Let us take a moment to praise Charlie Manuel

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I promise you that I’m not panicking. I know that every team goes through a bad stretch and the Braves are just having one right now. I know they are merely a half game back and still lead the wild card race. I know that things could change tomorrow and they could rocket back into first place. I’m just not in the mental space this morning to be optimistic because, you know, the Pirates.

But nor am I going to get all gloomy and doomy either. Rather, I’m of a mind that, my rooting interests not withstanding, it’s a good day to reflect on the job Charlie Manuel has done in Philly. Sam Donnellon does that today and sums it up pretty perfectly:

Say before the season that someone told you Chase Utley would miss two months, Jamie Moyer would tear up his arm, Joe Blanton would be awful for the first three months, Madson would break his toe throwing a tantrum, Kyle Kendrick again would be demoted, J.C. Romero would be ineffective, Rollins and Victorino would get hurt and not hit, and Ibanez would be an automatic out for the first half of the season. What would you say their record should be on Aug. 31?

Donnellon’s point — and it’s a good one — is that Manuel never panicked like so many managers would have in his situation. Indeed, he begins his article with a list of moves that many managers — and no small number of talk radio listeners — would have made or demanded had they been faced with what Charlie Manuel has had to deal with. He’s kept an even keel, however. He has constantly made the correct judgment that he has the most talented team in the NL, and that he was either going to win or lose with that talent deployed in reasonable ways.

Which is one of the reasons I like the guy so much (well, that and the 1940s-speak he occasionally whips out).  He doesn’t need to prove to anyone that he’s a technical genius. He doesn’t need to make a show out of chewing people out. He doesn’t pass the buck to his front office or blame the media or any of that stuff. He goes in, does his job, pencils in reasonable lineups most of the time and lets his talent win out.

I’m guessing Bud Black will get most of the Manager of the Year votes this fall. But Charlie Manuel deserves his fair share of them, brother. Because the answer most people would have given to Donnellon’s question at the end of the blockquote would be “80-60; first place NL East.”

Diamondbacks, A.J. Pollock avoid arbitration with two-year contract

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock drives in two runs against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers
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Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.

Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.

Report: Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson agree to two-year, $29 million extension

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson celebrates his two run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Toronto. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.

The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.

Giants and Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

San Francisco Giants'  Brandon Belt reacts after being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Jim Joyce to end the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Friday, Sept.. 4, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.

Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.

Padres sign veteran utility player Skip Schumaker

Cincinnati Reds' Skip Schumaker is tagged out at home plate by San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.