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Chase Utley Injury: If Surgery Is Required, NL East Belongs to Atlanta

On December 15th, 2010, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Cliff Lee and in the minds of baseball enthusiasts all around the world, Lee’s signature was the kiss of death for the division rival Atlanta Braves.

However, a lot has changed since December 15th—most importantly, Chase Utley‘s knee.

Before Braves fans gallop triumphantly into a busy street, toss confetti into the air and order their “Atlanta Braves: NL East Champions” t-shirt on eBay, they must wait and hear whether or not the heart and soul of Philadelphia will require surgery.

The bad news? Nobody knows the answer to that question.


Let’s pretend for a second that Utley will require surgery and misses, say, 10 weeks. How would that affect the National League East?

Utley missed significant time last year—he finished with only 115 games—and the Phillies obviously suffered from not having their No. 3 hitter. However, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard were able to carry the lost weight in the lineup and Philly was able to score just enough runs to win the division.

Now Jayson is sipping lattes in D.C, playing for a last place team and making bank, while big man Howard sits at home, wondering how he is going to produce all the runs in 2011.

Sure, the Phillies have some firepower left in the arsenal with Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino (no, not Jimmy Rollins) but if you take a closer look, that isn’t really firepower—more like a few old BB Guns and one big bazooka that jams at the wrong time.

Polanco is pushing 36 and posted stats well below his career average in just about every offensive category. Sure, he’s a class act and a sure thing in the field, but Polanco is famous for his injury plagued seasons and can not be relied heavily on.

Ruiz, arguably the MVP of the Phillies in 2010, had a career year last year. However, the catcher has never played more than 121 games, so it remains to be seen what Ruiz can do with the bat while being behind the plate for a full season.

Ibanez is almost 39 years old and is obviously on a decline in his career. The vet will provide a decent bat at times, but his age has to catch up with him some time.

Victorino is really, really fast and a really, really, great defender. Offensively, there isn’t much to say. In 2010, the Flyin’ Hawaiian’s BA, OBP, OPS, SLG and hits all decreased dramatically while his strikeout totals increased.

Victorino is an average hitter at best.

Ryan Howard is a paradox. Howard goes from hitting 45 home runs and driving in 141 in 2009, to posting Corey Hart numbers in 2010—31 homers and 108 RBIs. Obviously, Howard is still one of the best hitters in the game, but Phillies fans have to be at least a little bit worried about the “slugger’s” decline.

Maybe 2010 was just an off year or maybe it was a preview of what the rest of Howard’s career will look like—only time will tell. No matter what the case, Howard can not score all the runs for this team.

Fun fact: Every player I just mentioned will be above the age of 31 by season’s end.

If Utley does miss significant time this season, his replacement will be Wilson Valdez. 

I imagine everyone in Philly cringing when they read that sentence, so I’ll say it again: If Utley does miss significant time this season, his replacement will be Wilson Valdez

Let’s just say that Valdez, a career .240 hitter, is not the right-handed force the Phillies need in their lineup and unless Amaro Jr. goes out and signs David Eckstein or trades for Michael Young, the absence of Utley will greatly diminish all the high hopes that began on December 15th, 2010.

The Atlanta Braves’ offense was already better than Philly’s before Utley and “phenom,” Domonic Brown got banged up. Atlanta’s offense is young, powerful and deep and no matter what happens to Chase, they will score the most runs in the division, but a scalpel in Utley’s flesh will be the icing on the cake for the Braves.

No matter how many aces there are on a pitching staff, offense is equally—if not more—important than the depth of the rotation and a Phillies offense without Utley just doesn’t cut it.

Pun intended.

Don’t get me wrong: Halladay, Hamels, Lee and Oswalt will win a good amount of games for Philly in 2010, but as I look into this magical crystal ball of mine, I see a lot of no decisions in their futures.

The future of the NL East—and probably all of baseball—relies on those lucky doctors giving Utley their “second opinion.”

Bad news Philly fans: It’s not always sunny in Philadelphia.

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Atlanta Braves: Are They on the Verge of Building MLB’s Next Great Dynasty?

From 1991 to 2005, the Atlanta Braves were the best team in baseball.

Thanks to their incredible pitching staff and wealth of young talent, the Braves went 14 straight years without falling short of first place in their division, a feat that may never be repeated.

However, Bobby Cox’s Braves could only capture one World Series championship during their reign and will forever be remembered as the team that fell short.

Now, after four years of Philadelphia reign in the NL East, new manager Fredi Gonzalez has the keys to the Corvette and boy, does this engine hum.

Of course, it is premature for the Braves to don the dynasty cape before they have even played one game in 2011, but just for gits and shiggles, let’s consider the possibility.

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Atlanta Braves Spring Training: 10 Keys To an NL East Crown In 2011

With the Atlanta Braves’ first spring game right around the corner, the powerhouse Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to win the National League East in 2011, but all of that can change in the blink of an eye if a few players can step it up in spring training.

Here are the 10 keys to success for the Atlanta Braves in 2011.

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Carl Pavano and the 10 Greatest Mustaches in Baseball History

I’m sure by now you know that Carl Pavano will stay with the Minnesota Twins for another two years.

That is all good and well, but the one question burning into our heart and soul, the one question that keeps us rolling around in bed late at night, the one question that nobody has the courage to ask: Will the mustache stay?

Pavano sported one of the best mustaches of our time in 2010, but it was his first time growing the lady-catcher in his career. That leaves us asking, “Will he bring it back?”

That also makes me wonder where Pavano’s ‘stache belongs in the list of America’s pastime’s greatest mustaches. Does he make the top ten?

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MLB 2011 Predictions: Boldly Predicting Every Division and Wild Card Winner

Now that the MLB offseason is starting to cool down and the dust is starting to settle, which teams will make the playoffs in 2011?

The Boston Red Sox added superstars Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, Philadelphia added veteran starter Cliff Lee to their already dominant rotation, the Brewers added former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, and much more.

How will these additions and subtractions affect the MLB standings in 2011?

Which teams are for real and which teams are overrated?

Here are my predictions. Prepare to be frustrated.

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2011 MLB Hall of Fame Inductions: Mark McGwire Does Not Belong

Mark McGwire was one of the most powerful, exciting hitters to ever step up to the plate. He was a focal point of an era that provided sports fans all over the world with the kind of entertainment that comes around just once in a lifetime.

McGwire’s eye-popping stats and incredible home run race with Sammy Sosa in 1998 transformed him from an MLB superstar into an international icon. Every man, woman, and child owned a McGwire jersey, the St. Louis Arch was renamed the St. McGwire Arch, and fast food franchises created meals in his honor.

Unfortunately for Marky Mark and the game of baseball, McGwire is also one of the most infamous cheaters in the history of sports.

In January of 2010, a teary-eyed McGwire sat across from Bob Costas and came clean about his steroid usage, admitting that steroids had been flowing through his veins for an entire decade, including his record-breaking season in 1998.

Even though his dirty little secret is out, McGwire still will not admit that steroids helped him get the ball over the fence. He claims that no pill or syringe can give a player the extraordinary hand-eye coordination that he displayed throughout his career and he took steroids solely for health purposes.

This may seem like the usual pathological liar banter, but McGwire actually has a point. The steroids that the first baseman injected himself with had absolutely no effect on his god-given hand-eye coordination, but the baseball statistic that is directly proportional with hand-eye coordination is batting average, and McGwire had a career batting average of .263.

What did the steroids provide McGwire? Muscle mass.

The University of Illinois conducted a study titled “The Possible Effect of Steroids on Home Run Production“, and Professor Alan M. Nathan very clearly concludes, “a modest increase in muscle mass can lead to a very large increase in HRBiP.”

I’m no rocket scientist, but that sounds like steroids helped McGwire and many others hit the ball harder and farther. Therefore, any players that are proven steroid users are proven cheaters.

What exactly is the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and who belongs in it?

According to the Hall’s official website, “The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is an independent, non-profit educational institution dedicated to honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our national pastime.”

So, according to the official definition, the question that the Hall of Fame voters must ask themselves is, “Has Mark McGwire made an outstanding contribution to our national pastime?”

Unless I’m mistaken, McGwire has done the exact opposite.

With a little help from his friends, McGwire temporarily ruined the game of baseball.

When all of the sport’s superstars became super-scumbags, there was really no reason to watch baseball anymore and the record-shattering McGwire is more to blame for that than most of the other accused cheaters.

Cooperstown is a place meant for former players, coaches, and broadcasters that improved the game of baseball with their extraordinary efforts on and off the diamond, and the induction of a player that did nothing but hurt our national pastime should not even be considered.

Life would be a little bit easier if the MLB just created a “Major League Baseball Hall of Fame: Steroid Edition.” 

I’m sure Mark would be a first-ballot candidate.

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Cliff Lee Signs With Phillies: How Will The Atlanta Braves Counter The Move?

While we were all waiting to see if Cliff Lee would choose to be in Texas or the Bronx in 2011, he went out and LeBron-d us.

Lee will be taking his talents to the city of brotherly love and join Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt to create one of the, if not the, greatest starting rotations that the world has ever seen.

Lee’s decision hurts three teams in the MLB the most: The New York Yankees, the Texas Rangers, and the Atlanta Braves.

The Yankees should be just fine. All though Lee’s decision may cause them to lose the division to the Red Sox, they have just enough money and prospects to go out and get the next best option and make the postseason.

The Rangers are cooked. Even if they do make it into the playoffs, which they most likely will due to the horrible division that they reside in, they will not make it very far without their former ace. Without Lee, their rotation is just mediocre.

The Braves, however, went from being the favorites to win the National League East to just one of the front runners to win the National League Wild card overnight.

Now how does Atlanta counter Philadelphia‘s move? Sure, Dan Uggla was a step in the right direction for the Braves, but their starting rotation is just average compared to the Phillies’ big four. Atlanta only has about $1 million left to spend, meaning they need to make a couple of trades if they want to contend for the NL East title in 2011.

For financial purposes, trading away veteran starter Derek Lowe would make the most sense, but since Lowe performed so well down the stretch in 2010, that likely won’t happen. 

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been very interested in starter-turned-disappointment Kenshin Kawakami and have stated that a deal involving Paul Maholm is a possibility. Sure, Maholm is not Cliff Lee, but he then gives Atlanta one extra starting pitcher to trade in exchange for the centerfielder that they have been missing since the departure of Andruw Jones.

I wonder….Who is desperate for starting pitching after the Cliff Lee deal and has an expendable centerfielder with the great speed and defense that the Atlanta Braves lack…? 

The New York Yankees.

Brett Gardner, the fastest man in baseball, will likely take a back seat to the rejuvenated Curtis Granderson in 2011 and the fact that the Braves and Yankees both fit each other’s needs makes them a trading match made in heaven.

If Atlanta were to trade one of their starting pitchers, it would be young Jair Jurjens.

Jurjens had somewhat of an off year last year due to injury, but he got it together at the end of the year and in his three previous seasons with the Braves, JJ has shown flashes of brilliance.

Say the Braves trade Jurjens to the Yankees, Kawakami to the Bucs, and acquire Gardner and Maholm. Even though Maholm had an off-year in 2010, his ERA was not much higher than Jurjens and he started twelve more games than JJ. Mahlom has had a couple of good seasons and who knows how good he could be for a team actually in contention. It is obviously still a downgrade from Jurjens, but the acquisition of Gardner and the incredible pitching depth in Atlanta’s farm system would far outweigh that.

With a good hitting coach and more game experience, Gardner has the potential to bat .300 and become the Braves’ true leadoff man that they have lacked for so many years. When the College of Charleston graduate gets on base, he is the biggest distraction in baseball for pitchers and almost a guarantee to steal.

Do not expect the Braves to go out and sign Zack Greinke or Adrian Beltre. They do not have the finances or the trading chips to acquire a superstar-type player like Uggla again and there is no way that Frank Wren can match what the Phillies did.

However, if the GM can give the Braves their key missing components on offense, most importantly center field, they should be in the NL East race the entire year. Philadelphia obviously has the advantage in pitching, but with their loss of star outfielder Jayson Werth and the Braves’ acquisition of slugger Dan Uggla, the Braves should be the better offensive team.

Remember, Atlanta still has one of the best rotations in baseball and all of the Philadelphia starters are human….except Halladay…so this is certainly not the end of the world for the Atlanta Braves.

Don’t stop choppin’, Braves fans and don’t stop dealin’, Frank Wren.

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MLB Free Agent Rumors: 10 Possible Destinations For Rafael Soriano

With news that the Angels have signed free agent reliever Scott Downs, the Angels have been removed from the amazing Rafael Soriano race.

Now that the front-runners have ran off the track, which bullpen will the veteran closer join for the 2011 MLB season?

Here are 10 possible destinations for the rejuvenated Soriano.

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Carl Crawford Signs With Red Sox: 10 Possible Moves To Be Triggered By Signing

The Boston Red Sox have officially gotten the ball rolling in Orlando by signing the top position player on the MLB free agent market, Carl Crawford. Thursday morning, the two sides agreed on a seven year contract worth $142 million.

Boston’s colossal signing should cause a domino effect of signings and trades in the last day of the 2010 Winter Meetings and beyond. Here are 10 moves that we could see happen in the coming days of the MLB offseason.

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Braves Acquire Dan Uggla: 10 Reasons It Makes Atlanta NL East Favorites In 2011

The Florida Marlins have agreed to trade their star second baseman Dan Uggla to the Braves for infielder Omar Infante and left-handed reliever Michael Dunn, Fox Sports reported Tuesday afternoon.

Uggla, the only second baseman in history to record four, 30-home run seasons, gives the Braves that right-handed power they were desperately lacking in their hunt for the 2010 World Series.

Now, with a much more dangerous lineup and a legitimate cleanup hitter, the Braves become the favorites to win the National League East.

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