« August 12, 2013 | Main | August 14, 2013 »

2 posts from August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013

Noon Wed. Fins update; Struggling Stanton faces choice; Fins' Wallace speaks out; UM, Heat

Five quick Dolphins notes from Wednesday morning before we get to the buzz column:

1) The Dolphins cut Dan Carpenter. As expected, Caleb Sturgis wins the kicking job.

2) We hear OL Nate Garner had arthroscopic shoulder surgery and is expected to be out two to three weeks.

3) Was told Pat Devlin has an injury (not certain what it is; one associate mentioned an ankle) that could keep him out a week or two. That's why Aaron Corp was re-signed last night.

4) Ryan Tannehill looked very sharp in practice. Mike Wallace caught a beautiful 45-yard pass from Tannehill over Nolan Carroll and Kelcie McCray.

5) Joe Philbin said starters will play at least one quarter against Houston on Saturday.

######################################################################################

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The issue hangs over the Marlins’ head like threatening storm clouds. And no matter how much owner Jeffrey Loria tells his staff he wants to build around slumping Giancarlo Stanton, this ultimately will be beyond Loria’s control.

Loria would not allow his front office to consider trades involving Stanton the past few months; other teams were told not to even bother making offers. The Marlins privately say they will offer him a multiyear contract this offseason, one that would buy out his arbitration seasons (2014, 2015 and 2016) and at least a couple of years of free agency.

So would Stanton even consider signing here long-term, taking into account his dissatisfaction with last winter’s payroll purge and Marlins Park’s pitcher-friendly dimensions?

“I won’t think about it until it’s in front of me,” he said. “I’ve had zero thought or worry about that.”

He added: “You have plans already in your head” but declined to elaborate.

One Stanton associate would be surprised if he accepts a Marlins offer, though he might consider one that’s especially big.

Some Marlins people believe Stanton is inclined to sign with a team in his native California, but Loria at least wants to make the attempt to keep him, barring a change of heart. In 2008, Hanley Ramirez accepted a six-year, $72 million Marlins offer in this same situation –- before his first year of arbitration. Keeping Stanton likely would be more costly.

Stanton likes his teammates, respects manager Mike Redmond (“he’s done a good job -- does nothing crazy if we win or lose”) and enjoys South Florida.

But Braves second baseman Dan Uggla says what Stanton won’t: Stanton is a great talent but "to be special, you have to surround him with legitimate guys."

And with Logan Morrison the only other established quality hitter in the lineup, Stanton’s average has sunk to .238, well below his .265 career mark. He is averaging one homer every 21 at-bats, compared with one-per-15 in his career.

He entered Tuesday night’s game hitting .210 since the All-Star break and .191 with runners in scoring position. And this depicts how he is often being pitching around: According to fangraphs.com, only 37.6 percent of all pitches thrown to him have been inside the strike zone, compared to 42 last season.

He has hit better at home (.302, 10 homers) than on the road (.184, three homers), but he makes no secret of his distaste for Marlins Park’s roomy dimensions.

“This place is ridiculous,” he said during a recent homestand. “It shouldn’t be like this. You hit balls that would be 20 rows deep in the seats of other parks.”

Has he become used to it?

“I don’t think anyone ever will get used to hitting in this park completely, if you’re a power guy. Everyone that comes in and plays here -– it’s the first thing they bring up. It’s in everyone’s thoughts. [The issue is] who’s going to talk about it.”

Stanton said he felt it wasn’t his place last winter to express his concern to Loria or the front office. He’s not sure he will this winter, either. “It could come up,” he said. “It’s their decision.”

The Marlins declined to comment about Stanton’s ballpark opinions but previously said they need a larger sample size before making any decisions on the size of the field.

Stanton admits having five hitting coaches in three-plus seasons has been difficult. But he is a big fan of the interim hitting coach, John Pierson.

The Marlins already have accounted for Stanton’s 2014 salary (likely $6 million to $8 million) in their internal budget projections. If he turns down their multiyear offer, the question becomes how soon to trade him before he becomes a free agent in November 2016.

An official who spoke to the Marlins said they might hold onto him into next season even if he rejects their multiyear offer. But a trade would be inevitable in that scenario.

The Marlins typically look for pitching when trading prospects, but offense -– especially infielders and possibly a catcher –- are a far greater need now.

CHATTER

### Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace wants to make one thing very clear: Anyone who believes he’s only dangerous on deep balls is sadly mistaken.

“I score every single way you can score – handoffs, posts, slants… Every single route I’ve scored on,” he said Monday. “Last year, I only had seven catches over 20 yards. Those people must not watch our games. Must just see highlights.”

Wallace, by the way, added: “I’m always open.”

And this: “I want to be the best player in the league,… want to lead the league in everything I possibly can.”

### We hear Dolphins veterans have been thoroughly impressed by Dion Jordan –- from his work ethic to professionalism to enormous upside. “He’s surprised me -– his athleticism, his power for a skinny guy,” linebacker Philip Wheeler said.

Quarterback Matt Moore said: “He’s so big and fast – his length is so big that it’s hard to throw around him or over him. He has such an effect on the other 10 guys on defense. Even if he doesn’t make the sack, he puts other guys in position to.” (Update: Jordan missed his third straight practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury.)

### Who has stood out as pass-rushers? Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said two: Tyriq McCord and freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad. “They’re our fastest guys off the edge.”… Freshman linebacker Jermaine Grace impressed UM coaches during Sunday's scrimmage.... Please see the last post for an item on UM's new defensive line additions. Even before those additions, running back Eduardo Clements said it's clear that UM's defensive line is "much better" than last year.

### ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said off air Tuesday that UM is a top-20 caliber team and “people don’t have a full appreciation for how good Stephen Morris is. If they can improve as much as we anticipate on the defensive side,… Miami can be a team to look out for in the ACC.”

### UM's Clements said one problem last season was “people crying about” how many reps they got in practice. Those players are gone “and no one here thinks it’s all about me,” he said. “[Golden] said, ‘If you are going to cry about reps, you might as well leave.’” 

### Content with its roster for now, the Heat passed on forward Al Harrington, who was closing in on a deal with the Wizards on Tuesday afternoon. With 13 players holding guaranteed contracts, the Heat has felt no urgency to make additional moves, beyond inviting young players (such as Campbell's Eric Griffin) to training camp.   

FIns get White House visit; Golden pleased to add key newcomer; Player calls LeBron misinformed

4:30 p.m. update: The Dolphins have been invited to the White House! But not the current team. Forty years after their undefeated season, the Dolphins have been invited to the White House to be honored by President Obama at 2:05 p.m. next Tuesday.

Former tight end Marv Fleming and former safety Dick Anderson both spearheaded the efforts; Nat Moore also assisted. Steve Ross is paying for all the expenses.

The Dolphins never received a White House visit after their undefeated season, so this is long overdue.

################################################################################################

A couple quick Tuesday morning items:

### UM coach Al Golden was allowed to speak for the first time this morning about UM newcomer and former Wisconsin starting defensive end David Gilbert, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season.

"We’re very fortunate to have him," Golden said. "He brings maturity. He can rush the passer. He’s on a mission. He wants to go to graduate school and he wants to play in the NFL. We’re excited to have him. Our kids have welcomed him. They know he can help us.”

Gilbert is eligible immediately because he recently graduated from Wisconsin. He is enrolling in a graduate school program at UM.

Gilbert has battled foot injuries on and off for years and "retired" from football in April, but later changed his mind and reached out to UM. Golden said: “We made sure his foot was OK.”

Golden said he’s in good shape --- Gilbert has been working out in Fort Lauderdale for the past two months --- and “we’re going to take it slowly.”

“We’re excited about his experience and what he brings to the table,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “We think he can help us.”

Gilbert had 42 tackles and four sacks last season and on paper, would seem to be one of UM’s two best defensive ends, along with Anthony Chickillo. But D’Onofrio said it’s too early to determine if he will be a starter or a situational player. Golden agreed. But Shayon Green's starting job will be at risk if Gilbert plays like he did for the Badgers.

Golden said he feels better about UM’s line depth after adding Gilbert, Virginia tackle Justin Renfro, and Ufomba Kamalu, who Golden says can play end or tackle.

### Golden expects safety Deon Bush to be ready for the Aug. 30 opener against FAU. He had sports hernia surgery in June.

### UM will honor the 1983 national championship team at the FAU opener. Sadly, UM says six players and two coaches from that team are deceased.

###  LeBron James has decided not to run for president of the players union after considering it – days after he told ESPN that the “union is going backwards and it’s not in a good place right now.”

Jerry Stackhouse, an executive committee member of the union, called James "misinformed."

"He's the best player in the game right now and we want the entire league to be involved," Stackhouse told CBS Sports. "But he needs to be informed in speaking on our union business.”

Stackhouse said James' comments felt like a "kick in the stomach.... I would have liked [James] to come to the meeting next week and hear it and then voice his opinion."

### Dimitri Patterson has had a better camp than Richard Marshall, but the Dolphins aren’t yet ready to give Patterson the starting cornerback job opposite Brent Grimes. (Patterson and Marshall continue to share first-team snaps.)

Though coordinator Kevin Coyle said Patterson is doing a good job, he said he wants to see more consistency from him on balls “thrown vertically down the field.”