MLB Insider: National League East

Doug Glanville still calls the Philadelphia area home during the offseason. Will it be his summer home, too? Plus, a big-time dissing from a big-time star. When is a dismantling not a dismantling? Another high powered offense? And, can a new pitching coach make a big difference for a struggling prospect?


After the Phillies signed free agent Shawn Wooten to add depth to the bench, it closed the books on the team's offseason wheeling and dealing.

Or did it?

General manager Ed Wade cryptically mentioned after the Wooten announcement that there was one more possible acquisition that was under consideration. It was later reported that the player Wade was referring to was outfielder Doug Glanville.

And that's an intriguing possibility.

Glanville, a Penn graduate who grew up as a Phillies fan living in Teaneck, N.J., played for the Phils for five years, from 1998 through 2002. His best season was 1999, when he batted .325.

His batting average steadily declined each year after that, though. So when he became a free agent after hitting .249, the organization decided it was time to give hot prospect Marlon Byrd a chance to play every day.

Glanville was offered a reduced salary to remain as a part-time player but signed instead with the Texas Rangers. At midseason he was traded to the Cubs, where he had a game-winning triple in the National League Championship Series against the Marlins.

The Cubs non-tendered him, however. And now it's believed that Glanville has an open invitation to come back to the Phillies although he would most likely have to agree to a base salary in the mid-six figures.

If Glanville decides to come back to Philadelphia, where he still lives in the offseason, it's likely second-baseman-of-the-future Chase Utley would begin the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Otherwise, it appears Utley will stay in the majors and manager Larry Bowa will try to give second baseman Placido Polanco and third baseman David Bell enough rest to get him adequate playing time.


One last thing about Gary Sheffield: He was not a problem in the clubhouse. He was not a problem with the media. He was not a problem with the coaches. He was not a problem.

He did mention on his way to Yankee Stadium that the Braves needed more emotion in the postseason, that his (former) teammates treated games in October the same way they treated games in April. Or even March.

While Tom Glavine was the face of the Braves, it used to be popular to say that they had his buttoned-up, no-nonsense demeanor, professional, honest, hard-working. The similarities were coincidental. The team's persona comes from manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz.

Their even-keel approach is invariably credited for the Braves' string of division titles. But division titles don't translate into ecstatic fans who fill the ballpark with their cheers.

Turner Field attendance has been declining at a brisk clip since the Braves lost four straight games to the Yankees in the 1996 World Series. It only became painful this year because the Cubs were the opponents; they filled the place.

"I've never seen anything like this," Eric Karros said at the time. "At some points it seemed like the Cubs fans were louder than the Braves fans."

Paul Bako, the former Brave who's now with the Cubs, said of the crowd, "That was huge. Unfortunately for the Braves, they don't sell out, World Series or whatever. To have that many Cubs fans here, that was tremendous."

And it was duly noted by management. The team has shaken up its promotions department and appears to be as much about cutting salary as it is about attracting paying customers. As the Braves continue to lose their star players, that becomes a tougher sell.


After a flurry of offseason moves, GM Larry Beinfest believes the Marlins are still talented enough to defend their World Series title. But try comparing these moves to the fire sale that followed the 1997 championship team, and the 2003 front office gets testy.

The team signed RHP Armando Benitez to a one-year deal and re-signed 3B Mike Lowell, SS Alex Gonzalez and 2B Luis Castillo to multiyear deals.

Also signed are catchers Ramon Castro and Mike Redmond, setting the everyday lineup and pitching core with which the Marlins will attempt to defend their World Series title in 2004.

"We made it very public -- that was probably the last piece of this team," Beinfest said of adding Benitez. "We've done most of the big things. We've added a closer. We've added depth in the bullpen. The starting lineup is pretty much set. Additional bench spots we will look at."

Florida still is left with question marks at catcher and first base.

By losing catcher Pudge Rodriguez to free agency and trading first baseman Derrek Lee and right fielder Juan Encarnacion, the Marlins lost 271 RBI. Beinfest is confident that Jeff Conine and Miguel Cabrera can help make that up by playing full seasons in Florida, and he denies the moves can be called dismantling.

"There is some change, a lot of it for financial reasons," he said. "When you talk about three-fourths of the infield, the whole outfield and four-fifths of the starting pitching, that's far from dismantling.

"You can pick it apart however you want, but when you look at the total, there are a lot of familiar faces here."

Beinfest believes Benitez, 31, will return to the form he showed when he had 117 saves from 2000-02. Last season, he converted 21 of 29 save opportunities with a 2.96 ERA while pitching for the Mets, Yankees and Mariners. The last two teams made him a setup man.

"We just feel Benitez will flourish here in South Florida," Beinfest said. "He had a tough year, but the numbers are still good, the arm is still good, the three-pitch quality is still good."

Beinfest said the Marlins had "a little bit more flexibility" to sign Benitez after coming to terms with Gonzalez.


There isn't a team in baseball that could make up for the loss of a Vladimir Guerrero without suffering.

Yet, while operating under stringent financial restrictions, vice president and general manager Omar Minaya has made huge strides toward not only keeping the Expos afloat but perhaps making them better.

During December, Minaya acquired three everyday players who immediately upgrade the team at two positions and collectively may compensate for the loss in home runs and RBIs with the departure of Guerrero to free agency.

While the Expos were in the NL wild-card race well into September last year, they never did get full production at either first or third. Minaya landed 1B Nick Johnson from the Yankees in an expensive deal that cost Montreal the services of RHP Javier Vazquez. He signed 3B Tony Batista as a free agent.

During the winter meetings, Minaya said, "You don't replace a Guerrero -- you try to pick up the numbers he supplied throughout the lineup."

So, by signing Carl Everett to play right field he isn't looking to get the same production. But with Everett, Batista and Johnson in the lineup on a regular basis, the team figures to wind up with more homers and RBIs than last year.

Minaya's job isn't finished -- not by a long shot. Even though the Expos have an excellent double-play combo in SS Orlando Cabrera and 2B Jose Vidro, the team has a couple of major league holes through the middle of the lineup.

Brian Schneider is the only catcher on the 40-man roster, and the team needs a speedy center fielder who can bat at the top of the order.

Schneider started 2003 as backup to Michael Barrett. By the end of the season he'd started 98 games. As a matter of the fact, Expos catchers combined to allow the fewest number of stolen bases in the majors.

But Schneider hit only .230. After the season Barrett was traded to Oakland and then to the Cubs. Obviously, the Expos need another catcher. Whether they need a number one or someone to work with Schneider has yet to be determined.

As far as center field is concerned, the Expos need improvement from what Endy Chavez provided last year. Chavez won the chance when, after a tremendous Triple-A season at Ottawa in 2002, he followed by sparking the Expos to a strong September.

Chavez used his speed advantageously on defense in 2003 but was unable to utilize that speed into stolen bases or even into beating out infield hits.


The Mets have signed shortstop Kazuo Matsui, center fielder Mike Cameron and closer Braden Looper during the offseason. But manager Art Howe and general manager Jim Duquette are convinced that new pitching coach Rick Peterson will be just as vital to the 2004 season.

Peterson, 49, spent six seasons with Oakland, the first five under Howe. He was instrumental in the rapid development of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.

Peterson spent much of December breaking down tape of his new pitchers, particularly the younger ones. One of his top projects will be trying to salvage the career of Aaron Heilman.

A first-round pick in 2001, Heilman pitched only 50 games -- and less than 300 innings -- in the minors before the Mets called him up in June. The 6-foot-5 right-hander from Notre Dame was a bust, going 2-7 with a 6.75 ERA over 14 games.

Heilman was strongly urged to attend the team's "voluntary" mini-camp in Port St. Lucie, which starts Monday (Jan. 5). He agreed and will start work with Peterson then.

"I don't know Aaron, but I know the organization has a lot of belief in his talents," Peterson said. "I'm anxious to see what he has and what he is like."

Heilman, 25, is a laconic sort who did not seem especially motivated or prepared for his starts last season. Peterson stresses the mental approach and is a stickler for preparation. He could be just the coach to unlock Heilman's potential.

Heilman is not penciled into the rotation but could compete for a starting job depending on Duquette's success in signing another starter.

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