almost too easy sometimes:

I don’t need leaders. I need good players.

Bad teams have meetings," Guillen said. "Winning teams kick [expletive]. That’s why we had three meetings the last three days, the last five days, because we’re not a good team right now.

So naturally the Marlins call a meeting - Fish Bytes
With the Marlins now in the cellar of the division, a meeting for executives has been called; whether it's to reprimand some folks, or simply discuss strategy with the trade deadline now in the sights.

It's okay though, because Jose Bautsita still loves HanRam - Palm Beach Post
Aside from being friends, the two players also workout together in the Dominican Republic over the offseason. And if you believe in the supernatural, it's almost coincidental the way Hanley hasn't quite been Hanley over the last few years, while Jose Bautista transformed into the monster he is today, "due to a new batting stance and approach."

But Gary Sheffield thinks that the Marlins should consider trading him - Sun Sentinel
Despite HanRam's best efforts to be a leader, Sheff quickly goes on record and states the lack of leadership on the Marlins, and that HanRam is probably the shiniest chip the team has that could bring back a great haul. But he's also quick to contradict himself saying his numbers would make some teams hesitate and think about it first. Nobody ever said Sheff had much talent beyond swinging the bat.

Ozzie wants his pitchers competing with each other - Palm Beach Post
Not too many younger folks realize this, but Ozzie was once on the Braves during the time when the team was trotting out Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz on a regular basis. And much like Ozzie watched the three of them try and out-do the other on a regular basis, he wishes to see his current Marlins pitching staff kind of emulate the drive to improve upon their peers' performances.

Sun Sentinel tries to predict when Ozzie will explode; figures it will be closer with latest screw up - Sun Sentinel
A hiccup in communication led to the Cardinals accidentally having a relief pitcher in the wrong spot of the lineup during a double switch, and while in extra innings, that spot naturally came up, with two outs and the bases loaded. Good news for the Marlins, right? Nope! Pinch-hitting starting pitcher Joe Kelly hits the equivalent of a swinging bunt, and beats out the throw, scoring a run, Marlins still lose.

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