Posts Tagged ‘Florida Marlins’

Miguel-Cabrera

It seems odd to think of Miguel Cabrera in terms of all-time, already. He’s the foremost hitter in the game today easily, and he’s in the midst of one of the best primes seen in quite a while. He seems to be a very young 30 years old; after all he did come up with the Florida Marlins as a very advanced () year old, and has already had a career’s worth of accomplishments as is. World Series winner, batting champion, RBI king and home run king…with a few occurring multiple times, and quite notably as well, in the same season (in case it was a very heavy rock you’ve been underneath). With the majority of this series, it’s been based in qualify whether or not for the Hall when it’s all said and done. However, for the sake of Cabrera, it’s about looking at him from the perspective of just how high he could end up in the history of the game. And most likely, it’s a career in the works that lands among some of the most revered of all-time. Let’s have a look at it here.

The Numbers (through May 15): .320 avg, 329 home runs, 1164 RBI, 1860 hits, 396 doubles, 990 runs scored, .396 on-base percentage, .562 slugging percentage

The Case For: Perhaps only Albert Pujols is a more accomplished active overall hitter than Cabrera. Cabrera is the model of a balanced, power bat. His 162 game averages are staggering: a .320 average, 34 homers, 118 RBI, 103 runs scored and 194 hits per year. He’s topped 30 home runs and 100 RBI in all nine of his full MLB seasons, and in five of those seasons he’s bettered 40 doubles as well. In the last three seasons, which could be deemed the entry into his prime, he’s truly ramped up to a historic level. Since his age 28 year, he’s hit .340, with 82 home runs and 285 RBI, along with a .423 on-base percentage. In addition to his impact, he’s a low risk swing; he’s adjusted his swing to the point where his impact has risen along with his contact. After averaging 124 strikeouts his first six seasons against 70 walks a year, he has restricted his zone and only struck out 94 times on average per year since 2010, while raising his walks by 18 per year. He’s nearly brought his strikeouts to walks even, while improving his power numbers (33 to 37 home runs), average (.315 to .334) and total on-base plus slugging percentage (.936 to a ridiculous 1.025). For perspective, his OPS over the past three seasons would be the sixth best of all-time, behind only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx’s career marks. As it stands, his career OPS of .957 through 11 years is the 19th best of all-time. And he’s still trending upwards. His ability to drive in runs has already taken him to a historic level, as he is one of four players in history to drive in 1,000 runs before his 30th birthday, along with Gehrig, Pujols and Hank Aaron.

He’s a seven time All-Star that hasn’t finished outside of the top 5 in a league MVP votes in the last four years. He won a World Series in his rookie season, has he hit four home runs and 12 RBI has a 20 year old outfielder. Overall, he has appeared in three World Series before turning 30 years old.

The Case Against: If he stopped today, would he be in? It’s a tough question to ponder, because he’s still short of the “guaranteed” numbers to reach the Hall at his positions, which are particularly offense heavy. The only downfalls in his game are his speed and defensive prowess. He made strides to become a solid defensive first baseman before moving to third base before the 2012 season to accommodate Detroit’s acquisition of Prince Fielder. Conversely, third base was his original position before he was moved to first due to his lack of mobility on the opposite corner, so he’s playing out of position currently, but a bat like his will never be kept from recognition due to a slight of defense. He has had  a few legal issues that have been detractors from his character, but not to the extent that they draw his accomplishments on the field into the shade.

An early start, along with good health and a consistently improving bat has placed Cabrera in rare air regarding his potential career totals.

An early start, along with good health and a consistently improving bat has placed Cabrera in rare air regarding his potential career totals. Where he could be regarded would be among the immortals.

3. Similar players (through age 30):

–          Frank Robinson: .304 average, 373 home runs, 1131 RBI, 1855 hits, 1165 runs, 352 doubles

–          Hank Aaron: .320 average, 366 home runs, 1216 RBI, 2085 hits, 1180 runs, 351 doubles

–          Albert Pujols: .331 average, 408 home runs, 1230 RBI, 1900 hits, 1186 runs, 426 doubles

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Basically, all it’s going to take for Cabrera to make it to the Hall is for him to #1) keep breathing, and #2) stay at a moderately above average pace. To reach 500 home runs, he’d need to stay at his current, mid-prime rate for another four to five seasons. At his current rate of 194 hits per season (his career average), he’d top 3,000 hits in roughly six years. However, the intriguing thing about Cabrera is how high he is spiking currently. He’s having some of the great production seasons in the history of baseball over his past three and a half seasons, and could easily move his time table up some. He started early, being a full-time player at age 20 and has been remarkably durable, playing in no less than 150 games a season in his career, and only once under 157. He has led the league in 15 categories already, including his historic Triple Crown effort of 2012, which potentially could end up not being his best performance of his own career (compare 2012 against how 2013 is shaping up currently).

In terms of his established potential already, as a first baseman, there have been 19 players inducted into the Hall as first basemen, and it is among the most competitive positions of all-time. While he has some way to go to reach the standard marks of a Hall of Fame first baseman (which for comparison sake in this era would be a career such as Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray or Johnny Mize), he’s on pace to hit some pretty hallowed marks with another eight seasons or so that he projects to play at. For projections sake at the likely halfway point in his career, Cabrera could have another 204 home runs, 732 RBI, 246 doubles and 1,164 hits ahead of him. That would put his career totals at 533 homers, 1861 RBI, 642 doubles and 3,024 hits, good for top 5 all-time at the most offensive dominant position the history of the game…at just 36 years old, or just two years younger than Derek Jeter is now.

All of this considered before he enters his DH-only twilight, where he could tack on another 75 homers or so to cap off what truly is, and can be one of the most spectacular careers of all-time.

So if the question is asked today, is Miguel Cabrera in, out or in-between the Hall of Fame, the correct answer is IN-BETWEEN, but enjoy saying that now, because in two years (when he’s a grand old age of 32) that answer will probably be outdated.

For more on what’s happening right now along the road to the Hall for Miggy and many more, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Advertisements

Baseball lost another of its all-time greats yesterday, when catcher Ivan Rodriguez decided to pack it in. “Pudge” was often seen as the premier defensive catcher of his era, when he was at his best, he was easily all least that. I’m going a step further He was the greatest defensive catcher of all-time, and even still, he was only AT LEAST just that.

While the Gold Glove has somehow become arguably the worst way to judge defensive prowess (considering how it seems like it takes 20 home runs to qualify for one these days), Pudge was one of those guys who REALLY earned it with, you know, actual defense still. Or even more, he earned it with straight out intimidation. Folk’s just plain out we’re not running on him. In my time watching the game over the last 20 years, there have been a few catchers that just have the type of arm where guys stick close to the base like youth league softball. Charles Johnson, Benito Santiago and Yadier Molina jump out the pack, but none was what Rodriguez was. He cut down 45% of potential base thefts in his career; that’s crazy. He called a solid game behind the plate for a variety of great hurlers in era, starting with Nolan Ryan and later on catching Justin Verlander’s first no-hitter.

While Pudge will always be known as a force behind the plate, I’m going a step further and paying him his full due: he was the greatest All-Around catcher to ever play the game. I say this in a talent-turned-into results perspective, for I still hold that Yogi Berra sits at the pinnacle of the Catcher’s Mount Olympus (his 10-titles & three MVPs assure him of that). But when looking at the most talented and tooled player to ever don the “tools of ignorance”, he’s peerless. Now I’m well aware of the traditional baseball rhetoric that has reserved this honor for Johnny Bench, and Johnny Bench alone, but really, where didn’t Pudge surpass him? Look at bit deeper and see the big picture for what it is.

There's been no combination behind the plate like Rodriguez had in his prime, and even then, it was taken a bit for granted.

It’s at the plate that his due should truly be reevaluated, and where his rightful due as the greatest all-around catcher ever is sealed. At a spot where offense is often sacrificed in the name of leadership, strategy and defense, Pudge shined. He’s the all-time hits leader at the position, with 2,844. His 572 doubles are tops at the spot and 21st overall all-time. He hit over .300 for eight consecutive years and 10 times total, finishing with a career mark of .296. That’s beyond outstanding for a catcher, and places him with top hitters of the strongest offensive era in the game’s history. And what’s more is he did this while grinding behind the plate at a record pace has well. He never moved positions, and the gruel of squatting down for nine innings at yet another record pace didn’t affect his record offensive output, or his legendary defense. He played over 130 games nine times, and a total of 2,427 overall; 200 more than next best total.

What more can I say? His 1999 MVP season was amazing; 35 homers, 113 RBI, .332 batting average with 199 hits against only 64 strikeouts in 144 games caught. That’s amazing while sustaining the torture that a full-season of catching can be. After he hit the scene as a 19 year old in 1991, he followed up with a Rookie of the Year award in 1992 at 20, as well as made his first of his eventual 14 All-Star appearances. He also took home the first of his 13 (earned) Gold Gloves that year, a record total at the catcher spot and ties him for the fourth most at any position. Overall, he played in two World Series, and won one in his lone year as a Florida Marlin.

Yet there is still a lack of buzz around the departure of this giant from the game. Perhaps because he didn’t speak the sharpest English or didn’t play much of his career in the league’s brightest media posts, his finish is a bit more subdued. But one of the greatest players of the last 20 years has decided to walk away, and it’s just a matter of time before his number 7 is the fourth number the Texas Rangers retire, and there’s only four years and 364 days left before he is rightfully placed in Cooperstown as the greatest catcher of many eras. And if you missed out or underappreciated that, then you really missed a beauty of a game put on, from the trenches of it.

 

For more on today’s underappreciated legends in the works, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

The National League East has been, to put it plainly, predictable over the last few years. Everything basically starts in Philadelphia, and ends in D.C. The space between is left to be filled in by some order of the other three squads. For the fourth consecutive summer, the Phillies took home the NL East title, and nearly took landed the NL Pennant for the third year in a row as well. In a totally opposite showing, the Nationals lived in the cellar again….for the third year in a row as well. The prime suspects in the “others” of the division were the Atlanta Braves, who landed a surprising Wild Card nod and returned to the postseason for the first time since 2002. The seasons in the Florida and New York were marred by internal issues and managerial/executive strife, and neither could rally together enough to crack .500 for the year.

2010 Final Standings

1. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)
2. Atlanta Braves (91-71)
3. Florida Marlins (80-82)
4. New York Mets (79-83)
5. Washington Nationals (69-93)

So, is there to be more of the same in the East? The Phillies are the talk of baseball, after adding another former Cy Young winner to their pitching staff for the second year in a row, in Cliff Lee. His joining a staff that features Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and 2010 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay has the Phils pitchers being hailed as one of the greatest collections of arms in the history of the game. However, last year’s Phillies were supposed to be foolproof as well, but struggled early and only came together late to seal another division title. Will this year’s team be able to deliver from start to finish, even with their best everyday player’s health a complete mystery? We’ll see. The Braves and Nationals reloaded with big bats designed to push their lineups to the next level, but will they be enough for a legit run at the division? The Marlins redesigned their club, and the Mets are just hoping to have more of their players of the field instead of the disabled list, finally. But in the end, is anything really enough to even mount a legit shot at the throne? We’ll see….

Halladay was completely dominant, even perfect once, in his NL debut. What does his encore hold?

ALL DIVISION TEAM

Catcher: Brian McCann-Atlanta Braves

First Base: Ryan Howard-Philadelphia Phillies

Second Base: Chase Utley-Philadelphia Phillies

Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez-Florida Marlins

Left Field: Jason Bay-New York Mets

Center Field: Shane Victorino-Philadelphia Phillies

Right Field: Jason Werth-Washington Nationals

More time on the field will lead to a lot more impact from Bay in the Big Apple.

Starting Pitcher: Roy Halladay-Philadelphia Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee-Philadelphia Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Josh Johnson-Florida Marlins

Starting Pitcher: Tim Hudson-Atlanta Braves

 

Bullpen Righty: Ryan Madson-Philadelphia Phillies

Bullpen Lefty: Sean Burnett-Washington Nationals

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez-New York Mets

 

BEST PLAYERS

1. Roy Halladay-Phillies
2. Hanley Ramirez-Marlins
3. Cliff Lee-Phillies
4. Chase Utley-Phillies
5. Ryan Zimmerman-Nationals
6. Ryan Howard-Phillies
7. David Wright-Mets
8. Josh Johnson-Marlins
9. Jason Werth-Nationals
10. Jason Heyward-Braves

Halladay is at the head of the class of pitchers in baseball. His NL debut featured a perfect game, a no-hitter in his career playoff debut and a Cy Young to cap it off with. Ramirez is annually a threat to toss in 30 home runs to go with his 30 steals, and maybe another batting title as well. Utley and Howard had down years in 2010, but they are the featured acts in the NL’s best lineup. Zimmerman and Wright are among the top three at the hot corner in all of baseball. Youngsters Heyward and Johnson will be among the best talents in baseball for a long time.

LINEUP

1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Mets
4. Marlins
5. Nationals

Chase Utley’s knee injury has kept him off the field all spring, and Jason Werth left for Washington, but the Phillies lineup is still the best in the NL. Ryan Howard may have more raw power than any hitter in baseball and Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez have all made All-Star appearances. The Braves addition of Dan Uggla and the continual growth of Jason Heyward make them a viable contender for best lineup as well however, and they have far less question marks currently. The differential is all on shoulders, and knee, of Utley.

Heyward should eclipse the 30 home run mark for the first of many times this year.

ROTATION

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves
  3. Marlins
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

Three of baseball’s best rotations are here. While it is too early to declare the Phillies rotation as among the best of all-time, the evidence for such a claim is there. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels and Joe Blanton have won 128 games combined over the past two years.It is the first time since the Braves 90’s dynasty that a team has a pitcher that makes them the favorite on his own six days a week. The Braves and Marlins both boast rotations with a clear ace (Hudson and Johnson, respectively) and a mixture of young power arms and proven vets behind them.

The addition of Lee on the heels of Oswalt makes the Phils armory the best by far.

1-2 PUNCH

1. Phillies (Halladay & Lee)
2. Marlins (Johnson & Nolasco)
3. Braves (Hudson & Lowe)
4. Mets (Pelfrey & Dickey)
5. Nationals (Hernandez & Marquis)

In Halladay & Lee, the Phillies have two of the annual favorites for the Cy Young award, regardless of league they play in. Matter of fact, their 3-4 punch of Oswalt and Hamels would also be number one on this list. The two biggest injuries in the division make their presence felt here, as both Johan Santana of the Mets and Stephen Strasberg of the Nationals would greatly boost the impact of their team’s bottom feeding rotations.

BULLPEN

1. Phillies
2. Marlins
3. Braves
4. Nationals
5. Mets

The Phillies have veteran power arms in Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge and Danys Baez, in addition to highly effective lefty J.C. Romero, in what could be a consistently well-rested bullpen. The Marlins have quietly built up a nice pen as well, adding Clay Hensley and Randy Choate to the mix in front of Leo Nunez. Francisco Rodriguez is the division’s best closer, but there isn’t a lot to get excited about in front of him in NY.

3-4-5 HITTERS

1. Phillies (Utley?/Howard/Ibanez)
2. Braves (Jones/Uggla/McCann)
3. Nationals (Zimmerman/Werth/LaRoche)
4. Mets (Wright/Bay/Beltran)
5. Marlins (Ramirez/Stanton/Sanchez)

If Utley is not in the mix, the Phillies group takes a huge hit. In Atlanta however, this isn’t the case with their #3 hitter, has if (or when) Chipper Jones struggles to stay healthy; they have Jason Heyward to drop down from the #2 spot. Jason Werth and Adam LaRoche give Zimmerman some much needed protection to replace the departed Adam Dunn. The heart of the Mets order could be huge, but as usual, it’s all about how often they actually are healthy and play together.

TABLESETTERS

1. Mets
2. Braves
3. Phillies
4. Marlins
5. Nationals

The Mets order led the NL in steals last year, which put crucial runners in scoring position to make it in without the long ball, since the majority of their power hitters spent more time on the disabled list than the actual lineup. The Braves have hit machine Martin Prado leading off, and follow it with Heyward’s prodigious power, so they are capable of scoring early before the heart of their lineup ever reaches the plate.

The return of Reyes, perhaps the game's fastest player, returned a needed spark to the Mets attack.

BENCH

1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Mets
4. Nationals
5. Marlins

Russ Gload, Ben Francisco and Wilson Valdez give the Phils solid depth off the bench, although Francisco will be starting to lead off the season. Eric Hinske is one of the best pinch hitters in baseball, and gives the Braves needed depth in both the infield and outfield. David Murphy is a versatile hitter for the Mets, which could start in many other situations around the league.

DEFENSE

1. Mets
2. Phillies
3. Marlins
4. Braves
5. Nationals

David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan and Jose Reyes are all plus gloves who can cover a lot of ground for the Mets (who need all the help they can get considering their pitcher’s performances last year). On the flipside, the Braves have a lot of questions on defense, with a mixture of players on injury rebound and some guys that are just plain there for offense only.

SPEED

1. Mets
2. Phillies
3. Marlins
4. Nationals
5. Braves

Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan were the only set of NL teammates to each steal at least 30 bases a year ago and David Wright added in 19. Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins can both move around the bases and Domonic Brown will be yet another boost to the Philly speed around the diamond.

Ramirez's speed, in addition to his power and average, make him one of the game's most diverse talents.

MANAGER

1. Charlie Manuel (Phillies)
2. Freddi Gonzalez (Braves)
3. Jack McKeon (Marlins)
4. Jim Riggleman (Nationals)
5. Terry Collins (Mets)

Manuel has been to two of the last three World Series, bringing home the title in 2008. Now he is armed with his most talented team to date and will be able to attack opponents in a variety of different ways. Gonzalez is taking over for a future Hall of Famer in Bobby Cox in Atlanta, but he is user of talent, and he inherits his most talented roster to date in his new gig. Terry Collins first year on the job in New York will be ripe with expectations, but his no-nonsense approach could be just what the Mets need.

The cupboard has some nice ingredients, and huge shoes to fill, for Gonzalez in the A.

ROOKIES/*PROSPECTS TO WATCH

1. Domonic Brown (Right fielder, Phillies)
2. Craig Kimbrel (Pitcher, Braves)
3. Freddie Freeman (First baseman, Braves)
4. Mike Minor (Pitcher, Braves)
5. *Julio Teheran (Pitcher, Braves)

The Braves feature more major league ready talent than any other team in baseball, and they will each be counted on in major roles to the club’s 2011 success. Kimbrel will be taking over for retired All-Star closer Billy Wagner, and will be expected to shut the door from Opening Day on. Brown will take over for Jason Werth in right field once he returns from a wrist injury that will sideline him for the first month of the season. He is a top 10 prospect in the game, and is the best all-around rookie talent in the Show this year.

FINANCES

1. Nationals
2. Phillies
3. Braves
4. Marlins
5. Mets

The Nats are looking to spend money anywhere they can to improve this core, and even after luring Werth and LaRoche to the rebuilding project in D.C.; they still have funds to spare. The Marlins have the least to work with in the division, but spend wisely. The Mets take the cellar here due to the fact their owner Fred Wilpon is in a serious financial trouble right now (even looking to sell part of the club), and the club had to take a loan from Major League baseball this winter while things are straightened out.

IMPACT ADDITIONS

1. Cliff Lee (Phillies from Rangers)
2. Dan Uggla (Braves from Marlins)
3. Jason Werth (Nationals from Phillies)
4. Javier Vazquez (Marlins from Yankees)
5. John Buck (Marlins from Blue Jays)

Lee shocked the baseball world when he spurned both the Yankees and the Rangers to return to Philly and form the most potent rotation in baseball. The addition of Werth to the Nationals inspired similar shock, albeit for a different reason, with his massive 7 year/$126 million contract raising some eyebrows as to if he was worth it (I feel if you agree to suffer in DC all summer, you deserve that much at least). The Marlins made several smart, low payout/high return signings to add veteran, All-Star caliber players to their young club.

Back-to-back All-Star spots landed Werth a massive contract, and expectations, in D.C.

PREDICTION

1. PHILLIES
2. BRAVES
3. METS
4. MARLINS
5. NATIONALS

This should once again be the biggest margin of divisional victory in the NL. While they have some crucial health issues in their everyday lineup, the Phillies simply have fewer concerns than nearly any team in baseball, and definitely the National League. Their pitching staff has two legit aces that could be in a race to 20 wins all summer, and the lineup, even without Utley to start the year, is a top 3 group in the league. As for Atlanta, if their youngsters learn on the job quickly and their vets stay healthy, another run towards the Wild Card is definitely in play. The Marlins didn’t get worse, but I think this is the year where the Mets work it, a bit, and show some progress (unless they trade off their big contracts mid-season, a real possibility). As for the Nats…well, they future looks bright with phenom top pick Bryce Harper starting his path towards Washington and Strasberg rehabbing his post Tommy John elbow, but the day for them to thrive is still far off.

 

The Marlins are the smartest market club in baseball. They walk the line between having and not having better than any other organization. What they do have is a shiny new stadium in Miami (Sun Life Stadium) and a promise, to the city no less, to compete in it (so the days of mass selling offs of talent could be a thing of the past). They have one of the elite talents in the game in Hanley Ramirez signed to a long term contract to build around. They use the money they have to land high impact, yet affordable players to boost their roster. Also, they have a mature, Major League-ready crop of young players already in the everyday mix. However, is this enough? What they don’t have is a clear path to how to break through to the next level. These tactics to maximize their resources do put a better team on the field than other small market clubs, but in the midst of a spending spree across the division; can the moves the Marlins make enough to keep them on par with the others?

THREE UP

1. NATIONAL HERO: With one of the best groups of young pitchers in the game already on display, they made a small investment (1 year, $7 million) in what could be one of the biggest payouts of the entire winter in Javier Vazquez. Last year, he struggled with his velocity with the Yankees and end up with as many wins as loses (10), and an ERA that had raised over two runs. However, a year before that he ended his season as the runner up to the Cy Young award in Atlanta. Matter of fact, each time he has been at his best (Atlanta and Montreal) have a common denominator: the National League. If the Marlins get the traditional NL Vazquez this year, they will sport one of the best rotations in either league.

2. BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Marlins for years have been a pipeline to supplying tremendous amounts of young talent to the game, from Edgar Renteria to Miguel Cabrera. Now whether they keep these guys or not is another matter completely, but they do host them for a while, and usually make a run at the postseason with them. With promising outfielders Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison in their everyday lineup, along with 2010 breakout, first baseman Gaby Sanchez, their future is now. Year two of this group on display should show the beginnings of what could be another promising Marlin lineup….for at least a few years.

Stanton's 22 home runs (in only 100 games) was tops amongst all rookies last year.

3. ALL-STAR COUPONS: The Marlins realized they needed more talent to compete with the Braves, Phillies and even Mets, so making some moves in the free agent/trade market was a must. So they went out and landed two reasonable, first time All-Stars from 2010 that are capable of producing results that far outweigh their price tags. John Buck will help replace the power the Fish lost from Dan Uggla and Omar Infante (who was received for Uggla from Atlanta), will be a steady top of the order bat, that will be invaluable in his ability to play several positions for a team with questions at several spots.

THREE DOWN

1. YIN AND YANG RAMIREZ: There is no room to doubt Hanley Ramirez’s talent, he is not only the best shortstop in the game, but one of the few true 5-tool (speed, arm, glove, hit for power & average). The guy can do it all, and do a lot of it. However, he just as able of a disruptor off the field and in the clubhouse as well. After last summer’s fiasco that ended up with manager Fredi Gonzalez fired after a rift with him. This team isn’t talented enough to win on sheer will alone, it will need chemistry. Hanley’s example and actions have to mirror his play and his days of disruption have to be a thing of the past, especially with this young core surrounding him.

With great power comes great responsibility: Ramirez's attitude improving means as much as his stats.

2. MIDDLE OF NOWHERE: Chris Coghlan is a great company man. For the third time in four years, he’ll move to a new position, this time making centerfield his new home. The Marlins trust in his is understandable. The converted minor league third baseman responded to a move to the leftfield in 2009 by taking home the NL Rookie of the Year. However, he won that for hitting .321, not being a great fielder. Now with the move to centerfield, he’ll be charged with being the captain of an outfield that already features a converted first baseman in left field in Logan Morrison. I smell an adventure on deck in the Florida outfield that the pitching staff probably won’t find much comedy in.

3. THIS IS IT? The Coghlan move is a prime example of what is this team biggest concern, depth. After the starting eight, there isn’t much to back this club up. Even that number may be a stretch, because rookie Matt Dominguez is far from a certain thing at third base. Emilo Bonifacio and Wes Helms are far from potential terrors off the bench, and don’t inspire much concern as pinch hitter either. This is a club that is one injury away from having a big problem they can’t fix.

LINEUP/PITCHING with 2010 stats/info (IMPACT PLAYER IN BOLD)

  1. Chris Coghlan-CF: .268 avg/5 HR/28 RBI/10 steals
  2. 2. Omar Infante-2B: Hit over .300 over the second consecutive year, but his ability to play 2B, 3B, LF and CF is his most valuable asset to his new club.
  3. Hanley Ramirez-SS: .300 avg/21 HR/76 RBI/32 steals
  4. Mike Stanton-RF: .259 avg/22 HR/59 RBI in 100 games after June promotion.
  5. Gaby Sanchez-1B: .273 avg/19 HR/85 RBI
  6. John Buck-C: .281 avg/20 HR/66 RBI
  7. Logan Morrison-LF: .283 avg/2 HR/18 RBI/20 doubles
  8. Matt Dominguez-3B (Rookie): – Major league ready glove, but bat is very much in question.

Don't let the 11 wins fool you, Johnson has 20 win talent, and led the NL in ERA in 2010.

  1. Josh Johnson-RH: 11-6, 2.30 ERA, 186 K’s
  2. Ricky Nolasco-RH: 14-9, 4.51 ERA, 147 K’s
  3. 3. Anibal Sanchez-RH: Struggled for a few years after throwing No-Hitter as a rookie in 2006, but rebounded nicely with at 13-win, 157 strikeout year in 2010. Best days are ahead.
  4. Javier Vazquez-RH: 10-10, 5.32 ERA, 121 K’s
  5. Chris Volstad-RH: 12-9, 4.58 ERA, 102 K’s

Closer: Leo Nunez-RH: 30 Saves, 3.46 ERA, 71 K’s

RUNDOWN: This is a talented club, whose strength is definitely in their starting pitching. Josh Johnson is one the top 10 pitchers in the game, and has the ability to beat anybody he’s matched up against. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez also display the flashes of brilliance that have been predicted for them for years now easier than ever. The mixture of vets that they added to offset their young power bats will pay off if they begin to struggle at any point or have the usual battles of inconsistency young hitters do. One thing the Marlins have proven to be over the past few years is to be a team that plays much better than they do on paper, and they can on the right day play with any team in the East. The issue is will they be able to do it often enough. This is a solid team that may need to have either a big breakout season from a youngster or a career year from an older guy to make a run at the Wild Card.

Here’s my view from the CHEAP SEATS yesterday (surfing the World Wide Web on a couch)

1. Avery to Jersey: The New Jersey Nets made their first on court step towards returning to mediocrity at least yesterday by inking former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson to a deal to return to the sidelines. Johnson

Probably not his fault this time Avery, have you seen the roster you're getting?

has, to say the least, a daunting task in front of him by taking on a Nets team that finished with a 12-70 record, 3 games above setting the all-time losses mark. Benefits of the position are, to say the least, that it’s highly likely they won’t get worse. However, there will be a fair level of pressure to improve this team drastically within the next few years, with the announced aggressive approach of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who will be active in free agency and has the #3 pick in next month’s NBA Draft. With free agent dollars, an aggressive owner and ideal re-building blocks in Brook Lopez and Devin Harris, the keys to a nice ride are in Johnson’s control.

2. TrojanGate’s Heel: After year’s of rumors, research and Reggie scandal, the NCAA is finally taking action on the USC football program. It appears that a bevy of sanctions and retroactive action will be taken against the Trojans, including a forfeit of all wins from the 2004 season, 2 year ban from postseason eligibility and  loss of scholarships. The twist on this is that this could get worse if further violations are found. These sanctions are placed before the investigation into Reggie Bush is completed, which could cause a loss of any game he participated in and the removal of both the 2004 National Championship and his Heisman Trophy award.

This is not surprising to me in any way, as the exodus from the USC athletic department has resembled the Running of the Bulls in the last few years. Key figures in this era of USC have gotten out as soon as possible, not the

"THAT KID DESERVES A RAISE!!!"

 least of which being OJ Mayo, Tim Floyd, Mike Williams and Reggie Bush. However, in saving the worst for last, is Pete Carroll. Carroll, who was undoubtably the ringleader around anything that is found, bailed as soon as this investigation looked to have real teeth. This isn’t a surprise, but it’s so obvious it’s funny. Carroll was the King of LA, running the closest thing to a pro football team LA has had since 1994. Apparently, he was running it exactly like a pro team as well, finances and all. So there was little reason to leave for SEATTLE when he had a much better gig in hand already, other than to get out the fire before he got burned. Well played, I suppose. The bright side for Trojan fans: the rebuilding process was handed to model of consistency Lane Kiffin (an ex Carroll assistant) to stick it out through the tough times. Good luck and pull that arrow out your heel anytime you’re ready.

3. Chicago Hope: The Chicago Blackhawks took home Lord Stanley’s Cup last night after beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime to bring the NHL’s title back to the Windy City for the first time in 49 years. The 49 years between championships was the longest in NHL history. It was a revival for both the franchise and the star who scored the clinching goal, Patrick Kane. Last season he was in a much different place after robbery and assault charges placed against him for assaulting and leaving a cab driver. While lifting the Cup doesn’t validate this, it certainly helps him move past it for the better. He’s only 21, I’ll cut him some slack. As for the Hawks, this win gives a city who knows all about championship dynasties and droughts a reason to look to the NHL for their Golden Fix. The Hawks, who fielded great teams for years that couldn’t overtake their rivals in Detroit, are finally drinking from the Cup (pause).

**Hit and Run**

There is much rumor that Nebraska has already accepted the Big 10’s offer to join their ranks…….World Cup referees are brushing up on their English curse words for the USA/UK World Cup opener……David Price is quietly reaching his potential and won his AL leading ninth game last night……the Cleveland Indians sold 1,000 tickets in a day when it was announced Stephen Strasburg would pitch his second game there sunday…….Justin Morneau has passed Mark Texeira in a tight AL first base All-Star ballot, voting closes July 1……..Tom Izzo discussed the Cavs job with his Michigan State squad on Wednesday…….presumptive #1 NBA pick John Wall signed a $25 million deal with Reebok……..Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson will face off again today in a rematch of Halladay’s perfect game matchup from last month.

I’m back! Here’s my view from the Cheap Seats yesterday (aka the couch):

The Chosen One has arrived....and the Wise Men fanned 14 times

1. StrasMas Season: The most awaited debut in Major League history was made yesterday when Stephen Strasberg took the mound and instantly made the lowly Washington Nationals the biggest attraction in the league. Anybody who makes an early June contest between the Nats and the Pittsburgh Pirates (who combined to finish with a 121-202 record in 2009 & the top 2 picks in the 2010 Draft), is something to see. A standing room only crowd and 200 media members were on hand to see Strasberg’s debut, one that had the subtly of thunderstorm. StrasbergMania was justified immediately and seven innings, four hits and an incredible 14 strikeouts later, the hype was more than justified. Actually, it’s probably been raised. Expectations for Strasberg are off the charts and 94 pitches later, he lifted the sky even higher. What’s even more remarkable is that during the historic debut, he made history as well, becoming the first pitcher EVER to strikeout at least 11 batters while issuing no walks. Forget the sky, maybe  space isn’t even the limit here.

2. The Raiding of the Big 12: In the last few weeks it seems that every team in the Big 12 has been courted like a swing state in the Civil War. The rumors have included the South heading west to the Pac 10, with select North Division schools being courted to the Big 10’s media grasp on the northern midwest. Now boards of directors and curators are meeting to assess their own futures, with other universities pleading with others to stay. Even the Big 12 Conference directors (who are as unpowered as a neutered dog) have somehow laid down a “final decision date” of this Friday to know where their schools are headed. The bottom line is that money will talk here, and very loudly. The Big 10 has a nearly guaranteed $20 million in media revenue waiting through their private network deal and Fox evidently is will to do a similar deal for an expanded Pac 10. The only thing holding the Big 12 together is loyalty and this is business, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on that winning out considering how “money” and “loyalty” are the “oil” and “water” of business.

3. As the Cavs Turn: In the never-ending saga of the Cleveland Cavaliers offseason, a new piece has entered the mix: Tom Izzo. Apparently Izzo has been offered a big contract to leave his program at Michigan State that pays out $6

Get used to this look in your potential padded room in Cleveland, Tommy.

 million annually over 5 years, which doubles his current take home at MSU. This sounds great, however (show of hands please): Who would take double their pay to ride into a potential train wreck? The situation in Cleveland is plain awful right now and it is all in the hands of a guy who intends to stretch it out as long as possible, LeBron James. Even when discussing his offer to Izzo, as well as the removal of GM Danny Ferry, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert had to justify that he was not making decision in accordance with LBJ’s demands. This is seems as likely to me as the sun not coming up. If you are attempting to keep the 25-year-old, 2-time MVP, greatest player in the history of your franchise, it would be ridiculous to make move he has to react to. If Izzo leaves his Top 10 program and coaches LeBron, he wins. If he leaves just coach Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison, he should be committed to the nearest Asylum. At least he could afford an extended stay.

**Hit and Run Section**

 The San Francisco 49ers got approval for a new stadium today…..Amare Stoudemire says he will opt out if Suns don’t re-up him……Derek Fisher step up big in a way for Lakers last night…..Issac Bruce will retire as a member of the St. Louis Rams today…….Top pick Bryce Harper will move to the outfield from catcher once signed, the great Boras will be pleased…….Darrelle Revis ends his holdout to join the Jets offseason training sessions……Top prospect Michael Stanton debuted for the Marlins last night with a 3 for 5 night hitting seventh……2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke fell to 1-8 with yesterday’s loss and his ERA rose to 4.05.