The Marlins are gonna spend some money this winter

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There are very few franchises out there whose decisions have been influences by payroll constraints and, in some cases, unadulterated parsimony than the Florida Marlins.  Every year the story is the same: incremental improvements, hope the kids get better and then, at some point, the departure of someone who has the audacity to make more than a couple million bucks a year.

But, as Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reports, the fish may be swimming to a different … er, wait. You don’t “swim” to a “tune.” That’s just dumb.  Oh well, read this. I’ll be back with you in a moment:

This winter will be different. With a new $515-million ballpark set to open in April, the Marlins will raise their payroll to at least $85 million, a franchise record … “The payroll is going up. We want to make a very good showing in the new ballpark and add excitement. There’s a lot of things we’d like to do this winter.’

The 2011 payroll was $57 million, so if the team is to be believed, they’re going to spend a minimum of $28 million more in 2012. That pretty much puts any single move on the table from Albert Pujols on down.

No, to be sure, team president Larry Beinfest says the priority is pitching because it’s always pitching. And, as we’ve seen over and over again, a number of smaller, positive moves are usually more effective than making some big free agent splash, so don’t go thinking that the Marlins who — Jeff Loria at the top of the org chart notwithstanding — are run by some fairly smart people on the baseball side will just throw money at people all willy-nilly. But something different appears to be afoot in Miami. The actual opening of the purse strings.

At least as long as this isn’t all bluster as the Marlins try to sell season tickets to their new ballpark, later say “we just didn’t see what we needed on the market,” and go into 2012 with another $60 million payroll.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.