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Around the NL East: Nationals and Phillies Throw at Each Other, Collins Upset With Johan, Marlins Giving Away Tickets

The extra week of Spring Training due to the WBC has been a hot topic this week. Players are getting bored, losing their focus, and in some cases (the Mets) have had more time to get hurt. Oddly enough, either it hasn't happened yet, or nobody's talking about it, but dead-arm syndrome doesn't appear to have affected anyone this Spring so far...


Bored with Spring Training games? I am. Thankfully, this week has been well-filled with World Baseball Classic games. They're not a perfect system yet, but it's nice to see games in which everyone is legitimately trying, and where players aren't moved in massive waves like they are in Spring Training. Although, I have to say that I can't necessarily say I agree with the system they're using; anyone watching the conclusion of the Korea-Taiwan game might have noticed that Korea won the game but was still eliminated based on a run-decided tie-break system. But the scenario was that Korea was the "home-team" for their last game, and essentially needed to cover all their deficit runs in the eighth inning, because once the ninth inning took place, win-by-one actually becomes a detriment.

So, Hong-Chih Kuo, former Dodger and, he of the 20 Tommy John Surgeries, blew the save and blew the game for Taiwan, but by virtue of not allowing them to score eight total runs in a single inning, still did his job. Funny game, this is. It's also funny just how many former Marlins are playing in the tournament; it's like their souls had been sucked out by playing for Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins, and the WBC is like their only chance to play passionate baseball now.

Welcome back to the basement.


Strasburg plunks Utley, Halladay throws behind Tyler Moore - Nationals Journal
From what I saw, it legitimately looks like Strasburg just botched a throw, and it unfortunately hit Utley. Halladay's was a bit more deliberate, but at least there was no contact. Either way, the media can't get enough of this kind of non-story, and further feeding the animal that is the supposed Nationals and Phillies rivalry.

Who gets the final bullpen spot? - Nats Insider
Quite literally, pretty much the only open roster spot on the Nationals' big league club is the last man in the bullpen. And this is why we have Spring Training, because many of the guys that were expected to get that spot are turning out to not be worthy of it, and unlikely candidates seem to be getting closer to clinching it. For a team that is slightly deficient of lefty relievers, both Will Ohman and Bill Bray were optioned to minors, and former Houston Astro Fernando Abad is performing better than expected, but Henry Rodriguez is thought to be the guy with the inside track, now.

Tyler Clippard wants to throw more cureveballs - MASN
First thought that popped into my head: Tyler Clippard can even throw a curveball? Also more talks about Ryan Zimmerman's potential yips and hope that he doesn't develop full blown yips.

Wilson Ramos returned behind the plate this week - Nationals Journal
After being shelved with a torn ACL, Wilson Ramos saw some time behind the plate in an actual game this past week, and even got his first at-bat. The catcher of the future for the squad is hoping to be fully ready come Opening Day.

But if not, the Nats have a fully competent backup in Kurt Suzuki - Nationals Journal
When I went to Oakland last season, all I really wanted to know was why everyone out there was so enamored with Kurt Suzuki. The most common answer was that it was mostly by default; he was the longest tenured Athletic, but people were also quick to point out that he was just a really good person. Reading this article, Kurt Suzuki is also a very intelligent student of the game, who makes up for his fairly average baseball talent with arduous work ethic and video study. He might not be the best player on the field, but he's doing his best to be the best informed.

Danny Espinosa has cut down on his swing, results positive - MASN
The reigning 2012 NL strikeouts leader has finally decided that enough is enough and that it was time to listen to the advice he'd been given over the last two years: shorten up the swing. His long uppercut swing wasn't yielding that great of results over the last season and a half, and he's finally decided to shorten it up, and so far the results have been positive.

If he fails, then Anthony Rendon's bat is ready to replace him - Nationals Journal
One of the most impressive things about Nationals camp has been watching Anthony Rendon bat. He's hitting .438 with four XBH, and is surprising everyone with how effortless his swing looks, and how much carry it generates, making outfielders look silly at misplaying his fly balls. I still think the Nats might trade one of Espinosa or Ian Desmond for pretty prospects, with Rendon taking over at second base, if he can prove he can play it every day throughout spring and in the minors.

Bryce Harper attempting to capitalize on the routinely, defensively - Nationals Journal
In a game against the Astros, Bryce Harper attempted to gun down Brandon Laird at first base after he had singled, and made the customary wide turn before going back. He was unsuccessful, but it goes to show how that not only is he willing to take the extra base, but he's attempting to deny even basic singles if people aren't paying attention. The funny thing is that I kind of remember this happening a long time ago when the Braves played the Marlins, and before Yunel Escobar imploded; Yunel received the cutoff after a seemingly routine Marlins single, but he noticed the lackadaisical way the runner was going back to first, and managed to throw him out.

Dan Haren is feeling old with the Nationals - The Bog
Dan Haren is 32 years old. In terms of baseball age, he's still just about at the peak of his prime years, but considering the dearth of twenty-somethings also in the pitching staff of the Nationals, he's ancient.

John Lannan claims to hold no grudges against the Nationals - MASN
Prior to the plunk-fest between the Nationals and the Phillies, former National/now Philly John Lannan takes some time to field some words with his old media. He evades most inquiries about how the Nationals treated him in his final two years, and claims he has no ill-will towards his former team. To some degree, it's probably best that he doesn't have to face the Phillies anymore, and play for them instead.

Dmitri Young and Robert Fick speak with Chad Cordero on their podcast - The Bog
Former Nationals and all-time Nationals single-season saves record holder, Chad Cordero has been clawing and scratching to get back to the big leagues, and the fruits of his labor are paying off as he has managed to get his way up to Angels big league camp. To talk about his story, he spoke with former Nationals, Dmitri Young, and also former-Brave, Robert Fick, on their podcast. Also to be considered, did anyone else know that Dmitri Young and Robert Fick had a podcast?? And it's apparently very much for 18+ listeners, for lots and LOTS of profanity used.


New York Post puts their agenda crosshairs on Johan Santana - NY Post
Well, at least they're consistent; but when the Post decides to sink their teeth into something, they typically go all the way. Now in their crosshairs is Johan Santana, and the allegations that he took it a little too easy over this past off-season, and has shown up to Spring Training camp out of shape, behind schedule, and most likely not prepared to start when Opening Day arrives.

Johan Santana throws unscheduled bullpen to prove doubters wrong, just pisses off Terry Collins - NY Post
Now it would be too easy to drop in the tried and true LOLMets here, but nobody's expecting the Mets to be really that good this season, so it's difficult to laugh at the unfortunate, but this situation really does kind of speak LOLMets with Santana feeling pressured to prove the doubters wrong, and perform some unnecessary work. But at least he didn't get injured in doing so, but Terry Collins isn't pleased with the extraneous work he put on himself.

Jennry Mejia shelved with mystery ailment - NY Daily News
It's been a rough spring for Jenrry Mejia, first with the visa issues leading people to doubt his actual identity, and now a mystery ailment that has caused him to miss out in a start. Thought to be one of the candidates to have a starters' role in the absence of Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey's departure, Mejia's chances aren't looking that great now. It's possibly a thyroid issue, according to MetsBlog.

Mets feel that maybe it's their fault for asking for 25 pieces of flair and expecting 38 - NY Post
The Mets are feeling kind of remorseful for the state of their starting rotation, and feel like it's partially their own fault. Between the extension of Spring Training on account of the World Baseball Classic, and the Mets' mandatory-voluntary early arrival policies, they can't help but feel partially responsible for a bunch of their starting pitchers being out of whack, dinged up and unable to get into their proper routines.

The Mets could have moved Jonathon Niese instead of R.A. Dickey if they wanted to - NY Daily News
Here's an interesting thought for Mets fans to think about this season; purportedly, the Blue Jays would have sent the exact same package had the Mets included Jonathon Niese instead of R.A. Dickey. Would that have been a better move? Now the statgeek is going to throw out the age and the number of years Niese has, but Dickey was easily one of the best pitchers in the NL last year, and knuckleballing does allow him to require less rest and all, but would moving Niese and keeping Dickey have been better?

Joel Sherman uses maligned starting rotation to take shot at the offense - NY Post
Ever the opportunist to take passive-aggressive shots at the Mets, Joel Sherman decides that the Mets' starting rotation really isn't that bad; when you compare it to the offensive capabilities of the Mets' lineup demonstrated (or lack-thereof) throughout the Spring.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis has bone bruise, to miss maybe a week - NY Daily News
Quietly in the corner of the Mets' clubhouse, Marlon Byrd chuckles silently.

Ike Davis to replace Mark Teixeira on US team? - MetsBlog
I know Teix is a long ways from the monster he used to be while on the Braves and in his first few years with the Yankees, but to replace him with Ike Davis doesn't seem like a good idea if the US wants to actually win. Davis has prodigious power and all, but he still has difficult with junkball pitchers, and that's pretty much all he's would be facing in the WBC. Nevermind, the Royals' Eric Hosmer is named the new first baseman.

Did you know that constant mediocrity has led to faltering revenue? - NY Times
When Citi Field opened in 2009, the park's revenue was somewhere around $157M. In 2012, Citi Field revenue has dropped down to $121.5M. No bueno!

Michael Bourn says nice things about the Mets' future - NY Daily News
This is kind of the equivalent of people playing Price is Right, and the Mets bid $500, but lost to the Indians who bet $501. Also amusing to hear Michael Bourn say that he chose the Indians for absolutely anything other than money.

The Night Hugo Chavez broke Shea Stadium - AA
No, there's nothing political about this, but it's really more about the fact that the recently departed Hugo Chavez really, really got into his duties of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on a balmy July summer night in 1999.

Francisco Rodriguez wants to return to the Mets - MetsBlog
Of course he wants to return to the Mets. Unemployed guys say a lot of things. He probably would say he'd want to return to the Angels, or Brewers, but team Venezuela isn't playing scrimmages out in Arizona.


Cole Hamels gets roughed up by Dominicans - High Cheese
I just like the headline. It's funny to take out of context. But anyway, this WBC has been a telling tale of how much the talent gap throughout the world's baseball has diminished since four years ago. With Major Leaguers peppering most of these WBC squads, we're seeing more and more national teams compete, or outright beat MLB squads, even if they are in Spring Training mode, but none worse than the Phillies who looked like the scrub foreign team of 2009 getting stomped by the mighty MLB team, against the mostly-MLB comprised Dominican team.

Jon-Jon Papaw-bon-bon has a widdle code - Phillies Zone
A cold? Seriously, a cold? It's Spring Training, go out and get shelled, and blame it on the cold then, but c'mon, it's a cold. Act like you're getting paid $13M a year.

Delmon Young cleared to do light baseball activities, has a great attitude - High Cheese
And by "great attitude," I mean he sounds apathetic, lazy, and as if playing the greatest game on Earth is the biggest chore on the planet.

Is it time for the Phillies to consider rebuildilng mode? - Crashburn Alley
As a fan, I'd say no, I don't want the Phillies to start rebuilding now, I want to see teams beating a team that's still trying, and has quality talent. But if I take the objectivity out of the whole situation, then all of this makes sense. The Phillies are in a prime position to consider going into rebuilding mode, but the reality is that they're still going to likely be stuck with massive financial obligations to guys like Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, with the former being next to impossible to move unless the Phillies cover for most of it.

Ruben Amaro is basically saying Darin Ruf is trying too hard - Phillies Zone
And he's probably correct about it, because at the time I'm writing this, the highly-touted Ruf has been hitting .130/.286/.174 this spring with the second-most plate appearances of all outfielders. Regardless, it stands to look like he'll be starting the season in AAA at this rate, where the proverbial seasoning will commence.

So a lot of responsibilities will fall on, Laynce Nix - Beerleaguer
Man, talk about a disappointment; you're a Phillies fan, and you've got all this hope and faith that this Darin Ruf kid is going to be ready for the show based on how many home runs he hit in the minor leagues, and pretty much conquered Venezuela. But the Spring Training rolls around, Ruf can't get his act together, he's trying too hard, he's pressing, and is pretty much on his way to getting sent to minor league camp. And in his remains, stands Laynce Nix.

Ryan Howard not even contacted about replacing Mark Teixeira - Phillies Zone
Honestly, the way Howard has been killing the ball this spring, I would've loved to have seen him replace Teix on the U.S. roster at first base. He's a guy that has proven he can destroy Japanese pitching, and after a performance in 2006 in the last MLB-NPB All-Star Series, Howard was pretty much declared Godzilla after going nuts on NPB pitching. That kind of intimidation would be nice to have if the U.S. were to encounter Japan in the finals.

Ryan Howard finally going to get a day off after playing in 14 straight games - Phillies Zone
I kind of get what Charle Manuel is trying to accomplish with getting Ryan Howard back into shape, and used to playing every day, but Howard is 33 and big. But who am I kidding, the less the Braves would have to face Ryan Howard, the better I'd feel, because he's killing the ball, but I'm not going to complain when he's out of gas come August.

Thanking Roy Halladay for the emergence of Cole Hamels - Phillies Nation
It's an interesting thing to think about, because I don't really remember ever hearing about Cole Hamels following Roy Halladay's legendary workout regimes. I remember that Kyle Kendrick tried everything he could to emulate Halladay down to growing his hair like Doc's, but naturally that failed. But apparently by proximity, Cole's been paying attention to Halladay, and even if Halladay isn't a Philly after 2013, his contributions to the team may have gone further than just the numbers he produced for the team.


The Biggest Ongoing Scam in Professional Sports - The Atlantic
Blogger Ted Hill puts it best with his own thoughts about this article, and I agree that this theoretical opposite-of-Moneyball story would make an excellent book and a movie, but ultimately, this is no secret to anyone that has been following baseball for the better part of the last two decades.

Ricky Nolasco named Opening Day starter for Marlins - Palm Beach Post
Umm... who else do they actually have?

Just doesn't sound right, does it? - Fish Bytes
Giancarlo, he of 93 home runs in three seasons, and at the youthful age of 22-years old, will be making a little bit more than the pre-arb minimum salary this season, notching $537,000 for his services in 2013. Mike Trout he's not, but for someone who brings gaudy power, and hits home runs that kids only dream of, it's still kind of absurd to think that he's making a baseball pauper's money.

Giancarlo Stanton BP blows all his WBC teammates away - CBS Sports
And the money quote comes from Mark Teixeira, before he withdrew from the team after watching Stanton homers sailing into the parking lot in Scottsdale, Arizona:

"I think I was OK because my car is in Tampa," Teixeira said. "Although, with the right wind, he still might be able to hit it."

Large group of former Latino Marlins reunite and make fun of Marlins at WBC - Fish Bytes
There was nothing but laughter in Puerto Rico as a number of former Marlins who were playing for either the Dominican Republic (Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes) and Venezuela (Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano, Miguel Cabrera) all got together during batting practice to take shots at the Marlins, and about how they were all traded or released.

Don't look now but the Marlins have a competition at first base - Palm Beach Post
And it doesn't involve Logan Morrison, who is still out and not expected to be ready until almost May. 26-year old Joe Mahoney appears to be out of options, and is currently hitting .357/.400/.857 in 14 at-bats with two homers. But ol' Casey Kotchman, even in spite of the goofy hand laceration he suffered earlier this spring, has been hitting an absurd .636/.667/1.000 in 11 at-bats, and brings to the table everyday reliable defense as we Braves fans are very well aware of.

Placido Polanco shelved with oldness, somehow this is news - Fish Bytes
The Marlins knew the 37-year old Polly had back issues, and somehow it's newsworthy when a predictable back problem causes him to miss some time.

Marlins Park now offering select BOGO tickets - Sun Sentinel
BOGO as in buy-one-get-one; and the best part is that it's pertaining to the home opener. When Marlins Park opened, there was such a demand for Opening Day tickets that the Marlins had to go to a lottery system to accomodate the sellout occasion. Now the Fish are relegated to giving away tickets to entice people into purchasing an Opening Day ticket. Also:

Marlins President David Samson recently said season-ticket sales had fallen from just over 12,000 in 2012 to fewer than 5,000. Asked if he expected a sellout for the opener, he said, "I don’t know. I really don’t."

Marlins prospects can't even get arrested the same way as everyone else - Sun Sentinel
Most other Spring Training arrests typically involve booze, drugs, and almost always getting pulled over. Tyson Gilles had cocaine, Miguel Cabrera drunkenly pulled the "I'm a pro athlete" card on the cops, Dontrelle Willis urinated in public, and even Red Sox prospect Drake Britton was caught going 111 mph while drunk this week. But Marlins pitching prospect Charlie Lowell was arrested for battery and strangulation; that's like Andruw Jones territory there.

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