Jimmy Rollins Guarantees 100 Wins for Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has been known to be a confident guy. He’s cocky, he has swagger, and he generally backs it up on the field. Of course it’s easy to front as a tough guy when you have a bunch of 6’5″ 250 pound giants backing you up, and that’s the case for Rollins.

After winning 97 games last season and reaching the NLCS before losing to the Giants, the Phillies brought in Cliff Lee — who helped spark their World Series run in 2009 — to bolster their already strong rotation. Because of the improvement, Rollins guaranteed the team would win 100 games this season, according to a tweet from reporter Matt Gelb.

It may be a bold prediction, but it seems to be within reach for the Phillies. They’ve upgraded their staff to a historically good level, and they have plenty of sluggers in the lineup. Still, Chase Utley is coming back from injury, Raul Ibanez had a down year, and they lost Jayson Werth. On top of all that, they need their bullpen to repeat last year’s success enjoyed by Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, and Jose Contreras, and they have to compete with the rest of the league.

The NL Central and NL West have several strong teams, and the Braves should present a challenge in the East. Oh yeah, and Rollins is in a contract year and stunk the past two seasons (largely because he got hurt). If the Phils are to win 100 games — which won’t be easy — they’ll need contributions from everyone, especially Rollins who has been a disappointment lately. As LBS writer Alan Hull put it to me best, it’s put up or shut up for Jimmy.

Carlos Zambrano Stars in Slow Pitch Softball Game

Pitchers and catchers have already reported for spring training throughout Major League Baseball, and for the Chicago Cubs that means showing up in Mesa, Arizona. The workload is generally pretty light the first week of practice because players are easing back into shape. For Carlos Zambrano, he’s apparently even taking the opportunity to get some slow pitch softball in on the side.

A reader of SI Hot Clicks emailed in with that picture and an accompanying story that Big Z played in his softball game Thursday night. According to the Hot Clicks reader, “He played left field every other inning and made sure to use his opposite throwing arm so he wouldn’t screw anything up. He popped up twice and hit one out of the stadium another time. Super friendly guy. He even offered to sign autographs for everyone after the game. Dude looks in shape, at least 20-30 lbs lighter.”

Though the person totally burned Big Z by emailing in the story and publicizing the appearance, I think it’s positive P.R. for Zambrano. He’s been known as a hothead with an attitude problem, so it’s nice to have stories saying he’s friendly and in good shape. Plus, who can’t get down with an athlete helping out some bros in a beer league game? He was no Eric Byrnes, but this event certainly was a win for Carlos.

Why Albert Pujols Is in a Difficult Spot with His Contract Negotiations

Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, and it’s been that way for the past 10 years. The Cardinals first baseman signed a 7-year $100 million contract prior to the 2004 season, exchanging three years of arbitration and four free agency years for the security of a significant financial commitment from the club. All the while Albert has continued to destroy opposing pitching like a mad man, run the bases well, and play good defense. He’s also vastly outproduced his $16 million annual salary the past three seasons and hasn’t complained when other inferior players signed contracts for more money.

Pujols has easily been one of the biggest bargains in baseball, playing for around half of what he’s been worth. Even his new teammate, Matt Holliday, signed for more money from the Cardinals. Michael Young and Adrian Beltre have matched his $16 million annual salary. Andruw Jones has surpassed it.

It’s time for Albert to get paid fairly, but can the Cardinals afford him?

In order for St. Louis to pay him what he’s worth, Pujols would have to make more than Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year $275 million contract. There’s little doubt that Albert deserves that sort of money — particularly after giving St. Louis a discount for five years — but such a deal would severely hamper the Cardinals’ ability to build a competitive team around him.

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Jim Leyland: Miguel Cabrera in Best Shape of His Life, Forget DUI Stuff

Miguel Cabrera has a drinking problem.  You know how I know?  Because he drinks, and it causes problems.  The 27-year old has been accused of showing up to a game hungover and battered from a drunken fight.  He recently made history when he became the first ever professional athlete to be sacked by the LBS Nut Bag, and that was because of his drunken, smiling mug shot.  One man who doesn’t seem all that concerned about any of it is Cabrera’s manager, Jim Leyland.

Hardball Talk shared some of Leyland’s comments about Cabrera with us on Friday morning, with which he basically praised his best hitter and brushed the DUI arrest aside. “Miguel Cabrera is in the best shape of his life,” Leyland said. “He’s stronger than he’s ever been. And he’s quicker than he’s ever been. He’s probably going to have the biggest year of his life.”

That’s great, coach, but what about his problems with alcohol and the law? “It has no effect,” Leyland continued. “It might make some dramatic reading material. It’s not going to do s***. Believe me. Nothing.”

Someone should probably remind Leyland that this a player who was allegedly swigging from a bottle of scotch right in front of a police officer’s face while on the side of a public road.  We’re not talking about a speeding ticket.  It’s one thing to defend your players and not discuss “in-house” issues, but Leyland shouldn’t be acting like Cabrera’s latest issue with alcohol is nothing more than “dramatic reading material.”

As for the best year of his career?  At 27 and coming off a .328/38/126 season, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

Mark Buehrle Stands by His Michael Vick Comments

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle made headlines a week ago for saying he and his wife rooted for Michael Vick to get hurt when watching football games. The exact quote, which was later removed from the MLB.com article, was “He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt. Everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”

Buehrle’s remarks were controversial because of his extreme negative feelings towards Vick. Disliking someone to the point that you wish injury upon them is about as harsh as it gets. It’s not exactly poisoning trees, but it’s really bad.

Well Buehrle was asked about his controversial comments during Spring Training and stood by them. “I said it. It’s an old story. Again, we are not bringing drama inside and past history stuff. So, I said it, meant it. It’s over, and we’ll move on.”

The best point of all is one raised by Rick Chandler at Off the Bench last week. Chandler noted that Buehrle enjoys hunting, and he even dug up an old story about Buehrle killing a bear. In terms of ethics, how can Buehrle despise Vick for killing dogs while he willingly kills other animals? Outside of a way of life our society deems right and wrong, what makes Buehrle’s hobby of hunting acceptable? If you’re a professed animal lover, that should apply to all animals, right? What makes dogs any different from bears?

Buehrle rests his answer upon the foundation of our societies norms, but his answer lacks any genuine basis. Maybe he should listen to the critics and realize how out of line he was for his feelings about Vick, and how hypocritical it makes him. Then maybe next time he’ll understand the error of his remarks.

MLB 2011 Preview: Can the Dark Horse Chicago Cubs Compete in the NL Central?

Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. This week, we’re taking a look at the NL Central. Monday: St. Louis Cardinals; Tuesday: Cincinnati Reds; Wednesday: Milwaukee Brewers; Thursday: Chicago Cubs.

The Dark Horse: Chicago Cubs

Off-Season Moves: The Cubs traded prospects for flame-throwing right handed pitcher Matt Garza and brought back Kerry Wood on a one-year deal to bolster the bullpen.  They also replaced departing free agent Derrek Lee with Carlos Pena, whom they signed for one year.

Strengths: What makes this team an interesting dark horse candidate is their pitching.  Ryan Dempster, Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells and Carlos Silva make up a pretty solid 1-5, with Andrew Cashner, waiting in the event of any injuries.  This is a rotation that stacks up with any other team in the division.  Their bullpen has a nice combination of different looks between the beast, Carlos Marmol, Cashner and Sean Marshall as seventh and eighth inning guys. Marshall really came into his own in 2010 pitching out of the bullpen full-time, striking out 10.85 per nine innings.

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Miguel Cabrera Mugshot Was Turrible Sacked by the LBS Nut Bag for Smiling

We’ve got this new feature here at LBS we’re debuting and it’s called the LBS Nut Bag. We’ve decided that anyone in the sports world who deserves to be publically shamed here at LBS will be “sacked” by the LBS Nut Bag. Feel free to email in tips of anyone you think who needs to be sacked.

The first athlete to get sacked by the LBS Nut Bag is Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. The 2010 AL MVP runner-up made headlines on Thursday, and it wasn’t for being the first player to homer in Spring Training. Oh no. Miggy instead was channeling his Tony La Russa in Florida, getting arrested for DUI and resisting arrest. The details from the police will no doubt make you laugh and cry.

    - When an officer asked who was with him, Cabrera responded, “I am going to f—— kill him” despite being alone in the car.

    – He drank from a bottle of James Buchanan’s Scotch Whisky on the roadside, in the presence of at least one officer.

    – He refused to obey instructions from officers, at one point saying, “Do you know who I am? You don’t know anything about my problems.” When one officer asked Cabrera to get into a patrol vehicle, Cabrera replied, “F— you.”

Who the heck drinks from a bottle of Scotch IN FRONT OF AN OFFICER and WHILE THEY ARE GETTING ARRESTED? This guy’s an Idiot with a capital I! Honestly, every bit that Miggy stands out from his competition on the diamond is how much he stands out from the average criminal in terms of stupidity.

Then, as if drinking in front of an officer and resisting arrest wasn’t disrespectful enough, he freaking puts on a giant cheeser in his mugshot. What is up with this guy? Who smiles after a DUI arrest? Someone who doesn’t care, thinks they can beat the charges, and someone that downright disrespectful. Jeezus.

It’s all really just a shame because we thought Cabrera had cleaned up his life after his drunked arrest at the end of the 2009 season that cost the Tigers the division. He supposedly got clean last off-season, put the drinks down, and had the best year of his career. And now he kicks off the 2011 season like this? Not good at all. Why can’t he get serious about his career and his life?