Marlins Spring Baseball

Running down the rosters: Miami Marlins

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The hopes are high with LeBron James having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history and the Dolphins potentially landing Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn as their new quarterback. Also, the baseball team has a new name, a new stadium and a new star shortstop. Let’s see if that does the Marlins any good.

Rotation
Josh Johnson – R
Mark Buehrle – L
Anibal Sanchez – R
Ricky Nolasco – R
Carlos Zambrano – R

Bullpen
Heath Bell – R
Edward Mujica – R
Michael Dunn – L
Ryan Webb – R
Randy Choate – L
Steve Cishek – R
Wade LeBlanc – L

Restricted list: Juan Oviedo (R)
SP next in line: Brad Hand (L), LeBlanc, Alex Sanabia (R), Sean West (L)
RP next in line: Jose Ceda (R), Chris Hatcher (R), Chad Gaudin (R), Sandy Rosario (R)

Along with their $106 million outlay for Jose Reyes, the Marlins spent $58 million on Buehrle and $27 million on Bell, adding stability to a staff that has lacked it for several years. Buehrle won’t contend for a Cy Young, but he’ll be at least a bit above average over the course of 200 innings. Bell’s best years are probably behind him, but he figures to be a quality closer for at least a couple of more years.

The Marlins have plenty of upside elsewhere. Johnson would be a legitimate Cy Young contender if he could stay healthy. Sanchez has posted an ERA in the mid-3.00s each of the last two years. If  those two combine to make 60 starts and either Nolasco or Zambrano can rebound (probably too much to expect both to do so), then the Marlins would be definite threats for the wild card.

Lineup
SS Jose Reyes – S
CF Emilio Bonifacio – S
3B Hanley Ramirez – R
RF Mike Stanton – R
LF Logan Morrison – L
1B Gaby Sanchez – R
C John Buck – R
2B Omar Infante – R

Bench
C Brett Hayes – R
1B-3B Greg Dobbs – L
INF Donnie Murphy – R
OF Scott Cousins – L
OF Aaron Rowand – R

Next in line: C Clint Sammons (R), 3B Matt Dominguez (R), INF Nick Green (R), INF Gil Velazquez (R), OF Austin Kearns (R), OF Chris Coghlan (L), OF Bryan Petersen (L), OF Kevin Mattison (L)

Obviously, much depends on Hanley here. In him, Reyes and Stanton, the Marlins may well possess three of the NL’s top 10 position players. Day one went off without a hitch, but it still remains to be seen whether he’ll make an issue of the move to third base. A pouting Ramirez figures to be an unproductive Ramirez, but if Ozzie Guillen can get through to him — and who better to make the attempt — then the lineup could be dynamite.

What is disappointing is that the Marlins didn’t make much of an attempt to upgrade their bench over the winter. But Bonifacio’s versatility does help there. If Reyes or Infante gets hurt (and the Marlins don’t want to move Hanley back to short), Bonifacio can move back to the infield, opening up center for whichever outfielder is playing better. The Marlins do have plenty of competition for those outfield bench spots: one figures to go to a lefty (Cousins, Coghlan or Petersen) and the other to a righty (Rowand or Kearns).

In the Marlins’ case, I’m skeptical that the whole will be the equal to the sum of its parts. There’s some terrific talent here, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see the team win 95+ games and maybe even overtake the Phillies in the NL East. It also wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Hanley force his way off the team and Johnson spend the bulk of the year on the DL, leading to a fourth-place finish. My guess is that they sneak into the postseason via the wild card, but I’m far from confident.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.04.09 AM
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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: