Around the NL East - Bryce versus Ozzie, Cole Hamels' offer from the Phillies, Mets need dire bullpen help, Carlos Lee passes the Babe and the Hammer??

The Braves' Michael Bourn is only one of many to have made a highlight at the expense of J.J. Hardy in 2012.

So earlier in the week, I was running on the hamster wheel at the gym, and PGA/NFL/Anything-but-Baseball 24-7 SportsCenter was on television. Fortunately, I was watching at just the right time when they weren't talking about the NFL or Joe Paterno, and they were on to the highlights and the Top-10 plays. Amidst these Top-10 plays was Baltimore's J.J. Hardy getting robbed at the wall by Minnesota's Denard Span. I thought to myself, "wow, has anyone this year been more on the receiving end of these highlight plays than J.J. Hardy?"

I decided to look a little further once back in front of a computer, and going to the video vault, typing "j.j. hardy" reveals that aside from a reel of home runs, RBI base hits, and plays where he scored, there's quite a generous number of plays in which J.J. Hardy is on the wrong side of the highlight. Whether it's guys like Jack Hannahan or Erick Aybar robbing him of sure-fire extra-base hits on the infield, it's safe to say that NFL the Ocho ESPN could feasibly have a Top-10 J.J. Hardy gets Robbed highlight reel once you factor in all the dives, jumps, and crashes outfielders have done to prevent J.J. from having any extra-base hits or home runs.

Whether it's the aforementioned Span robbery, you have guys like Colby Rasmus, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Matt Joyce spoiling big hits from J.J. within the division, but then our very own Michael Bourn gets in on the action during Interleague. However, none of them will be played more than one of the season's best highlights, of 20-year old Mike Trout jumping, crashing, catching and robbing the home run away from J.J. Hardy. If this is the year of the barely-legal prodigies, then it's only natural that Mike Trout's marquee defensive moment comes at the expense of J.J. Hardy. It's almost disappointing that Bryce Harper didn't posterize J.J. Hardy during Interleague when he had his chance. (All links in this paragraph go to corresponding video)

After watching J.J. Hardy getting victimized all year long, it's pretty clear to why a career .428 slugging guy is only slugging .373 this year, .118 worse than his debut in Baltimore. If I ever had to guess which baseball player would be the next guy to get caught for steroids, I'd have to put my money on J.J. Hardy; after a whole season where all his big fly balls are robbed in the outfield or snared in at the wall, one might figure a frustrated hitter might just wish to be just a little bit more powerful, to where he could just hit it over everyone's heads, and eliminate the drama.

Welcome back to the basement.


Ozzie Guillen latest to fail to make Bryce Harper tick - Nationals Journal
After first claiming that Bryce Harper must have learned from George Brett how to apply pine tar, and that he had too much on his own bat, he spent an entire at-bat cussing out and pantomiming obscenities to the 19-year old phenom. Naturally, Bryce Harper and Davey Johnson don't really acknowledge any of it, pissing off Guillen even more that nobody's paying him any attention. Team Harper prevails again to let Bryce be baited by a jaded mainstay.

Leave it to Adam LaRoche to diffuse the situation with a classy prank - Nats NQ
After Pine Tar Incident, Jr., Ozzie Guillen received an autographed bat from Bryce Harper, drenched in pine tar. Inscribed on the bat, "To my hero, Ozzie, love you, Bryce Harper." Adam LaRoche was the one who got the autograph, and he and other Nats teammates did the rest, with Harper himself being oblivious to the situation. As for Ozzie, all he could do, was laugh.

Adam LaRoche is apparently the ringleader of the locker room hijinks - The Bog
Or at least the only one fearless enough to discuss them. A classic tattling on Mike Morse and his propensity to throw baby powder on, from above, dudes sitting on the can, including the unfortunate Danny Espinosa.

John Smoltz insinuates that perhaps Stephen Strasburg should fake a phantom injury to hold back his purported innings limit - The Bog
It's actually kind of incredible, but not really that surprising that even well after retirement, John Smoltz manages to get his name out there on a somewhat similar basis. This week, he implies that if he were Stephen Strasburg, he might claim to have some sort of non-severe, but pitching-prohibiting ailment, like a hangnail or a blister on the pitching hand:

"Honestly, I know this is gonna sound . . . well, I’m a little bit different anyways," Smoltz began. "I’d create my own little gap. I’d have a blister one day, maybe a hangnail the next start. You know, I think there’s ways to do it. And I get it — their statement is every game counts. Well, it does, but it doesn’t count as much as in September.

Not that he may or may not have done it himself in the past or anything.

Ryan Zimmerman on the path to becoming a cortisone dependent - The Nats Blog
Go figure it had to happen right before facing the Braves, but since Zim had a cortisone shot a few weeks ago, he's been looking more like the Ryan Zimmerman that was the clear face of the franchise again, especially on the offensive side. That's all great for him and all, but if anyone's ever read David Wells' book, he does mention that throughout the years, the cortisone shots become less and less effective, with every single application. So unless Zim lets his shoulder actually get better naturally, these cortisone shots aren't going to rejuvenate him forever.

Jayson Werth is now taking BP again - Nats Enquirer
Oh yeah, Jayson Werth is on the Nationals! Clearly the absence of Werth hasn't affected the team in the least bit, but you know management is chomping at the bit to get their $126M man back on the field as soon as possible.

Drew Storen activated from DL, Rick Ankiel DFA'd to make room - Nats Insider
This pretty much means the end of Ankiel's career in Washington, as the capabilities of Bryce Harper out in CF and Steve Lombardozzi in LF, have pretty much made Ankiel the odd man out. Someone will no doubt pick him up before he clears waivers, and frankly, there's no reason why Ankiel should accept a minor league assignment, as he'd capably make a solid backup, maybe starting outfielder elsewhere. But fans in D.C. will always remember THE THROW, much like we in Braves Country will always remember THE SPLASH.

Jordan Zimmermann quietly having a fine season in the background - Nats Insider
Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg might be taking all the fanfare of the Nats' strong rotation, but Jordan Zimmermann has been absolutely no slouch in his own right. At the time I'm writing this, Zimmermann has made the most starts of the rotation and his 122.1 IP leads all starters, he's averaging more innings per start, leads the starters in ERA, WHIP, BB/9, and second in overall K/BB ratio. 2.2 WAR might be third best on the team, but it's tied for 8th best in the entire NL and higher than any Braves starter.

No smoke and mirrors needed this year - MASN
In 2005, the Nationals were called "upstarts," "pretenders," and other names implying they didn't belong in first place all the way to the All-Star break, which they somehow managed. Granted, the Braves immediately put them back in their place after the ASB, but the 2005 Nats were playing over their heads. That's not the case this year, and here's some stats to justify why they just might hang on the rest of the way. I don't like Curt Schilling, but he did say one poignant thing, that the best teams are the ones with the most starters making their starts; with the exception of Chien-Ming Wang making his million dollar starts, the original slated five, Strasburg, Gio, Zimmermann, Jackson, and Detwiler have started every single game, otherwise.

But leave it to John Lannan to break that trend - Nats Insider
May as well put an asterisk next to it though, despite the fact that he'll probably torment the Braves again. Since Saturday is a Braves/Nats doubleheader, John Lannan gets to be the conditional 26th man who will get a spot start, who may pitch against the Braves' 26th man, Randall Delgado. Considering Lannan's track record against the Braves, I have to say it couldn't have been any better timing for this rule to kick into effect, or that the Braves might have been better off lying and saying they couldn't secure a 26th man, so that the Nats would have been forced to forfeit theirs.

Bryce Harper broke a bat over his knee - The Bog

Potomac Nationals announce plans for a new stadium for 2014 - MASN
For years, the Potomac Nationals have been the site of arguably one of the worst ballparks in professional baseball, with Pfitzner Field in Woodbridge. If all goes according to plan, then the Pfitz will be retired after the 2013 season, the P-Nats can move down the road into a new home, which will be right off of I-95, still in Woodbridge. This excites me immensely, as I do enjoy trying to see when the Pelicans-now-Hillcats make their trips to Potomac. And maybe it's new location will prevent cbtits from texting me how much he hates NOVA traffic whenever he gets stuck up there.

Mike Morse is a weird, weird guy - The Bog
This week's edition of Mike Morse is weird includes facts that he recently had a dream about standing at the plate naked, and that he has in fact, read Fifty Shades of Grey. This is great stuff for me to heckle him with the next time the Nats come to Atlanta.


Phillies set to offer Cole Hamels "at-least" $120M; sky is also blue, humans breathe air - TGP
The comps are all out there, and $120M is Cliff Lee money, but the old mentality that lefties are more valuable than righties already puts this higher than Matt Cain, so with Hamels' age and accomplishments, it kind of goes without saying that the more appropriate comps to believe Hamels would aspire for are CC Sabathia (5/$122M), Barry Zito (7/$126M) and Johan Santana (6/$137M).

No wait, Phillies to offer Hamels six-years, $130M - Phillies Nation
Well, that's a little better. But again, if the rumblings and rumor-mongering is true, then the Dodgers will probably offer up six years, $140M if Hamels makes it to free agency.

If all else fails, there are a ton of teams that want to trade for Hamels, like the Rangers - Phillies Zone
I'd be willing to venture a guess that if the Rangers offered reputable third-base prospect Mike Olt for Hamels in some sort of the package, the Phillies would say Sayonara to Hamels faster than some Talladega Nights reference; the Rangers have money, and a willingness to spend said money, so it's not unreasonable to think they couldn't sign him upon acquisition.

And of course, there's the Dodgers - CBSsports
Interestingly enough, there's speculation that the Dodgers would be interested in trying to acquire Jimmy Rollins and the remainder of his 3/$33M, because they frankly need a shortstop, and everyone seems to believe that the Dodgers will be spending like the Marlins next season, aiming for guys like Cole Hamels in free agency.

Roy Halladay's future with the Phillies could be shorter than expected - TGP
An interesting post about Doc's future with the Phillies, and how it's explained in the details that the 2014 season is only possible if an innings milestone is achieved; one that is now in a bit of jeopardy due to the recent injury, and the pace Halladay would have to maintain in order to trigger it, in spite of recovery, aging and decline.

Speaking of Doc, he returned and promptly downed the Dodgers - Phillies Nation
He "only" pitched five innings, but it was like he was never gone, as he shut down the Dodgers and walked nobody en route to a Phillies win.

PapeLOLbon - Beerleaguer
Yeah, that's a stretch, I know. But still, in a way it's not really Paps' fault that the Phillies grossly overpaid for his services, and that it sets an unreasonable bar for him to live up to, but the fact that it's happening to the Phillies is still amusing to this Braves fan.

Crashburn Alley punts; declares the importance of rest for remainder of 2012 - Crashburn Alley
Personally, I kind of refuse to count the Phillies out until they're completely mathematically eliminated. And even I don't want that happening too soon, because I'd be crushed if the Phillies of all teams decided to be this year's Orioles and just go super-spoiler on everyone they can. But CA sees things differently and has essentially called it for this year, and wants to see more rest given to guys like Utley and Howard, who are coming off injury, and more rest for Carlos Ruiz, who is having a career year, and doesn't want to risk any injury to him.

How to fix the Phillies in 60 seconds - Crossing Broad
Chase Utley's wife is one of those women I look at and don't think much of it beyond the obvious "she's pretty/cute" kind of thought. But then when the idea of using Jen Utley as the cutout from Major League, and suddenly there are dirty, dirty thoughts.

Phillies prospect Jiwan James does some David Blaine defense - TGP
An "impressive catch," deconstructed, somewhat


All eyes on prospect Matt Harvey - NY Post
With the Mets off this past Monday, New Yorks' SNY network broadcasted the AAA-Buffalo Bison game against the Toledo Mudhens. The significance was that it was during a Matt Harvey start, whom many are expecting to be called up to take the place of the injured Dillon Gee. Although the Post is quick to call his performance mediocre, it's worth noting that Harvey took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning before ultimately ending his outing with three hits yielded.

And if Miguel Batista bombs, the Mets might see him next week - MetsBlog
The sentiment is that calling up Matt Harvey would have had resulted in a roster move with all signs pointing to putting Miguel Batista on the waiver wire, where someone would undoubtedly picked him up to bolster their bullpen. But in light of all the bullpen woes lately in the Mets world, a condemning "if" has been dropped on Mr. Iowa, and that if he bombs, then they'll have less trepidation in calling up Harvey.

But it's okay, Miggy thinks the Mets are the best team in baseball - MetsBlog
Hyperbole much?

However, that other guy in AAA - NY Times
Jason Bay, still on the rehabilitation process in AAA, still has no definitive idea of when he's going to be back up with the Mets. Considering he's been on the rehab schedule for a while, there's really only a week and a half left for him to have to be recalled, regardless of readiness. Nooope, he's back.

Dillon Gee has successful surgery, now recovering - MetsBlog
Good news for the Mets is that Dillon Gee's blood clot problem has been resolved. But the recovery process is pretty much going to knock him out for the remainder of the season, but at least he's on the path to pitching again in 2013, with a tiny chance he might get some action in before this season's end.

Frank Francisco suffers setback - NY Daily News
After last Saturday's loss to the Braves in which the volatile Mets bullpen blew the lead, many Mets fans turned to see where Frank Francisco was at, in recovering from an oblique injury. Unfortunately for them, he suffered a setback of undetermined nature, and goes back to being a few days away from beginning a rehab assignment, instead of already being on one.

Mets feel K-Rod and Huston Street are too pricey - MetsBlog
Despite the fact that their bullpen can't hold a lead let alone their own jocks, the Mets are being stingy about acquiring any potentially high-cost cogs, despite being in the thick of a playoff hunt. I've been critical of K-Rod in the past, but frankly, he's still better than what the Mets are trotting out right now.

So for some reason, Mets eye Jonathan Broxton despite already having him - AA
What's the difference between Jonathan Broxton and Bobby Parnell? They're both righties that have giant fastballs, susceptible to inconsistencies and boughts of unbearable suckiness. I guess the difference is that Broxton weighs maybe 90 lbs. more than Parnell. Okay, so there's more difference in the numbers than the eye reveals, but still, the Mets are looking for a consistent presence in the bullpen, and Broxton can't possibly be the guy.

And apparently Manny Acosta should be recalled too - AA
Look, I know that I dial up a little snark when writing this column, since these are division rivals, but c'mon, I've been pretty dead on with my predictions of the Mets' relievers all year long, and any single Braves fan can tell a Mets fan that no matter how ridiculous Manny Acosta does in the minors, it will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, evere,rever,evereverereve translate well in the big leagues.

And since the Mets' big issue this week is the bullpen, cap it off with journeyman Pedro Beato insinuating walk-off wild pitch was Josh Thole's fault - MetsBlog
The Mets lost on Tuesday night when Pedro Beato uncorked an inside fastball a little too inside, which resulted in getting past Josh Thole, allowing the Nationals to score the winning run. Beato insinuates that it was Thole's incapabilities:

Unfortunately, Thole wasn’t able to get to it. It got away from him.

Thole plays it off, but Terry Collins didn't like it, one bit.

The Times decides to punt on the season - NY Times
This whole idea kind of makes me think about the New York Giants (football), where in Eli Manning's rookie year, the Giants started the season a promising 5-2, with Kurt Warner starting and Eli on the bench. Despite the fact that they were on pace for at least a winning season, the Giants punted on the season, and started Eli for the remainder of the season, where he lost pretty much every game. At least in the case of the NY media, they're kind of headed in that direction with plenty of season still left.


By strange happenstance, Carlos Lee passes Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron on career grand slams list - Palm Beach Post
If you look at the list, your first thought might be "one of these is not like the other." And upon seeing Carlos Lee's name on the list, your inner nerds will trigger, and you'll begin to think of just how coincidental grand slams really are, and it's completely predicated on the talent of the players ahead in the lineup who manage to get on base, instead.

Marlins could very well become sellers in the coming days - Fish Stripes
Despite the fanfare and expectations of the Fish, with their brand new park, brand new identity, and brand new, albeit expensively constructed team, they could become sellers pretty quick, depending on their fortunes over the next few days. And as it was after 1997 and 2003, nobody, literally nobody, is free from being discussed. Fish Stripes examines the most likely of names to be sought after and attainable, including our old friend, Omar Infante.

Hanley Ramirez downplays trade rumors - Palm Beach Post
Among the most rampant of rumors was one lopsided proposal that would have sent HanRam and Heath Bell to the Boston Red Sox, with the Marlins receiving Carl Crawford among other components. Naturally, that didn't pan out, but Hanley explains his understanding of the business and gives the cliched lines of just going out and doing his lackadaisical best.

Jose Reyes hurts a fan in Chicago - Sun Sentinel
Not deliberately, but one Wrigley Field bleacher employee was in the worst possible spot at the worst possible time. A Jose Reyes home run drilled him in the back as he attempted to make a defensive turn away from the ball, which did him no favors. He had to be removed from his duties due to the pain, apparently.

Leo Nunez out indefinitely with elbow sprain - Palm Beach Post
Well, there goes the idea of having a second volatile, inconsistent closer candidate. Leo Nunez has a sprain in his UCL, and is out indefinitely, and will probably end up going to go see Dr. James Andrews, who will probably diagnose him with some Tommy John Surgery.

Edward Mujica activated from the DL - Fish Stripes
Finally some positive news; although not the best reliever out there, Edward Mujica's potentially better than Ryan Webb, who has been sent back to the minors to make room for Mujica. The depleted Marlins bullpen could use the reinforcement.

Too many people attempting to read into remarks leads to resolution that probably didn't need to occur - Sun Sentinel
Heath Bell had to have a little mano-a-mano with John Buck, because people assume Bell was calling Buck out for poor pitch calling. I'm pretty sure nobody's more aware of what the problem is than Heath Bell himself, but this is about the fourth time this year he's made a remark about how "it's different here than it was in San Diego." The sooner he accepts it, the sooner Bell might actually be good again.

Marlins manage to pull rank, clear out hospital so they could sign first round draft pick afterall - Palm Beach Post
Maybe I've just watched/read too much Dexter, and have fallen into the belief that Miami is a city plagued by crime and violence, so I think it's kind of an inconsiderate gesture by the Marlins to pull rank on some hospital, have them clear out their ER, all so that the Marlins could fast-track a physical and blood work for the first-round draft pick I said wouldn't get signed in time last week, in time. To think, all while Andrew Heaney was getting the rubber glove and blood drawn, there were probably gunshot victims, cannibal victims, and vigilante serial killer victims that needed medical treatment or autopsies done on them.

Video of Logan Morrison getting his head shaved for charity - Sun Sentinel
As mentioned last week, LoMo and other Marlins employees went to Miami Children's Hospital, and in a show of charity and good will, went under the razor and waxed the head clean. Here's the video of yet another Marlins player making a spectacle of getting their hair cut off, but for good cause this time, at least.

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