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Tag:Milwaukee Brewers
Posted on: February 24, 2012 5:50 pm
 

K-Rod digs Milwaukee: "I want to make that clear"

PHOENIX -- Meanwhile, over in the non-Ryan Braun corner of the clubhouse Friday, former closer Francisco Rodriguez took time out from contemplating a lawsuit against his former agents to report for duty as the 2012 Brewers' set-up man.

In what could be termed as a mild surprise, Rodriguez was smiling and appeared happy. Once intending to declare free agency over the winter and find a job as a closer, K-Rod wound up discovering a tepid market and wound up accepting a one-year, $8 million deal from the Brewers.

Unhappy a year ago because he did not pitch in one save opportunity after being traded to Milwaukee on July 12, Rodriguez again is slated to pitch the eighth innings while Milwaukee closer John Axford works the ninth innings.

Though Rodriguez is contemplating a malpractice and fraud suit against former agents Paul Kinzer and Arn Tellem of the Wasserman Media Group because they failed to file a no-trade provision on his behalf when he pitched for the Mets, he emphasized that he is not unhappy to be returning to Milwaukee.

"I want to make that clear," said Rodriguez, who had the Brewers listed among 10 teams he could not be traded to in the paperwork that was never filed. "Some newspapers said I did not want to come here, and that's not the point.

"Three years ago when they asked me about the list, it was not that I did not want to come to this city or this team, but the closer was Trevor Hoffman. It had nothing to do with the fact that I did not want to come to Milwaukee.

"That's true."

Because of Hoffman's presence, Rodriguez explained, he placed Milwaukee on his no-trade list because he never intended to pitch for a team on which he would not close.

"I'm honored and happy to be here," Rodriguez insisted. "If I didn't like the city, trust me, I'd go my separate way."

Sunblock day? Great day. It's heating up in the desert, close to 80 degrees. You want to see Cactus League clubs, you'd better slather on the sunscreen.

Likes: Looking forward to serving as a panelist at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism on Monday night. I'll be joining Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Janie McCauley of the Associated Press and Bob Nightengale of USA Today in a panel discussion talking about covering spring training. ... Cool scene with the Rangers with Yu Darvish in camp. His parents are really nice folks. ... Meatballz Italian Deli in Peoria. Had the eggplant parmesan the other night and it was great. And I don't say that lightly: I've never before had eggplant parmesan. But it was Ash Wednesday, and I was going meatless, so I skipped the chicken parmesan. ... The shrimp creole at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Phoenix. ... Sirius/XM Satellite radio's E Street Channel. Been digging the unveiling of a new track each day from Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming Wrecking Ball record.

Dislikes: Grady Sizemore, hurt again in Cleveland. Poor guy, and poor Indians. What was shaping up as a brilliant career now looks certain to fall way short of that.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"

-- John Prine, Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:51 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 2:27 pm
 

'Bet my life the substance never entered my body'

PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun was forceful, emotional and relieved during a 23-minute session with reporters here Friday in his first public comments since his positive performance-enhancing drug test was leaked in December and since he was exonerated and had a potential 50-game suspension overturned by an arbiter on Friday.

Some highlights from his 13-minute opening statement:

•  "This was the biggest challenge I've ever faced in my life."

•  "I've tried to respect the process even though the confidentiality of the process was breeched early on> I've tgried to handle the situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that's who I am and that's how I've always lived my life. If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally, I'd be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it.' By no means am I perfect. But if I've ever made mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibility for my actions. I truly believe in my heart and would bet my life that the substance never entered my body at any point."

•  "I've always had tremendous respect for the game of baseball. ... I've put the best interests of the game ahead of the best interests of myself. And that hasn't been easy. There were a lot of times when I wanted to come out and tell the entire story and attack everybody as I've been attacked, as my name's been dragged through the mud, as everything I've ever worked for in my entire life has been called into question. There were a lot of times I wanted to tell the entire story but at the end of the day I recognized what's best for the game of baseball, and I put that ahead of what was best for myself."

•  "I could have never, ever envisioned being in this position today discussing this subject. ... I learned a long time ago to stop questioning life. I believe that everything that's thrown at us, there's a reason for. I've yet to figure out exactly what the reason for this is, but I don't question that."

•  "I've always stood up for what it right. Today's for everybody who has ever been wrongly accused, and for everybody who's ever had to stand up for what is right."

•  "In spite of the fact that there have been many inaccurate, erroneous and completely fabricated stories about this issue, I've maintained the integrity of the confidentiality of the process. There's never been a personal medical issue, I've never had an STD [sexually-transmitted disease], many of the stories that were erroneously reported by the intial network [were wrong], and it's sad and it's disappointing that this has become a PR battle and people continue to leak information that's inaccurate."

•  "We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day the truth prevailed. I'm a victim of a process that failed in the way that it was applied to me in this case. As players, we're held to a standard of 100 percent perfection regarding the program, and everybody associated with that program should be held to the same standard. We're a part of a process where we're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent. ... if we're held to that standard, it's only fair that everybody else is held to that exact same standard."

•  "This is my livelihood, my integrity, my character, this is everything I've ever worked for in my life being called into question. We need to make sure we get it right. If you're going to be in a position where you're 100 percent guilty until being proven innocent, you cannot mess up."

•  Braun said he was tested on Oct. 1, following Game 1 of the NL Division Series against Arizona in Milwaukee, and was made aware that he had tested positive on Oct. 19. At that point, he said, he had a conversation with representatives from the Players' Assn. "I expressed to them that I have not done anything that could have led to this test result. I told them, 'I promise you on anything that's ever meant anything to me in my life, the morals, the virtues, the values by which I've lived in my 28 years on this planet, I did not do this. I told them I would be an open book. I opened up my life to them. I told them I'd be willing and happy to take any test to prove to them I did not do this."

•  "At the end of the day, I know the truth. My friends, family, teammates, the Milwaukee Brewers organization and everybody who knows me knows the truth. At the point that I told the Players' Assn. about the positive test, they told me that the results were three times higher than any number in the history of drug testing."

•  "At that point I was able to prove to them through contemporaneously documented recordings that I literally didn't gain a single pound. When we're in Milwaukee, we weigh in once or twice a week. Our times are recorded every time we run down the line, first to third, first to home, I literally didn't get one tenth of a second faster. My workouts have been virtually the exact same for six years. I didn't get one percent stronger, I didn't work out more often, I didn't have any additional power or any additional arm strength. All of those things are documented ... if anything had changed, I wouldn't be able to go back and pretend like they didn't change."

•  "I explained I'm 27 years old, I'm just entering my prime, I have a guaranteed contract for nine years, I've been tested over 25 times in my career, at least three times this season prior to this test, and an additional time when I signed my contract including an extensive physical, a blood test, everything you can imagine. ... They said, 'That's great, we believe you, the other side believes you, none of this makes any sense to anybody.'"

•  "I want everybody to ask themselves this question: If you guys went to go get a physical, something you've done 20, 25 other times in your life, and three weeks later they came back and said you were terminally ill with a disease and it made no sense to you. You said I feel perfectly fine, nothing's different than it's ever been, this doesn't make any sense, and you look back at the process and you find that your doctor decided to take a urine sample home for a 44-, 48-hour period, and there's no documentation as to what happened, you don't know if he decided to leave it in the trunk of his car, where it could have been or what could have potentially happened to it during that period of time, I assure you that you would never go back to that doctor, and you would demand a re-test."

•  "Ultimately as I sit here today, the system worked because I was innocent and I was able to prove my innocence."

•  "I can't get into many details of the process because it's supposed to be confidential, and because of ongoing litigation, and because I'm considering all of my legal options, there may be some questions I can't answer."
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 24, 2012 12:01 pm
 

Brewers player rep: Testing problems in Milwaukee

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- As Ryan Braun reported to camp on Friday, Brewers player representative Chris Narveson said there have been issues with drug testing before in Milwaukee.

Specifically, with one of his own tests shortly after last summer's All-Star Game.

"Mine was more of a failure to communicate that I was getting tested," Narveson said Friday morning. "You're walking out the door in your street clothes an hour-and-a-half after the game and they come up to you and say, 'We forgot to tell you, you're getting tested.

"Errors like that can't happen."

Narveson added: "It's interesting, that's two instances for us with the same group of guys testing. .... One time can be an aberration."

The pitchers said that after he was collared late for testing when leaving the ballpark after already dressing, that they tightened things up "and tried to make sure they notified us" more promptly after a game.

Still, Narveson said the players firmly support drug testing. They just want things done right.

"I don't think there are flaws in the system," Narveson said. "If they follow protocol the whole way, I don't think we have an issue."

But he pointed out that the testers did not follow protocol with him. And, of course, a large part of Braun's dispute was that his specimen sat at the tester's home for more than 48 hours before being shipped where it was supposed to go.

"Ryan's sample sat for 48 hours," Narveson said. "Anybody can do anything [to] it."

Narveson and several Brewers also sharply criticized the system for allowing a leak in the first place. News of Braun testing positive for synthetic testosterone leaked to ESPN in December.

"Now that we look back, if this didn't get out, nobody hears about it," Narveson said. "Braun comes in today and there's four or five reporters saying, 'How was your off-season?'"
Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 8:44 pm
 

What Braun says could save his reputation

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ryan Braun beat the rap. But how bad of a hit did his reputation take in the process? And will a murky guilt-by-association tag hover over the rest of his career?

Well, that all depends. And it depends enormously on what he says when he arrives in Milwaukee's spring training camp on Friday.

In a perfect world, Braun being exonerated by the ruling Arbitration Panel would be enough. And maybe that should be enough. We live by the justice system in this country, and shouldn't it be enough to believe that justice prevailed here?

Of course, in a perfect world, Braun's failed performance-enhancing drug test never would have leaked in the first place. Privacy is part of the joint agreement between owners and players, and the PED stuff is all supposed to remain behind closed doors until the very end of the process, if a player winds up being suspended.

In this case, it didn't. And we know Braun tested positive for an incredibly high amount of testosterone. Rightly or wrongly, Braun has been boxed in because things leaked. He's said he is looking forward to the time when he can talk.

Well, that time is now. It will be Friday in Maryvale, Ariz.

According to sources, he beat the rap on a "chain-of-command" issue. Arbiter Shyam Das broke the panel's 1-1 deadlock by voting to uphold Braun's grievance, that his urine specimen, given on a Saturday, should have been immediately delivered to Fed Ex for shipping. Because of the weekend, the collector was instructed to take the specimen home, store it in a safe place and ship it on Monday.

Though the specimen was said to have no name attached and to have been sealed three different ways, because it sat for more than 48 hours, Braun won his appeal.

So what will Braun say, now that he's finally free to talk?

I hope he has some honest, heartfelt answers. I'd like to think he'll have a solid explanation for his heightened testosterone levels.

If he simply plays dumb and says he has no idea what happened or how any of this could have happened, it's not going to be enough to regain his full reputation. Shouldn't be that way, but it is. Especially because he's flat-out said he looks forward to the day when he can explain some of this.

Until this, Braun was one of the game's shining lights. With his case now closed, I hope he gives himself the chance to remain one.

Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
 

Burnett needs to be more steely in Steel City

The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.

Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.

Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.

Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).

It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.

That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.

But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.

And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.

Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.

Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.

Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.

Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.

Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.

Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 5:10 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 7:07 pm
 

Prince Fielder intrigue continues to build

So why hasn't Prince Fielder signed yet while Albert Pujols has been sitting back and counting that 10-year, $254 million deal for weeks?

Plenty of reasons. Mostly, as Boras would tell you, because the market is still developing.

Start with the fact that the two clubs who in recent years have helped establish the ga-zillion dollar markets -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- are sitting this one out. New York has a long-term first baseman in Mark Teixeira, as Boston does with Adrian Gonzalez.

Beyond them, only a small handful of clubs can play ball at Fielder's asking price. Which, you can be sure, is a dollar or two more than Pujols is getting annually from the Angels.

From the start, barring a stunning early offer, Boras was in no hurry to sign Fielder. It was clear that Pujols would sign, the bar would be set, and then Boras/Fielder would look to exceed it.

Within that, as Boras has explained many times this winter, free agents at this level are ownership decisions. As he did when he represented Alex Rodriguez in 2000 and scored the 10-year, $252 million deal, Boras meets directly with owners (then-Rangers owner Tom Hicks, in that case).

That, too, takes time.

With the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels out, the Cubs, Mets and Dodgers are among the few who could afford Fielder.

The Cubs are under new management, and president Theo Epstein philosophically does not believe in awarding long-term contracts to the tune of seven, eight or more years to free agents. Consequently, they acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Padres this month, the idea being Rizzo will be Chicago's first baseman of the future.

The Mets and Dodgers, of course, have serious financial issues of their own. The Mets, who lost Jose Reyes to the Marlins this winter, are rebuilding and broke. The Dodgers are in the process of being sold.

So that leaves the next tier of suitors. And one other key component: With the Yankees and Red Sox on the sidelines, there is nobody to help drive up the price up via a bidding war.

Boras met with the Nationals several weeks ago. Those two have done several multi-million dollar deals in recent years, including the $126 million Jayson Werth contract last winter, and deals with recent top draft picks Stephen Strasburg (four-years, $15 million) and Bryce Harper (five years, $9.9 million).

The Mariners desperately need a middle-of-the-lineup bat. But whether the M's would spend that kind of dough remains to be seen ... as does whether Fielder would want to play in Safeco Field, notorious for diluting offensive numbers.

Asked at the winter meetings last month whether his client had a geographical presence, Boras quipped, "I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate. That's the geographics he likes."

Baltimore is another city that continues to be linked with Fielder. The Orioles are desperate for a clean-up hitter, not to mention a winner. Owner Peter Angelos has the money, though he is notoriously slow in wading through the free agent market.

Texas? The Rangers' deadline for signing pitcher Yu Darvish is next week. Some industry sources think the Rangers are holding off on Fielder while they negotiate with the Japanese free agent. Then, they'll either go full bore after Fielder if they don't sign Darvish (unlikely, they're expected to sign the pitcher) or see if there's a way to fit Fielder in after signing the pitcher.

The Blue Jays? Hmmm ... interesting thought, and lots of speculation surrounding them. Maybe the exchange rate is slowing those talks down.

Milwaukee remains in on the fringes, but only if the price falls.

Always, with Boras, there is the threat of a "mystery team" stepping up. No other agent in the game is as skilled at luring suitors down the path ... and then obtaining a pot of gold ... as Boras.

But now, as it gets deeper into January and an industry awaits Fielder's decision, it may take Boras' biggest play yet to get what he and his client want.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:13 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:19 pm
 

Riffs from the Hall of Fame voting

The 2012 Hall of Fame election -- by the numbers, and with the skinny. ...

Elected

Barry Larkin, 495 votes, 86.4 percent: Many numbers tell the tale, such as Larkin becoming the first 30/30 (homers/steals) shortstop in history. But how about in 1988, when he led the majors with only 24 strikeouts in 588 at-bats?

Maybe next year (or the year after)

Jack Morris, 382 votes, 66.7 percent: Great chance next year (which will cause massive coronaries in Sabermetric community), but he could run smack into wall via overloaded ballot that includes Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

Jeff Bagwell, 321 votes, 56 percent: Start forging plaque after big jump from 41.7 percent last year.

In need of GPS

Lee Smith, 290 votes, 50.6 percent: A decade on the ballot and it's like he's trapped in a Republican debate. No traction.

Tim Raines, 279 votes, 48.7 percent: Criminally unsupported for guy who ranks second all-time in stolen base percentage (300 minimum attepts), though up 11 percentage points over last year.

Edgar Martinez, 209 votes, 36.5 percent: Fighting the designated hitter uphill battle. If you don't have 3,000 hits, it helps to have worn a glove at some point during your career.

Alan Trammell, 211 votes, 36.8 percent: Heading in the right direction after 24.3 percent last year, but still undeservedly playing the "bye" to the voters' "good."

Fred McGriff, 137 votes, 23.9 percent: CSI investigators -- or are those PETA reps? -- checking for pulse as Crime Dog's 493 career homers get no love.

Larry Walker, 131 votes, 22.9 percent: Even the Canadian exchange rate doesn't favor Cooperstown.

Mark McGwire, 112 votes, 19.5 percent: Big Mac Fan Club not allowing new members. Remarkably consistent from last year's 115 votes, 19.8 percent.

Don Mattingly, 102 votes, 17.8 percent: Just three more years left on the ballot. Hope Donnie Baseball's managerial stint with Dodgers outlasts that.

Dale Murphy, 83 votes, 14.5 percent: A Hall of Fame man, and even if he can't be in Cooperstown, I hope baseball somehow involves him more.

Rafael Palmeiro, 72 votes, 12.6 percent: Did this guy or his career really exist? Outside of wagging a finger at Congress, I mean?

Bernie Williams, 55 votes, 9.6: To those who support Bernie and Jorge Posada: How about we just put every Yankee who played between, say, 1996 and 2001, into the Hall?

No soup -- or future ballots -- for you

Juan Gonzalez, 23 votes, 4 percent: The Rangers had a homecoming ... and no Hall of Fame supporters showed up for Juan-Gone.

Vinny Castilla, 6 votes, 1 percent: Six votes?!?! Vinny had one Hall of Fame moment. That came near the end of his career when he walked into the stadium past me as I was arguing with a security guard who wasn't buying my press pass, stopped, grinned, then approached me in the clubhouse wanting the scoop ... and complimenting me for getting in the guy's face so spiritedly.

Tim Salmon, 5 votes, 0.9 percent: Not Cooperstown worthy, but easily could join Dale Murphy in the all-time good guys' Hall.

Bill Mueller, 4 votes, 0.5 percent: The guy won a batting title (AL, 2003), but I think somebody mis-read Mueller's moving receipts for Hall votes.

Brad Radke, 2 votes, 0.3 percent: I'm assuming the two who voted for Bad Brad are refugees who watched him, incredibly, win 12 consecutive starts while going 20-10 for an absolutely miserable Twins team in 1997.

Javy Lopez, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Had the Braves allowed him to catch on nights when Greg Maddux started, he may have earned two votes.

Eric Young, 1 vote, 0.2 percent: Very cool. Had no idea Eric Young's mother was in the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America.

Jeromy Burnitz, 0 votes: Yeah, but he'll always have that starting berth for the NL in the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston on his resume.

Brian Jordan, 0 votes: Coincidentally, no votes for the NFL Hall of Fame, either.

Terry Mulholland, 0 votes: No votes, but gets points for being part-owner of the Dirty Dogg Saloon in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Phil Nevin, 0 votes: On the other hand, his managerial career (Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens) is taking off.

Ruben Sierra, 0 votes: Whatever happened to the Village Idiot?

Tony Womack, 0 votes: The New York precinct refused to consider him following that game-tying, Game 7 double against Mariano Rivera to set up Luis Gonzalez's game-winner in the 2001 World Series.
Posted on: December 17, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 2:49 pm
 

Rollins back to Phillies on three-year deal

Jimmy Rollins, the heart of the Phillies for the past several seasons, will continue to provide the pulse: He is returning to Philadelphia on a three-year, $33 million deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

The contract includes a vesting option for a fourth year that is described by one source as easily obtainable that likely will make the entire package worth $44 million.

The Rollins-Phillies deal has been a foregone conclusion in the industry for much of the winter, though the Brewers did inquire and show some interest in prying him away from Philadelphia early. However, once they signed Alex Gonzalez, and with St. Louis re-signing Rafael Furcal last week, there were few teams left looking for shortstops.

Which works well for both the Phillies and Rollins, because given perhaps the best run in Philadelphia baseball history over these past five seasons, the shortstop is back where he belongs.

Though the Phillies have seen some decline since Rollins' sensational 2007 NL MVP season, they also watched him produce a solid bounce-back season in 2011 after he played in only 88 games in 2010 during a season in which a nagging calf injury limited his production.

In 142 games last season, Rollins batted .268/.338/.399 with 16 homers, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

That's a far better fit for a Philadelphia team primed for another run at the World Series behind Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and the gang than, say, Freddy Galvis or Wilson Valdez would have been.

At 33 and still in terrific shape, Rollins should be able to play shortstop adequately through the duration of this contract. And despite Chase Utley's injury-checkered past couple of seasons, Rollins and Utley still give the Phillies a very solid -- and often potent -- middle infield.

With Rollins done, Philadelphia's biggest issue heading into 2012 will be at first base, and Ryan Howard's continuing recovery from the torn left Achilles tendon he suffered on the final play in the Phillies' final game last October against the Cardinals.

Howard is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season, given his original diagnosis of a five- to six-month recovery process. The Phillies this winter have traded for Ty Wigginton and signed free agent Jim Thome, and each is expected to help patch the void at first until Howard returns.

It will be a new-look Phillies team in a couple of areas, with free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon and with Wigginton or John Mayberry in left in place of Raul Ibanez. But with Utley, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Carlos Ruiz, Placido Polanco and, now, Rollins in place, the Phillies mostly will look very similar -- and just as potent -- to what we've seen from Charlie Manuel's crew during the past several seasons.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com