Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marlins dismiss Ozzie Guillen

BY David Villavicencio

The rumors have been swirling for months but speculation has become fact.

The Marlins just announced that they have dismissed manager Ozzie Guillen.They have also dismissed bench coach Joey Cora.

Earlier this afternoon, a source told me the Marlins decided to fire manager Ozzie Guillen and members of his staff. A second source confirmed that "something is up" with the Marlins but would not confirm nor deny the status of Guillen as the club's manager at that time.

Guillen just finished his first season managing the Marlins and it was a huge disappointment. The Marlins finished 69-93, last in the National League East and 29 games behind the division champion Nationals.

Many have speculated for months that owner Jeffrey Loria would consider changes to his baseball staff. Some assumed that meant Larry Beinfest and his staff in baseball operations while other believed it could be Guillen and his on-field staff that could be replaced.

Guillen had three years remaining on the $10 million contract he signed prior to the 2012 season. Beinfest, Hill and several other high ranking members of the baseball operations staff are under contract through 2015.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Khan passing first test as NFL owner

Shad Khan is facing a tough situation and handling it brilliantly
BY David Villavicencio

School is back in session but there have been tests in Jacksonville for almost a month.

Jaguars star Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out as he tries to get the Jaguars to re-negotiate his contract but team owner Shahid Khan is not giving in to MJD's demands.

Khan was quoted saying Jones-Drew's absence "doesn't even move the needle" in terms of stress. He reiterated his stance Tuesday by saying, "This is not a team about one person."

Khan has spoken out about his disdain for Jones-Drew's holdout and that prompted Jones-Drew's agent, Adisa Bakari, to give his client's side of the story.

"Maurice wants to play for an organization that wants him and for an owner who respects him and values what he brings to a team -- on the field, in the locker room and in the community," Bakari said.

Jones-Drew, who has two years remaining on his current contract, is trying to leverage the Jaguars into negotiating a long-term deal with him. Holding out for nearly a month, the 27-year-old Jones-Drew is costing himself money by not being with the team. He has accrued nearly $1 million in fines and lost bonuses from his holdout already.

The league leader in rushing yards last season, Jones-Drew has proven to be one of the premier running backs in the NFL. Jones-Drew is entering his seventh season. He has 6,854 yards rushing, 2,473 yards receiving and 74 total touchdowns. He carried a career-high 343 times last season, averaging 4.7 yards even though defenses knew he was the focal point of Jacksonville's offense.

Khan called Jones-Drew "a great player" and said "we would love for him to be back." But that does not mean that he is entitled to a new contract. Khan and general manager Gene Smith insist they have no plans to negotiate a new deal with MJD, not wanting to set a precedent of paying players with two years remaining on lucrative deals that included large signing bonuses. 

Jones-Drew may not even be on the Jags' bench this season
The Jaguars feel Jones-Drew needs to honor his current contract, after all, he agreed to it in 2009. If Jones-Drew chooses to continue his hold out, Khan is prepared to move forward without his team's star.

"Train's leaving the station. Run, get on it," Khan said.

Jones-Drew's camp has leaked word that the three-time All-Pro would be open to a trade. But Khan quickly shut down that possibility saying he was "not going to get into all the theses and hypotheses."

While I understand that every player is looking out for his best interests, I applaud Khan and the Jaguars for refusing to cave to their star's threats. Players need to be accountable.

Jones-Drew was more than happy to sign his current deal three years ago. Now it is not good enough for him because he knows he will be 29 and unlikely to land a big deal when his current one expires. He should have thought about that when he signed his current contract. He was always going to be 29 following the 2014 season. Maybe he should have signed for three years instead of five and tried to earn another big deal at age 27.

Now that Jags have all the power and all the leverage. They have a contract. If Jones-Drew doesn't show up before Week 10 of this season, he will not get credit for playing this year and the two years remaining on his deal will roll over. The Jags have nothing to lose. Some say they will lose more games without MJD. They were going to lose plenty of games with him too.

Now it is up to Jones-Drew to decide what is best for him. He already appears to be softening on his stance, saying he would be open to reconciling with the team. What he really means is he is realizing that he is not going to get what he wants and he is starting to understand that it is in his best interests to show up and collect on his current contract instead of get fined trying to get a new one.

Bravo, Shahid Khan. You already passed your first test as an NFL owner.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marlins trade Mujica & Sanchez, add prospects

Gaby Sanchez and Edward Mujica are moving to the NL Central
BY David Villavicencio

Just an hours before the trade deadline, the Marlins continued to move pieces and look towards the future.

According to MLB.com's Peter Gammons, Miami sent reliever Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for prospect Zack Cox. ESPN's Jim Bowden reported the Marlins also moved first baseman Gaby Sanchez and minor leaguer Kyle Kaminska to the Pirates for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick.

Mujica, 28, has been a serviceable middle reliever in his career but has struggled for the Marlins this season. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 2012. Mujica was 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA over 76 innings in 2011.

Cox is a talented hitter who can play 2B or 3B
Cox is a talented infielder who has struggled in his first taste of Triple-A. The Cardinals' first round pick in 2010, Cox is an offensive threat at third base though he has hit just .254 with nine homers and 30 RBI for Memphis. He hit .293 with 10 homers and 48 RBI for Double-A Springfield in 2011. He is reporting to the Marlins' Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville.

Sanchez, 28, struggled in 2012 after posting solid numbers in his first two big league seasons. The Miami native hit .202 with three homers and 17 RBI in 2012. An All-Star in 2011, Sanchez has proven capable of succeeding in the Majors, combining for 38 homers and 163 RBIs in 2010-11.

Can Hernandez figure it out in Miami?
The presence of Logan Morrison made it easier for the Marlins to move Sanchez even though Morrison has had his share struggles over the past two seasons. A career .260 hitter, Sanchez should get an opportunity to play first base in Pittsburgh, where Casey McGehee has struggled as the right-handed half of their first base platoon.

Hernandez, who will join the Marlins on Wednesday, is a former highly regarded prospect who has seen his star fade over the years. Once a key piece in the trade that sent Nate McLouth to the Braves, Hernandez has not developed the way the Pirates had hoped. The speedy 24-year-old appeared in 25 games this season with the Pirates, collecting two hits over 24 at-bats. Hernandez has hit .257 with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers, 43 runs scored and 25 RBI in Triple-A this season.

Kaminska is a 23-year-old right-handed reliever that was pitching with Double-A Jacksonville. His 6-3 record and 5.11 ERA are not impressive but his 44-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season is a positive for the Pirates organization.

With two trades already completed, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported that more are on the way. While Frisaro did not detail who would be involved, the Marlins have been trying to move first baseman Carlos Lee and catcher John Buck.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Marlins trade Hanley Ramirez to Dodgers

Ramirez is done as a Marlin
BY David Villavicencio

The news broke early Wednesday morning.

Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown reported the Marlins traded former batting champ Hanley Ramirez and left-hander Randy Choate to the Dodgers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough. The Marlins did not send any money to help cover what is left on Ramirez is contract. He is making $15 million this season and is due $31.5 million through 2014.

The fact the Marlins traded Ramirez does not come as a surprise as rumors have swirled in recent weeks of teams checking in on the three-time All Star.

Ramirez was the key talent the Marlins received in 2005 when they traded Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox. The next season, Ramirez won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

From 2008-2010, Ramirez started at shortstop for the National League in the All-Star Game. In 2009, he hit a career-best .342 to win the batting title. Ramirez was viewed by many as one of the top talents in baseball but then things began to change.

One season after leading the league in hitting, Ramirez decided to change his entire batting stance, swing and approach. The new stance and approach did not have the same results as what had previously made him a star.

Ramirez hit .300 in 2010 but many suspect that he pulled himself out of games and eventually finished the season on the Disabled List to assure that he would not finish the season batting under .300.

Everyone remembers this incident
That same season, Ramirez had one of his most infamous moments. The shortstop lollygagged after a ball he let drop in shallow left field as D-backs runners rounded the bases and scored. Then manager Fredi Gonzalez immediately removed Ramirez from the game and an ugly back and forth ensued afterwards with Ramirez questioning authority and undermining Gonzalez because he never played in the Majors.

Things only got worse for Ramirez as he posted a .243 batting average in 2011. His previous career-low was .292 as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006. Combined with a lack of effort, bad attitude, enigmatic personality and selfish tendencies, Ramirez had turned into more of a problem than a franchise cornerstone.

This season, Ramirez shifted to third base to make room for Jose Reyes. Already a bigger shortstop, the move allowed Ramirez to bulk up and prepare to put up the power numbers many expect from a third baseman. It was also expected to help his defense as Ramirez's range had dimished in recent years thanks to his size.

Despite doing a decent job at his new position, Ramirez continued to struggle at the plate. He posted a .246 average in 92 games before being traded to Los Angeles. His final at-bat with the team ended in a called third strike to end Tuesday's loss to the Braves.

The return the Marlins received for Ramirez is underwhelming. The fact that Choate was also included in the deal makes the return even worse as Choate is one of the top lefty specialists in the league. He was essentially thrown in for nothing. Or maybe he is the reason McGough was included in the deal. Either way, the Marlins received a lot less than many would expect for what they gave up.

Nathan Eovaldi was the Dodgers' 2nd best prospect
Eovaldi was considered a solid pitching prospect in the Dodgers' system but he has not have very good results in limited Major League action. The 22-year-old is just 2-8 in the Majors but he has posted a solid 3.96 ERA over 20 big league appearances (16 starts).

Similar to Jacob Turner, who the Marlins acquired on Monday in a trade with the Tigers, Eovaldi is young (22) and has had success in the minors. Where they differ is that Turner is expected to develop into a front of the rotation pitcher while Eovaldi projects more as a middle of the rotation arm.

McGough is a former fifth-round pick in 2011. The hard-throwing right-hander was 3-5 with a 3.99 ERA over 47 1/3 innings for High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. While McGough has the power arm that most look for in a late inning reliever, he was not considered a solid prospect by several outlets. McGough did not rank among the top 20 prospects in the Dodgers organization.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Selling Begins: Marlins trade Anibal & Infante to Tigers

Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante are headed to Detroit
BY David Villavicencio

Many expected the Marlins to sell at this year's trade deadline but Monday evening the anticipation became reality.

The Marlins traded right-hander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for right-hander Jacob Turner and a pair of prospects, catcher Rob Brantly and left-hander Brian Flynn. The teams also made history by swapping competitive balance draft picks. It is the first time in history that draft picks have been traded in Major League Baseball.

The trade should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Marlins recently. The Fish have lost their last five games, dropping to seven games below .500 and 11.5 games behind the division-leading Nationals. Rumblings of potential deals have increased as the team has underperformed.

Losing Sanchez hurts the Marlins' starting rotation but the right-hander is a free agent at the end of the season and the Marlins were likely to lose him to another team. Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2006, immediately upgrades a Detroit rotation that has underperformed behind ace Justin Verlander. The 28-year-old is 44-45 with a 3.75 ERA over 132 big league starts.

Infante signed a two-year deal worth $8 million prior to this season and the 30-year-old has been one of the better Marlins in 2012. Infante started off red-hot and was one of the top hitters in the Majors before injuries slowed him a bit. The 11-year veteran returns to the team that gave him his first opportunity in the big leagues. A career .276 hitter, Infante spent the first six years of his career with the Tigers.

Marlins fans initially reacted negatively when news of the trade broke. But fans may feel differently after they learn a little about what they received in return for two talented but replaceable players.
Jacob Turner

The 21-year-old Turner is the jewel of the group. The No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Turner ranked as one of MLB’s top 30 prospects in 2010, 2011, and this season according to Baseball America. He’s widely considered one of the top 10-15 pitching prospects in baseball.

Turner is 1-2 with a 8.28 ERA over 25 big league innings but Marlins fans should not be discouraged by his struggles. The fact that Turner was deemed worthy of six big league starts by age 21 should be an indicator of how highly the Tigers thought of him.

Brantly is a 22-year-old catcher with some offensive ability. He is a career .275 hitter in nearly three seasons in the minors but was batting .313 for Double-A Erie before earning a promotion to Triple-A Toledo. Brantly is an intriguing prospect because some feel the former third-round pick could develop into a solid big league. At worst, he adds catching depth to an organization that was sorely lacking it.

Flynn was a seventh-round selection in 2011. The lefty has posted solid numbers in both A-ball and High-A ball. He lost his Double-A debut on July 23, allowing five runs over five innings for the Erie SeaWolves.

Fish fans should prepare for the possibility of more trades over the next week and into August. Many believe any player other than injured outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is available for the right package.

Some obvious players that could be traded include Carlos Zambrano and Randy Choate. Both are free agents at the end of the year and could appeal to contenders. Greg Dobbs could also be moved to a team looking to bolster their bench while Justin Ruggiano could add outfield depth to a contender.

Big names like Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson are rumored to be available for the right price. Johnson is due $13.75 million in in the final season of his contract next year but a contender looking to add starting pitching could put together a nice package for the Marlins' ace.

Ramirez is making $15 million this season and is due $31.5 million over the next two seasons. The enigmatic former batting champ has struggled mightily since 2011. The Marlins seem as open as they ever have been to moving a player they once felt was the face of their franchise. Trading Ramirez is difficult because it is hard to bring back equal value. It is especially difficult because the 28-year-old's stock is lower than ever but the Marlins seem willing to move him if they get an appealing offer.

The Marlins probably want to move Ricky Nolasco and the $11.5 million he is due next season but that will be a tough sell. Nolasco is 72-59 with a 4.50 ERA since 2006. The right-hander has not matched the success he had in 2008 when he won 15 games and had a career-best 3.52 ERA.

John Buck is another player the Marlins would likely be willing to move. The veteran catcher has not lived up to the three-year, $18 million contract he signed prior to the 2011 season. Buck, who is batting .179 this season, is due $6 million next season. Teams searching for catching may look into adding Buck but only if the Marlins are willing to help pay for what is left on his contract.

One player who likely will not be moved is Heath Bell. The right-hander and his three-year, $27 million contract are nearly untradeable thanks to Bell's major struggles this season. Marlins fans looking to move on from the veteran closer should hope he returns to All-Star form because he is probably going to be in Miami for a while.

Monday's trade is likely just the beginning of what could be a very active week for the Marlins. Fans may worry that the team is going to be dismantled like it has been in the past. That may not be the worst thing as this roster has clearly underperformed from the unrealistic expectations that were placed upon it.
The Marlins had a flawed roster this season but they are already working towards an improved future. Miami started that process Monday as they added a legitimate top pitching prospect and a talented catching prospect in exchange for an impending free agent and a good but not great infielder.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thank you, Jesus!

Allen will experience this again next June after the Heat win another ring.
By David Villavicencio

Jesus Shuttlesworth has arrived.

Veteran sharpshooter and He Got Game star Ray Allen has agreed to join the Miami Heat. The 36-year-old rejected a two-year deal from the Celtics worth $12 million to join the defending champion Heat. Allen's deal with Miami is worth $6.3 million over two years.

Allen is one of the purest shooters in NBA history. The 16-year veteran is a career 40 percent shooter from three-point range and he has averaged 20 points per game for his career.

Heat owner Micky Arison broke the news of Allen's acquisition with a tweet on Friday night saying, “It’s 2:30 a.m. in London and I was just woken up with great news,” Arison posted on Twitter. “Welcome to the family, No. 20.”

Allen will be the biggest free agent acquisition Miami makes this off-season. The 10-time All-Star took the mini mid-level exception that the Heat had to offer potential free agents. All other free agents Miami acquires will have to sign for the veteran minimum that is estimated at $1.3 million.

The Heat are expected to meet with free agents Marcus Camby and Rashard Lewis over the weekend. Camby is not expected to accept the veteran minimum. If he chooses to join the Heat, many speculate that it would be via a sign and trade. Lewis is rumored to be open to signing for the minimum but interest could increase for the two-time NBA All-Star and he may choose to sign with another team for a higher salary.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/07/2885419/micky-arison-tweets-that-ray-allen.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dolphins trade Marshall to Bears, confuse everyone

BY David Villavicencio

The Dolphins have seemingly shocked NFL fans everywhere today.

Miami traded star wideout Brandon Marshall to the Bears for a pair of third-round picks. Marshall caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns in 2011 while earning his third career Pro Bowl selection.

I am not an NFL writer but I don't need to be one to know that this deal on its own makes zero sense for Miami and instantly makes them a worse team than they were 24 hours ago.

Marshall has plenty of negatives. He's a malcontent. His bipolar disorder has gotten him into plenty of issues in the past. He has had spurts of inconsistency throughout his career.

The 27-year-old came to Miami with baggage after causing havoc at the end of his time in Denver. He also instantly became the best receiver the Dolphins have had since The Marks Brothers and possibly even Paul Warfield.

Marshall is 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., and will be just 28 when this season kicks off in September. He is probably among the 10 best receivers in the game today as far as talent and is definitely in the top 20. Despite all of his negatives, the guy is very talented and still relatively young. He definitely has more value than a pair of third-round picks.

Basically, the Dolphins gave him away for pennies on the dollar.

Many speculate that Miami made this move to appease free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. It has been widely reported that Manning was not fond of the possibility of playing with Marshall.

You can almost guarantee that this trade has something to do with Miami's courting of Manning but it may be poorly timed.

Some fans are speculating that this deal sets in motion a verbal agreement with Manning that would ultimately bring him to Miami. Basically, you get rid of Marshall and I will be your quarterback.

That's fine.

Peyton Manning has earned enough respect in this league to make such a request.

But if you're the Dolphins and you are put in this possible scenario, don't you tell Manning to sign with your team and then you will move Marshall?

It only makes sense from Miami's standpoint to keep an asset like Marshall until after they bring in Manning. Once he signs, you can shop him around the league and get something for him. You might even get competing teams looking to add a wide receiver to bid against one another for the right to acquire him.

Instead, it appears like the Dolphins made some under the radar calls and struck a deal just minutes after the new league year started.

Manning and Wayne would help in the short-term but
they are not long-term solutions. They also are not guaranteed
to sign with Miami.
The immediate shock and uproar of today's trade will fade quickly if Miami signs Manning. It will be almost completely forgotten if the Dolphins can add Reggie Wayne to replace Marshall.

But adding Wayne is probably a downgrade as far as production and long-term potential. Wayne will be 34 in November. He probably only has a few years left of football in him.

Had Miami been able to add Wayne to be the second receiver with Marshall, it would have been a much better receiving group. Wayne would have been an instant upgrade over Brian Hartline and Davone Bess would have continued to flourish as a slot receiver.

But today's trade leaves Miami with holes at two receiver spots. They also have a group of free agents they are interested in bringing back. Some of those players, like nose tackle Paul Soliai, will not come cheap. Neither will Manning.

Dolphins fans might argue that they can go add a free agent wide receiver like Vincent Jackson or Mike Wallace to replace Marshall. But the truth is those players are not going to come at a discount. That could complicate things for Miami, especially if they add Manning.

After trading away Marshall, Miami is now $20 million under the salary cap. But they will have a hard time adding Manning, a top-tier free agent receiver and bringing back Soliai or some of their other valued free agents. They also need to address issues with the offensive line. There simply is not enough money to go around.

Dolphins fans will cheer if they add Manning but he cannot be what he was in Indianapolis without someone to throw to.

In his best years, he has Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne at receiver, Dallas Clark at tight end and Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai at running back.

That group has four possible Hall of Fame players (Harrison, Wayne, Clark and James) and another (Addai) who was very good for some time before falling off.

Right now, the Dolphins are offering Manning a chance to play with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline Anthony Fasano and Reggie Bush. Not exactly the type of talents Manning has been used to seeing in his huddle in the past.

Will the addition of Manning make them more productive? Probably.

But Manning is not guaranteed to sign with the Dolphins and that would leave that uninspiring group playing with Matt Moore under center.

Dolphins fans will certainly be livid then.

They'll also be staying up very late on Saturday nights to watch Matt Barkley play for USC because they certainly will not want to watch Moore and Co. play the next day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Canes Bowling Tournament Brings Back Memories

BY David Villavicencio

Last night was one of the coolest Mondays a Hurricanes fan could ask for.

The UM Sports Hall of Fame hosted their first ever Celebrity Bowling Tournament at Splitsville in The Shops at Sunset Place and it was a huge success.

The event gave Canes fans an opportunity to bowl with a former UM athlete. There was also an auction that featured signed memorabilia and a 2001 National Championship ring.

I was invited to bowl on a friend's team and we bowled with former Canes basketball star, Steve Edwards. Steve was engaging, entertaining and fun to bowl with. We all had a great time.

In addition to Edwards, there were tons of excellent former Canes athletes who were happy to interact with anyone who approached them. Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Gino Torretta was there. So were Reggie Wayne, Brett Romberg, Randall "Thrill" Hill and Bubba Franks.

Me and former Canes standout Reggie Wayne
One of this year's inductees, former offensive lineman Rich Mercier, bowled in the lane next to ours. Duane Starks, Earl Little and Darrin Smith added some defensive flair to the event. Former offensive lineman and president-elect of the UM Sports Hall of Fame KC Jones was there and so was former Canes baseball star Alex Santos.

All of the athletes were happy to take pictures, sign autographs and interact with the many Canes fans in attendance. I was able to meet many of these talented athletes that I grew up watching at the Orange Bowl, Mark Light Stadium and the Miami Arena.

As someone who has always loved the Canes, Monday's bowling event was a great opportunity to meet and interact with many of my favorite players from when I was a kid.

I hope they put the event on again next year because I am already looking forward to it.

For more pictures from the event, check out this photo gallery from procanes.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cards could be insane if they miss out on Molina

BY David Villavicencio

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Hopefully Bill DeWitt, John Mozeliak and St. Louis Cardinals have heard this quote before or they might be destined for a padded room in their future. 

It is no secret by now that the Cardinals botched their negotiations with prized free agent and superstar Albert Pujols. They low-balled him far too long and ultimately made him feel disrespected.

By the time they came up with an offer that Pujols would have deemed acceptable, the star had set his sights elsewhere and decided to join the Angels. 

Reports later surfaced that Pujols was put off by how the Cardinals treated him in their negotiations prior to Spring Training last year. He felt disrespected and had all but decided to go elsewhere when his contract expired at the end of the 2011 season.

Sure, Pujols is older and the contract he signed with the Angels will ultimately have more bad years than good ones. It was tough to hand someone such a franchise-restricting contract, even if he is the greatest player that franchise has had in decades and the best player in baseball at the moment. 

The Cardinals may have ultimately lucked out by not re-signing Pujols but it was clear the way they handled themselves in the negotiations played a huge factor in losing their biggest star.

Fast forward to present day and you will find the Cardinals in the midst of another negotiation with a soon-to-be free agent. 

Yadier Molina is set to hit the open market at the end of the season and the four-time All-Star catcher is sure to have plenty of potential suitors should he become available to the other 29 big league teams.

Who wouldn't be interested in a player that is regarded as the best defensive catcher in the game. Molina completely shuts down the opponent's running game with his cat-like reflexes and rocket arm. A four-time Gold Glove recipient, Molina is also known to call an excellent game and respected by his teammates as a leader in the clubhouse.

But those are just his defensive accolades. Molina can hit too.

The 29-year-old has come a long way offensively. When he first came up, Molina was an offensive liability. But hard work and development have turned him into one of the better hitting catchers in baseball. He has hit over .300 twice and over .290 in three of the past four seasons. 
Molina homers to win 2006 NLCS

Molina has shown steady improvement offensively and is coming off his best season at the plate. In 2011, Molina hit .305 with 32 doubles, 14 home runs and 65 runs-batted-in. All four of those numbers are career-highs.

Yadi is also a "clutch" hitter. I hate to use that term but Molina does seem to rise to the occasion. He is a career .309 hitter in the postseason and played a key role in both the 2006 and 2011 postseasons that ended in Cardinals championships. 

Clearly, Molina has a lot going for him as a potential free agent and that also gives him a lot of leverage in negotiations. He has already said he would not give the Cardinals a hometown discount and really has no need to do so. 

He will be likely be the best free agent catcher available in free agency unless the Braves shock the world and decide to decline Brian McCann's option for the 2013 season. Other notable free agent backstops include Ryan Doumit, Russell Martin, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, A.J. Pierzynski and Yorvit Torrealba. Joining McCann in the group with pending options are Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Chris Iannetta, Miguel Olivo and Carlos Ruiz.

That is a lot of catching options that could be available at the end of the year. The Cardinals might look at that list and say, "We will be alright with any of those guys." But think logically and the list doesn't look as appealing to them.

Atlanta is probably going to pick up McCann's $12 million option or extend him. 

The Diamondbacks will surely want to bring back Montero. He would be 29 on Opening Day 2013 and can really hit. That seems like a no-brainer. 

The Rangers will likely want to bring Napoli back after the huge year he had in 2011. If he can repeat his offensive success, he will be very expensive in free agency. However, the likelihood of that is slim as Napoli never hit better than .273 before posting a .320 average last season. Even if he does hit again, he does not compare to Molina defensively and would cost as much, if not more, than Molina.

The rest of the group is not very exciting. 

Barajas, Blanco, Olivo, Pierzynski, Ruiz and Torrealba will all be 34 or older on Opening Day 2013. For most of those guys, their best days are clearly behind them.

Doumit cannot defend the catcher position full-time and has had a slew of injuries and inconsistent performance. 

Iannetta has never lived up to his promise and might be destined for reserve duty if he doesn't pick it up offensively soon.

Martin, like Molina, will be 30 on Opening Day 2013. He is a clear downgrade from Yadi, both offensively and defensively, and would not be the greatest consolation prize should the Redbirds end up with him as Molina's replacement. Also, it seems unlikely that he will hit free agency as he is in discussions with the Yankees about a three-year extension.

What our very brief look at the other free agent catchers proves is that the Cardinals will likely end up with a major downgrade behind the plate if they cannot come to terms with Molina. 

Add to that the fact that they do not have any everyday catchers close to the big leagues (no disrespect to Tony Cruz, Bryan Anderson and Koyie Hill) and you find that St. Louis really needs to get a deal with Molina done.

But you might be asking yourselves about other potential free agents the Cardinals will need to replace.

Beyond Molina, the Cardinals have just four players set to be come free agents at the end of the year.

Lance Berkman will be a free agent at the end of the year but he may be easily replaced. The Cards already have Allen Craig in the fold. Prospect Matt Adams is expected to be ready by 2013. Mark Hamilton, who has had success in the minors but has not hit much in two big league callups is also waiting for a chance. 

The Cardinals also have a pair of talented third baseman in the minors in Zack Cox and Matt Carpenter. If either proves ready for the big leagues, the Cards could consider shifting David Freese across the diamond and fill the void that way. 

Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook are both set to become free agents at the end of the year and that might be addition by subtraction. While Lohse and Westbrook are serviceable, bottom of the rotation arms, they will combine to make over $20 million in 2012. That is a lot of money to pay for your fourth and fifth starters. 

Combine that with the likelihood that top prospect Shelby Miller will be more than ready for the big leagues by 2013 and you have already replaced one starter with someone who many expect to be much better and still have about $19.5 million unspent.

Add in Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Jordan Swagerty and Brandon Dickson and you have plenty of good, young talent to fill the other spot and still have $19 million to spend on Molina and the rest of your roster.

The final free agent in J.C. Romero and he is highly replaceable. It seems like every year, lefty specialists are wearing a different uniform so finding a new one would not be difficult. Internal options are available as well with prospect John Gast ready and waiting for an opportunity. Gast could also factor in as a starter if the Cardinals wanted to use him that way.

So it seems obvious that the Cardinals will have money at their disposal to re-sign Molina. It also seems like they will be able to upgrade internally to replace their departing free agents. 

Will Molina be wearing a different cap a year from now too?
Now it's just a matter of how they choose to handle the negotiations with Molina. Will they toy with these negotiations like they did with Pujols or be aggressive and try to get a deal done? Could a low-ball offer ultimately push Molina away from St. Louis like it did with Albert? 

No one knows for sure but it is clear that they had one type of outcome already with their dillydallying negotiations. Do they think things will end differently this time?

I guess it's a matter of sanity.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Marlins Caravan stops for a little golf

BY David Villavicencio

The Marlins took time to help a great cause today by hosting the Marlins Celebrity Golf Classic at Miccosukee Golf and Country Club in Miami. All proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Miracle League of Miami-Dade County.

It was the tenth consecutive year that Marlins players, front office executives and local sports personalities will tee it up in support of the Miracle League of Miami-Dade County.

The Miracle League of Miami-Dade provides the opportunity for children with mental and/or physical challenges to play baseball on special custom designed rubber turf fields for their protection and accommodations for wheelchairs and walkers.

Beyond helping out a worthy cause, the tournament provided opportunities to see the players up close. It also gave newcomers like Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano a chance to get to know some of their new teammates.

Speaking of Zambrano, I spoke with Big Z about what it felt like to be a Marlin and he could not be happier. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is thrilled for his new opportunity and cannot wait to get the season started. Read more on Zambrano here.

Anibal Sanchez is another player I had the chance to talk to. Fresh off his win in arbitration, Sanchez is excited for what he expects to be a big 2012 season. He will play on a one-year deal in his final season under team control and the Marlins have said they are not interested in offering him an extension at this time.

Always a pro, Sanchez is not letting his contract status get in the way of his preparation. Read more on Sanchez here.

Like most of the Marlins, Sanchez appears to be in excellent shape heading into camp. Edward Mujica is another player who is in good form. Mujica appears to have lost some weight in the off-season as he prepares for his second year as a Marlin.

Hanley Ramirez also is looking as strong as ever. The former batting champ appears to have bulked up a bit before he makes the transition to third base. Ramirez declined to talk to the media but new shortstop Jose Reyes said he is excited about the potential the left side of the Marlins' infield possesses.

You can see some pictures from today's event on my colleague, Joe Capozzi's blog.  New Closer Heath Bell's outfit was a hit. Mujica said that two years ago, Bell wore a similar outfit to a Padres golf tournament only it was black and yellow and made Bell looks like a bumble bee. This year's bright green ensemble brought back memories of the late Payne Stewart.

Stay tuned for more Marlins coverage from me as Spring Training gets going. The Fish will report on February 22 and start playing games on March 5.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Is missing out on Cespedes really a bad thing for the Marlins?

BY David Villavicencio

By now you've heard the news. Yoenis Cespedes agreed to terms on a four-year, $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics.

Judging by the response from Marlins fans on Twitter, you are probably still up in arms about this news as you read this sentence.

Understandably so, you are frustrated that one of the hottest names of the winter will be playing elsewhere this summer. It probably irks you even more that that Marlins have been linked to Cespedes since his ridiculous workout video was posted on Youtube months ago.

You had him penciled in your Opening Day lineup, playing center field and hitting right behind Mike Stanton. Visions of prodigious power numbers and a potential run at the Phillies filled your head for months.

Now your mind is filled with curse words and frustration as Cespedes will suit up for the lowly Athletics instead of your beloved Marlins.

Well let me put your mind at ease for a bit.

It's not the end of the world.

The Marlins will still be a competitive team in 2012.

Missing out on Cespedes might actually be a good thing.

Wait a minute, what?!

Did he just say missing out on a guy who runs shirtless behind a car in the Dominican Republic, can leg press a small country and hits batting practice home runs so impressive that they look like any other big leaguer's BP home runs was a good thing?

This Villavicencio guy has lost his mind!

Before you call the people running the looney bin, give me a minute and hear me out.

Cespedes is a relative unknown. What I mean by that is there is not much to go off to evaluate him. He hasn't played against top competition very much and has seen his star rise while dominating in his native Cuba.

I know Cuba has a reputation of playing high quality baseball but the truth is he is playing in a league that most baseball people consider equivalent to A-ball here in the minor leagues. That is a long, long LONG way from the big leagues in terms of competition.

His unknown status is increased by the fact that he is Cuban so he is secluded on an island that people cannot readily scout. Big league teams have academies and scouts in Dominican Republic and Venezuela and they also scour Puerto Rico looking for top talent year-round. But they cannot do that in Cuba and really have no incentive to do so because they can't sign anyone from Cuba until they defect.

This does not mean that big league teams are out of the loop when it comes to Cuban players but they definitely do not have as much information and visual scouting time on those players than they would on guys who come from other Latin American countries.

When a team signs a kid out of Venezuela or the Dominican Republic, they have typically spent a ton of time scouting him, evaluating him and trying to project what he can ultimately become as a ballplayer. There are no guarantees that the kid fulfills those projections but they can at least take an educated guess at what they are getting when they invest money and resources into the player.

With Cespedes, they have what they have seen in international competitions such as the World Baseball Classic, a workout held in the Dominican Republic, a small sample size in Winter Ball this year and that ridiculous video. Let's break these down one at a time.

International tournaments are an interesting place to evaluate talent because you get the opportunity to see people against different levels of competition. In Cespedes' case, you can see him go against some of the best baseball talent in the world. An opportunity to see him against players from the United States, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Japan would be great because we can see how he handles tougher competition.

Cespedes excelled in the 2009 WBC, hitting .458 with a double, three triples, and two home runs. He posted an impressive 1.480 OPS while helping Cuba advance to the second round of the tournament.

You look at those numbers and you have to be salivating because he absolutely crushed top international competition. But if you look closer, you'll see he didn't face very good competition at all.

Cespedes and his Cuban teammates played in Pool B with Mexico, Australia and South Africa. Those are not three hot beds of baseball talent. Delve deeper into his experience in Pool B and you'll find the closest thing he faced to a big league pitcher was Australia's Damian Moss. The lefty pitched for the Braves, Giants, Orioles and Devil Rays in his career but was five years removed from his final big league appearance when he gave up a homer to Cespedes in the WBC.

But then came the playoffs. Cespedes went 2-for-4 against Japan. Daisuke Matsuzaka started that game and Hisashi Iwakuma also pitched in it. That's two big league pitchers. I can't find if he got a hit off of either pitcher but that is just one game and it is too small of a sample to take positively or negatively. For the sake of this argument, let's say it was a good sign to see a good game against Japan.

In his next game he tripled off of Mexico's Francisco Rodriguez. Not K-Rod but this guy. Still, Cespedes had success against a guy who is now a big leaguer. Another positive.

In his final game in the 2009 WBC, Cespedes tripled off of Iwakuma. If you don't recognize the name, you will when you watch him pitch this year for the Mariners. Iwakuma failed to agree to terms with Oakland last winter so he returned to Japan before signing with Seattle this off-season. He is expected to be an impact Japanese import for the Mariners.

So Cespedes got a grand total of four hits off of Major League talent in the 2009 WBC. I know it is a very small sample size but that kind of makes those gaudy numbers look a little less impressive doesn't it?

Next on the list are his workouts in the Dominican Republic. These were open to any big league team interested in taking a look at what Cespedes was about. Obviously I didn't attend the workouts but I know that any workout is meant to showcase a player. They put Cespedes in the best position to succeed and showcase his strengths as a player.

To give you a comparison, I present JaMarcus Russell and his pro day workout at LSU. We all know Russell was a colossal bust in the NFL but he looked all-world in his pro day. They showcased his incredible arm strength and had him throw familiar routes to familiar receivers. He was put in a situation that made him look like a lock to be a future star.

You have to believe Cespedes' agent, Adam Katz, and his adviser, Edgar Mercedes, did the same for their client in his workouts. They showcased him as a physical specimen, hitting batting practice home runs of epic proportions and running like a world class sprinter. You're supposed to look good in a workout. Cespedes did that. But that doesn't mean he will become a good big leaguer.

Now let's briefly examine his experience in the Dominican Winter League. The DWL is a competitive winter league that is full of big leaguers and guys close to the big leagues. It is definitely viewed as a higher level of competition than the Cuban League Cespedes dominated.

Only this time, Cespedes was getting dominated instead of dominating. It was just 10 games but Cespedes looked terrible. He went 5-for-35 with one home run and 10 strikeouts. That is a putrid performance to say the least.

Is it indicative of future failure? Not necessarily.

Cespedes had not played in competitive games for a long time so rust was certainly a factor but he did look lost at the plate. He struggled to hit breaking pitches and had a very long swing. Could that be a result of being rusty? Maybe but that is the same long swing you saw in the WBC and in his video. Seems to me like the long swing is the actual swing. Can that be corrected? Probably but you don't know for sure and you don't know if he will be the same power hitter if he does correct his flaws. That should definitely be a concern.

Finally, we have his scouting video. This might be the least informative 20 minutes you could find on Cespedes. You don't learn much that is actually useful from this video.

He hits a ton of batting practice home runs. Fantastic! Every big leaguer does that. Even guys like Emilio Bonifacio can hit homers on every pitch in batting practice if they wanted to. In fact, Ichiro has a reputation of being one of the most impressive hitters in batting practice in terms of home run length and you never see him do that in a game.

He runs really fast shirtless behind a car. Outstanding! Glad to know he would have no trouble running on South Beach on his weekends off.

He leg presses every weight in the Dominican Republic and then a few Dominicans themselves. Great! Nice to know he can pinch hit for my jack if I ever get a flat tire.

You barely see him do any defensive work and when you do see him play the outfield, he is messing around and catching balls behind his back. You never see his form or his range. That is something that you'd like to see from someone who is a potential center fielder. If his range is limited, he is not as valuable because he won't be able to play center field. You also never see him throw. Kind of important for an outfielder who is supposed to have a strong and accurate arm.

The video did a great job of making Cespedes an internet sensation but did little to make him seem like a potential big league star. It hardly answered any questions surrounding his potential for success in the Majors.

Speaking of potential success in the Majors, scouts aren't sure what to make of it.

Having spent three years covering Major League Baseball, I have been fortunate enough to get to know a bunch of scouts around the league and they are all split on Cespedes.

They all see potential for stardom but they also see plenty of bust in Cespedes. They see the holes in the swing and the long swing. They question whether he can truly play center field. They wonder if he will develop into a true impact bat or if he will be a third or fourth outfielder. The scouts have a lot of questions and they see a lot of flaws in Cespedes' game.

Will Cespedes play in the Majors? Absolutely.

Will he live up to the hype and now the contract that came with it? Probably not.

Most baseball people I have spoken to have Cespedes pegged to be a .250-.270 hitter that will hit 20-25 homers and strike out a lot. A bunch of baseball people are confident he will not be able to defend in center field and will ultimately end up playing in one of the corners.

It was those opinions coming from highly knowledgeable baseball men that first got me thinking that signing Cespedes would not be a wise investment.

As I considered their opinions and gathered more information, I began to form my own opinion of Cespedes. It seemed clear that he was far more likely to be the next Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa, Hee Seop Choi or Kenji Johjima than the next Ichiro, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez or Kendry Morales.

It appears that the success rate for these big name international free agents is not nearly as high as you'd like it to be. Even if Cespedes became a solid big leaguer like Livan Hernandez or Jose Contreras, that would be a disappointment because you expected so much more from him. You had built up this larger than life image of him and were not going to be satisfied until he became a potential MVP candidate.

Ultimately, I became convinced that signing Cespedes was going to cost too much for what the reasonable expected return would be. He simply would not live up to the hype and would never be that major impact bat that teams are always looking for.

Despite spending all of this time mentioning the issues with Cespedes, I want to be clear. I am not bashing him nor do I have anything against him. I am happy that he was able to sign a lucrative contract and I hope he proves me and all the others who question if he will ever be a true star wrong. I just am not confident that he will be able to do so.

But I'll tell you one thing that I am confident about.

I am confident that the Marlins may have just dodged a $36 million bullet.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Canes snag a stud DB

BY David Villavicencio

Tracy Howard is staying home.

The top-rated cornerback in the country announced he would play for the hometown Hurricanes and join a group of freshman defensive backs that could see a ton of playing time next season.

Howard will be a candidate to play early and potentially start as a freshman. Miami does not have any standouts returning at corner and Howard is expected to be the type of player that can make an impact from the minute he steps on a college campus.

While Howard is the highest rated corner Miami has signed, there are several other outstanding talents that will be joining him as freshmen next season.

Deon Bush from Columbus High School in Miami is a big, physical corner that could pair with Howard to form one of the best cornerback tandems in the country by the time their college careers are done.

Vernon Davis and Larry Hope, two more local cornerbacks, will have a chance to earn some playing time early as well. Davis was a shutdown corner for Miami Coral Reef and Hope is a talented corner from Miami American.

Tracy Howard shows the world what it's all about
The Canes also picked up three more corners from outside their backyard.

Antonio Crawford is one of the newest additions to Miami's class. The corner from Plant HS is Tampa, Fla. committed to Miami following a visit this past weekend. Previously committed to Georgia Tech, Crawford has looked impressive on his highlight film and stood out when he covered future teammate Malcolm Lewis in this year's state title game.

Ladarius Gunter is a Junior College transfer that is expected to play early. At 6-foot-2, Gunter can match up with an opponent's biggest receiver and he can use his 4.4 speed to run with their fastest one too.

Nate Dortch is another bigger cornerback at 6-foot-1. Dortch hails from South Fort Myers HS and he is expected to add depth and develop into a contributor in the defensive backfield over his career.

Coach Al Golden addressed a huge need at defensive back in this class. With Howard, Bush, Davis and the rest of those talented corners coming in, Miami's secondary could become a strength very soon.

National Signing Day: A College Football fan's Christmas

BY David Villavicencio

National Signing Day is here!

In a few hours, high school seniors from across the country will announce their college choices and fax in their letters of intent.

NSD is a holiday for college football fans. It's kind of like Christmas. You know what most of your presents are going to be but there are always a few surprises.

Signing Day is no different as most schools have the majority of their recruiting class committed. Those young men will fax in their letters of intent and officially join their school's Class of 2016.

But like Christmas, there are some surprise gifts that you may not know about. Those come by way of announcements from undecided players. NSD is full of these announcements that fans from across the country will be eagerly awaiting.

Fans will all be hoping the talented player will "make the right decision" and choose their school over their bitter rival. Some will be happy and others will be disappointed. Those emotions are a part of NSD that every college football fan experiences.

I covered National Signing Day a few years in a row while I was in college. I was at Miami Northwestern when Tommy Streeter and Brandon Washington picked the Canes. I was also at Booker T. Washington when Brandon Harris picked Miami that same year. I was at Killian the day Lamar Miller announced he would join the lineage of great Hurricanes running backs three years ago.

While I have plenty of good memories from covering National Signing Day, I also remember some announcements that did not go in favor of my beloved Hurricanes. I was at Pace the day Kayvon Webster decided to join two of his high school teammates and sign with USF after being committed to Miami for nearly a year.

Tomorrow will be be an interesting National Signing Day for the Hurricanes. It will be the first full class for Al Golden and it is a good one. Coach Golden addressed many needs and has pulled in a ton of top talent. Local stars like Duke Johnson and Deon Bush are just some of the headliners in Golden's class but he could be adding some more.

Miami is in the running for a pair of big time talents that will be announcing their decision on NSD and many believe they will get at least one of them. Cornerback Tracy Howard will announce his intentions early Wednesday morning while offensive lineman Avery Young will tell the world where he is going to school in the afternoon.

Even if Miami misses out on both talented players, they should be commended for their talented class. Coach Golden and his staff did an excellent job of recruiting what is expected to be a pivotal class for the Golden regime. This year's recruits will go a long way towards determining how soon the Hurricanes return to national prominence and that is something every Canes fan is excited about.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Former Marlin suspended for PEDs

BY David Villavicencio

A failed test for performance-enhancing drugs carries the same penalty whether you fail for one PED or multiple.

Dustin Richardson must have known this because the former Marlins reliever was suspended 50 games for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Typically, you hear of a player failing for one PED. Sometimes he takes two substances, usually an amphetamine and something else. Richardson failed for five.

The left-hander's test results showed he had tested positive for an amphetamine, Letrozole and metabolite, Methandienone metabolite, Methenelone and metabolite, and Trenbolone and metabolite.

Richardson did not pitch in the Majors last year. He compiled a 4.79 ERA over 62 innings while spending time with the Marlins and Braves Triple-A clubs in 2011. The left-hander has thrown just 16 1/3 big league innings in his career.

Acquired by the Marlins via trade in January 2011, Richardson was the alternative to letting Andrew Miller go for nothing. After the Marlins designated him for assignment in June 2011, it seems like a box of baseballs would have been more useful.

He was picked up by the Braves and finished the season at Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 6.00 ERA over 30 innings. Atlanta released him earlier this month, making him a free agent.

Richardson's underwhelming numbers and unimpressive stuff were going to make it difficult for him to find work this off-season. A 28-year-old with his attributes is nothing more than organizational depth.

Now that he has a 50-game suspension attached to him, it should only be more difficult as he cannot serve his purpose as a minor league roster filler.

Richardson cannot begin serving his suspension until he signs with a big league team. At this point, it may never happen but that failed PED test is one of the more memorable ways to round out a career.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Marlins add Carlos Zambrano

By David Villavicencio

The Marlins have been in search of a starting pitching upgrade since the final out of the 2011 season was recorded.

They got a big upgrade when they signed Mark Buehrle and now have added an interesting arm in Carlos Zambrano.

Miami did not have to give up much to acquire the three-time All-Star. The Marlins sent young but inconsistent right-hander, Chris Volstad to the Cubs for Big Z and $15 million. The Fish will have to pay the remaining $3 million left on Zambrano's contract this season.

Zambrano was one of the top pitchers in the National League just a few years ago. He finished in the top 5 in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2004, 2006 and 2007. He won 10 or more games every year from 2003 thru 2008 and led the league in wins in 2006 with 16.

Despite his high walk totals, Zambrano managed to escape any potential damage for most of his career. He's posted an ERA of 3.95 or lower every season from 2001 thru 2010. His career-best ERA of 2.75 was fourth-best in the NL in 2004.

But things have changed for Zambrano in recent years and he became more well known for his violent temper and than his pitching accolades. The right-hander really struggled in 2011, posting a career-worst 4.82 ERA. His nine wins, 101 strikeouts and 145 2/3 innings pitched were all nearly career-lows as well.

To make matters worse, Zambrano quit on his team after getting tattooed by the Braves for eight runs over 4 1/3 innings on August 12. The big right-hander cleaned out his locker and announced he was retiring after that start. When he thought better of it, he said he wanted to return but the Cubs would not have him back. Chicago decided they were better off without the volatile starter and their relationship was irreparable.

Even with a new regime in place led by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Zambrano appeared destined for a trade this off-season and the Marlins were immediately linked to the right-hander thanks to their new manager, Ozzie Guillen. The two Venezuelans have reportedly been friends for many years and Guillen even hinted at interest in his fellow countryman since being hired as the Marlins skipper. With Miami starved for pitching upgrades and the Cubs anxious to dump Zambrano's problems on someone else, a trade between the two clubs seemed natural.

The acquisition of Zambrano is an interesting one. On the surface it appears to be low-risk/high-reward with the Marlins hoping Zambrano can return to form in a contract year. They also gave up a player in Volstad that had not lived up to expectations over the years. The former first-rounder appeared to regress after an impressive debut in 2008.

At just 21, Volstad went 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA over 14 starts. Many expected him to continue to develop into a top pitching talent but it just never happened for him. He struggled mightily over his next three years and was demoted multiple times to the minors to try and fix his problems. Upon returning to the Majors, Volstad would show flashes of promise before reverting to the inconsistencies that caused him to fail.

Volstad is still young (25) and may benefit from a change of scenery and new philosophy. One thing is for sure, he better learn to keep the ball down now. The right-hander surrendered 70 home runs over the last three seasons. A smaller ballpark like Wrigley Field is not going to help him keep the ball out of the stands.

Losing Volstad is not a big deal for the Marlins as they have multiple pitchers who can fill the fifth starter role he was penciled into. But Volstad was a guy who got along well with his teammates and generally was a good fit in the clubhouse.

Zambrano has been a polarizing figure over the years. While some say he gets along well with his teammates, he has been portrayed as a cancer in Chicago for years. That may be more media fabrication than fact but it is obvious that he has had several run-ins with teammates in the past.

The presence of Guillen is expected to be good for Zambrano as the two are believed to have a lot of respect for each other and many believe Guillen will ultimately keep Zambrano in line.

While that may be the case, there is also the chance that the two highly volatile personalities can clash and ultimately do more harm than good to the young and emerging Marlins. What will actually happen remains to be seen but it will definitely be interesting to follow that dynamic in 2012.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ten years ago seems like forever

It's been a long time since this happened. Ten years, to be exact.
BY David Villavicencio

A full decade has passed since the last time the Miami Hurricanes won a national championship in football.

Some would argue that it really should be nine years and that the Canes were robbed against Ohio State but I think everyone would agree that it has been far too long since Miami was at the pinnacle of the college football landscape.

The 2001 Canes were the greatest team in college football. People will argue that their own school's team from whatever year is the best ever but I can't think of any team that was more dominant than the group led by legendary quarterback Ken Dorsey and the incomparable Ed Reed.

Miami's football program looks nothing like it did ten years ago. They aren't even close to what they had from 2000-2002. No one could touch Miami's talent in that period. No one has come close to building what they had back then either.

Just because Miami is rebuilding doesn't mean that it won't return to national prominence. The turn around has taken longer than anyone had hoped, expected or would have liked but the Canes' return to greatness will happen.

Many believe Miami will get there under Al Golden's tutelage. No one knows for sure if that will be the case but Golden definitely has a plan in place to bring the Canes back to where they belong.

Proud Miami fans and alumni like me will have to endure some more tough years before we get there but we are all confident that it will happen again.

People said the Canes would never recover from probation and they proceeded to build the greatest team college football has ever seen.

Even with potential NCAA sanctions looming and a decade of less than stellar results by Miami's standards, we still know we will be back on top again one day. Coach Golden and his staff will not accept anything less than complete success.

Miami's future will soon mirror its past success. Until then, let's remember the greatness that was the 2001 team with some highlights of their victory over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl exactly 10 years ago today.