Braun Wins Appeal, Not Guilty.

Braun wins appeal of 50-game suspension

Panel votes 2-1 to overturn NL MVP’s suspected violation

By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com

PHOENIX — The verdict is in for National League MVP Ryan Braun: Not guilty.

Ryan Braun

The Brewers outfielder on Thursday became the first Major Leaguer to successfully appeal a suspected violation of MLB’s Drug Treatment and Prevention Program. The 2-1 ruling from a three-member special panel spared Braun a suspension that might have covered as many as 50 games and positions him to man left field when the Brewers begin their defense of the NL Central crown.

Braun called it the “first step in restoring my good name and reputation,” and he will report to camp Friday and address the media at an 11 a.m. MT news conference that will air live on MLB.com, brewers.com and MLB Network. Major League Baseball was swift to respond to the ruling.

“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute,” read part of a statement from MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred. “While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

Das cast the deciding vote on a panel that also included Manfred and MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner. According to multiple reports, Braun called into question the chain of custody of the sample when it wasn’t immediately sent in via Fed Ex as required by the testing policy.

It would have been far more difficult, experts say, for Braun to fight the result based on supposedly inadvertently taking a supplement or medication that included a banned substance, even if it truly had been prescribed for a purpose not related to performance enhancement. So a challenge based on improper protocol stands to reason as Braun’s best chance to have gotten the appeal honored.

“We were able to get through this, because I am innocent and the truth is on our side,” Braun said in a statement. “We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances. I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.”

The MLBPA took the unusual step of releasing news of Braun’s successful appeal, which under normal circumstances would have remained confidential.

Given the high-profile nature of the case, which leaked in December and became national news, the MLBPA and MLB agreed to announce the result.

Ryan Braun

“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our clubs and all of the players who take the field,” Manfred said in MLB’s statement. “It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.”

Several Brewers teammates said they were elated at the news. Left-hander Chris Narveson, the Brewers’ union representative, was playing golf with fellow starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum when he got the news.

“It’s huge, getting a bat like that back in your lineup,” Narveson said. “This is what we thought we were going to get all along.”

Narveson declined to address what he knew about the specifics of Braun’s defense, but dismissed the idea that Braun’s case hinged on a technicality.

“If somebody mishandles a sample, that’s not just a technicality, that’s an error,” Narveson said. “I don’t know all of the details, so I don’t want to comment too much. But put it this way: This isn’t the first time we’ve had issues with the people [in charge of testing] in Milwaukee. There have been other issues with timing.”

General manager Doug Melvin focused on the bottom line: “I don’t know anything about it other than my job and responsibility as a general manager is to put the best team on the field, and the decision allows me to do that a little bit better.”

Brewers chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio released a statement Thursday night on behalf of the Brewers.

“Since joining our organization in 2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and integrity,” the statement read. “Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in his appeal. “I also want to reiterate my support for Major League Baseball’s strict substance testing program. It is unfortunate that the confidentiality of the program was compromised, and we thank our fans and everyone who supported Ryan and did not rush to judgment. “The team is looking forward to seeing Ryan in camp tomorrow. With this now behind us, we return our focus to the ballpark and defending our NL Central Division title.”

This day had been looming since October, when Braun was required to submit a urine test during the playoffs that reportedly contained a very high level of testosterone. Typically, such findings remain secret while a player exhausts his appellate rights, but in Braun’s case the result was leaked in a Dec. 10 report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

In the meantime, Braun had become the Brewers’ first league MVP in 22 years, edging the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and former Brewers teammate Prince Fielder in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Braun batted .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in a charmed 2011 season. He signed a club-record-shattering contract extension in April that made him Brewers property through at least 2020, was voted an All-Star Game starter for the fourth straight season — though he was forced to withdraw because of a leg injury — and led Milwaukee to a club-record 96 regular-season wins and its first division crown in nearly three decades. He then became the Brewers’ first league MVP since Robin Yount won the American League award for a second time in 1989, a triumph that seemed to promise a dream winter for Braun, who was sitting on the balcony of his oceanside home in Malibu, Calif., when a BBWAA official called with the news.

What no one other than Braun, his closest advisers and a handful of MLB officials knew at that time was that the specter of a suspension loomed. Two weeks later, the rest of the world knew.

Ryan Braun

The night the news broke, a Braun spokesperson released a statement citing “highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program.” Braun replied in a text to MLB.com that night saying he was eager to state his case, but more than a month would pass before he got his chance.

An appeal began Jan. 19 before Weiner, Manfred and Das. Two days later, with the panel’s ruling pending, Braun accepted his NL MVP Award from the BBWAA at a dinner event in New York.

Now he’ll get a chance to defend it. Braun will report to camp one day before the team’s first full-squad workout on Saturday.

“This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully today the process worked,” Braun said in his statement. “Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the panel chair and the Office of the Commissioner. As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

“I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.”

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at@AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ryan Braun - Milwaukee - 2007 Road

(Photo credit: BaseballBacks)

MORE ON RYAN BRAUN WINS APPEAL
• Braun wins appeal of 50-game ban
• In speaking, Braun proud of ‘integrity’
• Players, managers react to appeal
• Bauman: Big relief for Brewers
• Kemp glad for NL MVP Braun
• Crew celebrates good news
• Justice: Braun’s statement is key
• Statement from Braun
• Brewers statement on Braun
• Statement from MLB

 Braun on winning appeal
 Braun takes questions
 Roenicke on Braun
 Network’s analysis
 Melvin on Braun
 McCalvy reacts
 Heyman’s reaction
 Costas on decision
 Prince shares thoughts

Deep Stats- MLB-NL Historical Totals (1876-Present)

Major League Historical Totals (1876-present)

Years: 136 Games: 200,070 Runs: 1,814,039 At Bats: 13,673,827 Hits: 3,584,248 Home Runs: 264,780 Doubles: 602,518 Triples: 127,571 Stolen Bases: 286,844 Innings: 3,568,372 Strikeouts: 1,902,765 Walks: 1,270,806 Hit Batsmen: 97,658 Saves: 61,272 Errors: 497,323 Double Plays: 355,407 Players: 17,407 Managers: 651

Major League Historical Totals (1871-present)

There is dispute over whether to include the National Association as a Major League

Mariano Rivera

 “THE Closer”

Years: 141 Games: 201,156 Runs: 1,831,372 At Bats: 13,763,210 Hits: 3,608,778 Home Runs: 264,991 Doubles: 605,576 Triples: 128,633 Stolen Bases: 288,739 Innings: 3,587,852 Strikeouts: 1,904,515 Walks: 1,272,284 Hit Batsmen: 97,658 Saves: 61,313 Errors: 513,771 Double Plays: 356,576 Players: 17,734 Managers: 674
Data is summed based on data available and may be missing some stats for some years.

NL Team Wins 1876-1900

Dummy Hoy

 Dummy Hoy

Year G ATL BLO CHC CNR CIN LAD ATH PHI PIT SFG STL WNL WAS
1900 140 66 65 62 82 75 79 60 65
1899 154 95 86 75 83 101 94 76 60 84 54
1898 152 102 96 85 92 54 78 72 77 39 51
1897 132 93 90 59 76 61 55 60 83 29 61
1896 131 74 90 71 77 58 62 66 64 40 58
1895 132 71 87 72 66 71 78 71 66 39 43
1894 132 83 89 57 55 70 71 65 88 56 45
1893 132 86 60 56 65 65 72 81 68 57 40
1892 154 102 46 70 82 95 87 80 71 56 58
1891 139 87 82 56 61 68 55 71
1890 136 76 83 77 86 78 23 63
1889 134 83 67 63 61 83 41
1888 135 70 77 69 66 84 48
1887 126 61 71 75 55 68 46
1886 124 56 90 71 75 28
1885 112 46 87 56 85
1884 112 73 62 39 62
1883 98 63 59 17 46
1882 84 45 55
1881 84 38 56
1880 84 40 67 21
1879 84 54 46 43
1878 60 41 30 37
1877 60 42 26 15
1876 70 39 52 9 14
Year G ATL BLO CHC CNR CIN LAD ATH PHI PIT SFG STL WNL WAS

NL TEAM WINS 1901-2011

Rickey Henderson steals third base for the New...

 Rickey Henderon Steals 3rd

Year G ARI ATL CHC CIN COL FLA HOU LAD MIL NYM PHI PIT SDP SFG STL WSN
2011 162 94 89 71 79 73 72 56 82 96 77 102 72 71 86 90 80
2010 162 65 91 75 91 83 80 76 80 77 79 97 57 90 92 86 69
2009 162 70 86 83 78 92 87 74 95 80 70 93 62 75 88 91 59
2008 162 82 72 97 74 74 84 86 84 90 89 92 67 63 72 86 59
2007 163 90 84 85 72 90 71 73 82 83 88 89 68 89 71 78 73
2006 162 76 79 66 80 76 78 82 88 75 97 85 67 88 76 83 71
2005 162 77 90 79 73 67 83 89 71 81 83 88 67 82 75 100 81
2004 162 51 96 89 76 68 83 92 93 67 71 86 72 87 91 105 67
2003 162 84 101 88 69 74 91 87 85 68 66 86 75 64 100 85 83
2002 162 98 101 67 78 73 79 84 92 56 75 80 72 66 95 97 83
2001 162 92 88 88 66 73 76 93 86 68 82 86 62 79 90 93 68
2000 162 85 95 65 85 82 79 72 86 73 94 65 69 76 97 95 67
1999 163 100 103 67 96 72 64 97 77 74 97 77 78 74 86 75 68
1998 163 65 106 90 77 77 54 102 83 74 88 75 69 98 89 83 65
1997 162 101 68 76 83 92 84 88 88 68 79 76 90 73 78
1996 162 96 76 81 83 80 82 90 71 67 73 91 68 88 88
1995 144 90 73 85 77 67 76 78 69 69 58 70 67 62 66
1994 117 68 49 66 53 51 66 58 55 54 53 47 55 53 74
1993 162 104 84 73 67 64 85 81 59 97 75 61 103 87 94
1992 162 98 78 90 81 63 72 70 96 82 72 83 87
1991 162 94 77 74 65 93 77 78 98 84 75 84 71
1990 162 65 77 91 75 86 91 77 95 75 85 70 85
1989 162 63 93 75 86 77 87 67 74 89 92 86 81
1988 162 54 77 87 82 94 100 65 85 83 83 76 81
1987 162 69 76 84 76 73 92 80 80 65 90 95 91
Year G ARI ATL CHC CIN COL FLA HOU LAD MIL NYM PHI PIT SDP SFG STL WSN
1986 162 72 70 86 96 73 108 86 64 74 83 79 78
1985 162 66 77 89 83 95 98 75 57 83 62 101 84
1984 162 80 96 70 80 79 90 81 75 92 66 84 78
1983 162 88 71 74 85 91 68 90 84 81 79 79 82
1982 162 89 73 61 77 88 65 89 84 81 87 92 86
1981 111 50 38 66 61 63 41 59 46 41 56 59 60
1980 163 81 64 89 93 92 67 91 83 73 75 74 90
1979 162 66 80 90 89 79 63 84 98 68 71 86 95
1978 162 69 79 92 74 95 66 90 88 84 89 69 76
1977 162 61 81 88 81 98 64 101 96 69 75 83 75
1976 162 70 75 102 80 92 86 101 92 73 74 72 55
1975 162 67 75 108 64 88 82 86 92 71 80 82 75
1974 162 88 66 98 81 102 71 80 88 60 72 86 79
1973 162 76 77 99 82 95 82 71 80 60 88 81 79
1972 156 70 85 95 84 85 83 59 96 58 69 75 70
1971 162 82 83 79 79 89 83 67 97 61 90 90 71
1970 162 76 84 102 79 87 83 73 89 63 86 76 73
1969 162 93 92 89 81 85 100 63 88 52 90 87 52
1968 162 81 84 83 72 76 73 76 80 88 97
1967 162 77 87 87 69 73 61 82 81 91 101
1966 162 85 59 76 72 95 66 87 92 93 83
1965 162 86 72 89 65 97 50 85 90 95 80
1964 162 88 76 92 66 80 53 92 80 90 93
1963 162 84 82 86 66 99 51 87 74 88 93
1962 165 86 59 98 64 102 40 81 93 103 84
Year G ARI ATL CHC CIN COL FLA HOU LAD MIL NYM PHI PIT SDP SFG STL WSN
1961 154 83 64 93 89 47 75 85 80
1960 154 88 60 67 82 59 95 79 86
1959 156 86 74 74 88 64 78 83 71
1958 154 92 72 76 71 69 84 80 72
1957 154 95 62 80 84 77 62 69 87
1956 154 92 60 91 93 71 66 67 76
1955 154 85 72 75 98 77 60 80 68
1954 154 89 64 74 92 75 53 97 72
1953 154 92 65 68 105 83 50 70 83
1952 154 64 77 69 96 87 42 92 88
1951 157 76 62 68 97 73 64 98 81
1950 154 83 64 66 89 91 57 86 78
1949 154 75 61 62 97 81 71 73 96
1948 154 91 64 64 84 66 83 78 85
1947 154 86 69 73 94 62 62 81 89
1946 156 81 82 67 96 69 63 61 98
1945 154 67 98 61 87 46 82 78 95
1944 154 65 75 89 63 61 90 67 105
1943 154 68 74 87 81 64 80 55 105
1942 154 59 68 76 104 42 66 85 106
1941 154 62 70 88 100 43 81 74 97
1940 154 65 75 100 88 50 78 72 84
1939 154 63 84 97 84 45 68 77 92
1938 152 77 89 82 69 45 86 83 71
1937 154 79 93 56 62 61 86 95 81
Year G ARI ATL CHC CIN COL FLA HOU LAD MIL NYM PHI PIT SDP SFG STL WSN
1936 154 71 87 74 67 54 84 92 87
1935 154 38 100 68 70 64 86 91 96
1934 153 78 86 52 71 56 74 93 95
1933 154 83 86 58 65 60 87 91 82
1932 154 77 90 60 81 78 86 72 72
1931 154 64 84 58 79 66 75 87 101
1930 154 70 90 59 86 52 80 87 92
1929 154 56 98 66 70 71 88 84 78
1928 154 50 91 78 77 43 85 93 95
1927 154 60 85 75 65 51 94 92 92
1926 154 66 82 87 71 58 84 74 89
1925 154 70 68 80 68 68 95 86 77
1924 154 53 81 83 92 55 90 93 65
1923 154 54 83 91 76 50 87 95 79
1922 154 53 80 86 76 57 85 93 85
1921 154 79 64 70 77 51 90 94 87
1920 154 62 75 82 93 62 79 86 75
1919 140 57 75 96 69 47 71 87 54
1918 129 53 84 68 57 55 65 71 51
1917 154 72 74 78 70 87 51 98 82
1916 154 89 67 60 94 91 65 86 60
1915 154 83 73 71 80 90 73 69 72
1914 154 94 78 60 75 74 69 84 81
1913 153 69 88 64 65 88 78 101 51
1912 153 52 91 75 58 73 93 103 63
Year G ARI ATL CHC CIN COL FLA HOU LAD MIL NYM PHI PIT SDP SFG STL WSN
1911 154 44 92 70 64 79 85 99 75
1910 154 53 104 75 64 78 86 91 63
1909 153 45 104 77 55 74 110 92 54
1908 154 63 99 73 53 83 98 98 49
1907 154 58 107 66 65 83 91 82 52
1906 153 49 116 64 66 71 93 96 52
1905 154 51 92 79 48 83 96 105 58
1904 154 55 93 88 56 52 87 106 75
1903 140 58 82 74 70 49 91 84 43
1902 140 73 68 70 75 56 103 48 56
1901 140 69 53 52 79 83 90 52 76
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/10/2012.

The 5 Best Things About Citizens Bank Park

By Kyle Yahn (Contributor)

Citbank952_original_original_display_image

Since its opening season, in 2004, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has completely changed the face of the Phillies organization.

In 2003, the Phillies ranked 24th in the MLB in attendance. After the inception of Citizens Bank Park in 2004, they rose all the way to fourth. The Phillies have now led all of baseball in attendance for the past three seasons. They are now working on a 204-game sellout streak going into the 2012 season. The stadium sells out every single night, and the atmosphere is perpetually electric.

Not only does this state-of-the-art, $336 million stadium draw in massive crowds, but it supplies them with everything that a baseball fan could possibly dream of.

The Philadelphia Phillies have created a model of success for other teams to follow in Major League Baseball. Over the past decade, they have gone from the basement of the National League to a perennial powerhouse. This turnaround all began with the introduction of the baseball paradise that is Citizens Bank Park

The Views

Citizensview_display_image

There is not a bad seat in the entire stadium. Whether in the nosebleeds or right behind home plate, the fans are always right on top of the action.

This is great, considering the majority of the 43,647 seats are filled on a regular basis. In fact, in the 2011 season, the Philadelphia Phillies averaged an attendance capacity of 104.1 percent.

Those extra 4.1 percent may be some of the most exciting places to be anyway. With the atmosphere of the ballpark and the fans who inhabit it, standing room only seats can be just as fulfilling as front row seats.

And if you miss any of the action, just take a look at the recently installed and massive 40′ x 70′ LED scoreboard in left field—the largest in the National League.

The Bullpens

Citizens_bank_park_bullpen_display_image

There couldn’t be a more perfect feature to a baseball stadium than the bullpens at Citizens Bank Park.

These are especially fun to be around when a rival team is in town, as the visitors’ bullpen lies within ample heckling distance of the Philly faithful. Philadelphia sports fans are notorious for their passion and um…providing a comforting environment for opposing players and fans.

However, the bullpens in Citizens Bank Park aren’t only good for taunting opposing pitchers. If you’re sitting in the point of right center field (seen in the image), the Phillies staff is only a few feet away. I myself have had a conversation or two with Rich Dubee, the Phillies pitching coach, when seated in this area.

It’s a truly unique experience, and that’s why these bullpens are one of the greatest features of Citizens Bank Park.

The Food

Chickies-and-petes-crabfries_display_image

The food at Citizens Bank Park is incredible.

There’s the classic Philly lineup in center field, with Tony Luke’s, Campo’s and Planet Hoagie, and there are several places to get ballpark classics like burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, cracker jacks and soft pretzels scattered throughout the concourse.

And of course, there are a myriad of locations to get some ice cold refreshment.

However, my personal favorite has to be Chickie’s & Pete’s crab fries. These Old Bay-covered french fries—dipped in cheese sauce of course—are the epitome of baseball bliss. Unfortunately, the line never ceases to cost you at least a half an inning.

They are worth the wait.

The Atmosphere

Atmosphere_display_image

Mix together consistent sellouts and the spirit of the Phillies fan base, and out comes undeniably the best atmosphere in Major League Baseball.

It’s difficult to express in words the kind of feeling Citizens Bank Park gives off. You have to experience it to truly understand.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, over the past two years, and as I walk around these stadiums, there is a dullness that never even remotely appears in Citizens Bank Park.

From Game 1 to Game 162, the Phillies fans are always in full support of their team. This is something that is rare and special in the game of baseball, and is what gives Citizens Bank Park the greatest atmosphere in the world to watch a baseball game.

125602730_display_image Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Love em’ or hate em,’ there’s no way around it. Philadelphia Phillies fans are the best in the game.

Their passion, faithfulness and knowledge of the game set them apart from all other baseball fans.

Phillies fans endeared themselves to the world during Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN after their reaction to Osama Bin Laden‘s death in May of 2011.

The Phillies fan base can be described in a few simple adjectives: rowdy, obnoxious, rude, fickle, unforgiving and perfect.

Big moves by Nats, Marlins put heat on Phillies

Free-agent deals could reshape balance of power in NL East

By Mark Bowman  / MLB.com

When Cliff Lee returned to Philadelphia, there was a sense the Phillies’ reign at the top of the National League East standings might last as long as he, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels stayed together in the same starting rotation.

Roy Halladay

One year later, Philadelphia still proudly possesses its Big Three. But with the Marlins and Nationals making significant improvements over the past couple months, the Phillies will enter 2012 knowing the Braves are not the only legitimate threat between them and their sixth consecutive NL East crown.

“Day in and day out, you have to say it’s the best division in baseball,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told MLB.com. “The consistent play within the division is amazing. Atlanta should be better. The Marlins definitely have gotten better with [Jose] Reyes and Josh Johnson will be back. Washington will be very competitive.”

The Phillies made one significant decision in retaining veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins, but that move alone may not be enough to keep Philadelphia atop the division given the new look the Marlins have committed to this offseason.

As they prepare to move into their new stadium with their new, always-entertaining manager, Ozzie Guillen, the Marlins further enhanced the excitement surrounding their club with the signings of shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell and veteran starting pitcher Mark Buehrle.

To further bolster their pitching staff, the Marlins opened 2012 by acquiring Carlos Zambrano from the Cubs. Along with making the clubhouse even more interesting, Zambrano has the potential to significantly improve a starting rotation that will once again be anchored by Johnson.

Ozzie Guillén managed the White Sox from 2004 ...

While proving aggressive on both the trade and free-agent markets, the once “low-revenue” Marlins were also in pursuit of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The club’s efforts appear to demonstrate that it is committed to the kind of successful product necessary to avoid the attendance issues that existed in their previous stadium.

“Ozzie and [president of baseball operations] Larry [Beinfest] think this team is a playoff team today,” said Marlins president David Samson. “All sorts of stuff has to happen to win it. We just have to make it.”

With the assets gained from this year’s free-agent market, the Marlins provided themselves reason to believe they can immediately compete against the Phillies, and against the improvements the Braves and Nationals both expect to make over the next few years with their prized young players and prospects.

The core of the Nationals’ future is centered around Bryce Harper, one of the most highly touted prospects in the game’s history, and Stephen Strasburg. Now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, the right-handed Strasburg is prepared to legitimize himself as one of the game’s elite starters.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson finished 2011 excited about the contributions Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann could provide the club’s rotation for many years to come. Two days before Christmas, the Nats’ skipper received yet another gift in the form of talented 26-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who was acquired from the A’s to further solidify Washington’s starting rotation.

Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmerman

“Gonzalez brings a presence in our rotation,” Nationals general manger Mike Rizzo said. “He has had success. He has been a workhorse. He is very young; he just turned 26. He has accomplished a lot of things before his 26th birthday. It gives us a young core of starting pitchers at the Major League level that is in the realm of something that we never had here before.”With the acquisition of Gonzalez and the healthy return of Adam LaRoche, the Nationals are seemingly on the path they envisioned when they signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract last winter.

The Braves have thus far chosen to essentially stay on the same path that led them to game’s fourth-best record through this past August. An epic September collapse prevented the club from reaching the playoffs for a second straight year but also gave general manager Frank Wren some motivation entering this offseason.

But instead of trading Julio Teheran or any of his other highly regarded pitching prospects, Wren has remained patient in his attempt to upgrade his lineup with a power-hitting outfielder. There is a chance he could still cross this item off his wish list by trading Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado.

Yet as of Jan. 1, the Braves still had not received the kind of offer they had hoped for in exchange for Jurrjens or Prado. Wren’s only significant move this offseason was to create $5 million of payroll flexibility by trading Derek Lowe and a portion of his burdensome contract.

“We have a good club,” Wren said.  “I keep going back, and I’ll stand by this, on Aug. 26, we had the fourth-best record in all of baseball. Our team didn’t get bad in 30 days. Our team went through a bad streak in 30 days. We have a good team.”

Baseball, Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies...

The Phillies also believe they can build on their 2011 success by staying active in the marketplace.  The defending NL East champs signed closer Jonathan Papelbon away from the Red Sox to account for Ryan Madson’s departure via free agency. In addition, Philadelphia signed Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome to strengthen its bench and compensate for the absence of Ryan Howard, who will likely miss at least all of April recovering from a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon.

When Howard returns, he’ll be reunited with Rollins, his longtime teammate who tested the free-agent market before re-signing with the Phillies in December. They’ll once again be part of a strong lineup assigned to support Halladay, Lee and Hamels.

“I like our club a lot,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “I think we’re one of the best clubs in the National League. And that’s our job, to make sure we’re contenders every year. And I think with the club we have now, barring injury, we’ll be there.”

Though Roy Oswalt is poised to depart the heralded Philadelphia rotation via free agency this winter, the Phillies still seem to be the favorites to win the NL East. However, they certainly do not appear to be the overwhelming favorites they were at this point last year.

“Everybody is getting better in that division,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “The Phillies are the Phillies. The Marlins are getting better. Washington is getting … dangerous. They’re getting close. They’ve got some good players. Your expectations are we should be in the playoffs. It’s a tough division.”

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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