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December 20, 2011

Video card: Florida Panthers take a shot at Jingle Bells

Seasons greetings as only a hockey team can deliver. All they want for Christmas are their two front teeth.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108)

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December 19, 2011

Heat giving away window decals Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena

Any Heat fans who want to pimp their ride in support of the team can wheel over to AmericanAirlines Arena before or after work Tuesday for a free decal.

They’ll slap a “Let’s Go HEAT!” decal on your window if you stop by between 6 and 10 a.m. or between 3 and 7 p.m. (while supplies last).

Jorge Sedano will be on site broadcasting his morning show on 790 The Ticket, and there will be some giveaways of Heat gear and Pepsi 1.5-liter soda.

The AAA is as at 601 Biscayne Blvd.

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174)

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December 17, 2011

Panthers' concessions alcohol-free on Dec. 18 to promote drunk-driving awareness

The Panthers’ game on Dec. 18 against Carolina was a sobering experience.

As a show of support for the state’s campaign against drunk driving, the evening was alcohol-free at BankAtlantic Center. Well, partially.

In recognition of the Florida Department of Transportation’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” initiative, all concessions on the Plaza and Upper Level were closed for alcohol sales, including Svedka Bar and Panther Bar (Suite Level).

All other clubs and restaurants (ADT Club, Patron Club, Black Velvet Lounge, Duffy’s Sky Club) served alcohol. The Black Velvet Lounge was open to all patrons. Alcohol consumption was confined to those areas.

“Our organization is committed to helping FDOT prevent impaired driving in our local community and beyond,” Panthers President Michael Yormark said.

The 5 p.m. game was a Family Fun Sunday presented by your South Florida Chevy Dealers.

The campaign was intended to bring awareness that nearly 11,000 die on the road due to drunk driving each year.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108)

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December 15, 2011

Florida Panthers claim their Sunrise site best in Broward for Vegas-style casino

The Florida Panthers are eager to be high rollers.

All the big casino companies are lining up for the chance to set up shop in South Florida if the Florida Legislature opens the door to Vegas-style gambling. The Panthers believe they offer the best bet for success for any that may decide to take a chance on Broward County.

Panthers President Michael Yormark said Thursday there have been talks with about a dozen casino firms that have shown an interest in building a gaming resort on the 90 acres adjacent to BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.

“I will tell you that amongst all the companies that we’ve spoken to or met with, and we’ve talked to most of them, the consensus is this is the premier site in Broward County,” Yormark said, citing the presence of the arena, Sawgrass Mills shopping mall, the available land and access to major highways as the chief selling points. “Combined it creates one compelling package. That’s what we’ve been told.

“Unlike east Fort Lauderdale or any site that might be east of I-95, there’s really no congestion here. You’ve got the infrastructure that could actually accommodate a facility like what we’re talking about. We’ve already proven that the site can facilitate a large amount of people in light of the arena being here.”

The Panthers’ site would have to be considered a long shot at this point because casino operators have expressed a preference for Miami out of the belief they have a better chance to make money there. That could change if the casino is amended to back off on the requirement for operators to make a $2 billion investment.

The Miami Dolphins are also looking to get in on the casino action with land adjacent to Sun Life Stadium. NFL rules prohibit teams from owning casinos, it’s apparently OK to lease land for them.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is attempting to do that so Steve Wynn can build a $1 billion casino next to Gillette Stadium. While the NFL may be OK with such a partnership, residents of Foxborough, Mass., are seeing red over the plan.

The Panthers, whose motto is “We see red,” are intrigued by the potential for all the green to be made with a casino on their doorstep. The NHL has no objection.

“I think the quality of our site speaks for itself,” Yormark said. “I think it would complement what we currently have here. We’re in the entertainment business with the Panthers and all of our event programming. … We’re exploring the opportunity and we’re going to watch what happens up in Tallahassee closely.”

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Marlins fans get photo opp Friday with Reyes, Buerhle, Bell

The Marlins are giving fans a chance to welcome their Big Three free-agent acquisitions to South Florida on Friday.

Shortstop Jose Reyes, and pitchers Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle will be available for one-on-one photo sessions with fans at three of the Marlins’ holiday retail outlets. Events will mark the trio’s first public appearance in South Florida as a part of the Miami Marlins.

The photo sessions will be 4-5 p.m. at Dolphin Mall (11401 NW 12th St., Miami) with Reyes; Sawgrass Mall (12801 W. Sunrise Blvd., Sunrise) with Buehrle; and the Marlins en Miami store with Bell (3701 SW 8th St., Miami).

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December 14, 2011

Jeter's historic foul ball up for auction; will his one-night stands be next to cash in?

If an historic foul ball hit by Derek Jeter is worth thousands, how much will a souvenir from a roll in the sack with the Yankee captain bring?

Those are the questions of the week in the memorabilia world.

The fan who caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th-hit home run ball last July elected not to cash in on an artifact estimated to be worth as much as $250,000. Yankees fan Christian Lopez gave the ball gave the ball to Jeter in return for some souvenirs and tickets.

How much is a ball that Jeter sliced foul into the seats on the first-base side during the historic at-bat worth? The son of the fan who caught it is auctioning it off at Lelands.com.

Anyone interested in grabbing that piece of history must register by 8 p.m. Wednesday and submit a big by 9 p.m. Friday. The top bid early Wednesday afternoon was $10,000.

The outcome of the auction should be instructive to recent recipients of some other Jeter memorabilia. In the best Hot Stove League story of the winter, the Ney York Post reported this week that since splitting last summer with longtime girlfriend Minka Kelly, Jeter has been “bedding a bevy of beauties in his Trump World Tower bachelor pad — and then coldly sending them home alone with gift baskets of autographed memorabilia.”

According to the Post, the baskets contain a baseball signed by Jeter. How long before one of those shows up for auction online?

Nothing sexy about the ball being offered on Lelands.com, but it has the historical significance that gets memorabilia geeks excited.

It bears the “J1” marking that Major League Baseball stamped on balls for Jeter’s potential 3,000th hit. In the close-up photo on the auction site, J1 is shrouded by a black smudge where Jeter’s bat made contact.

Jeter fouled off two other pitches during the at-bat, but the others were recovered by ball boys. Steven P. Picciano, 60, of Nutley, N.J., caught the one that reached the seats. The winner of the auction will receive a letter of authenticity signed by Picciano along with his ticket from the game.

Meanwhile, Topps will be featuring Lopez, the 23-year-old New York native who caught the home run ball, on an autographed trading card. As part of the deal, Lopez will be an honorary Topps employee for a day and be given the responsibility of choosing the image of Jeter’s 2012 Topps Series 1 card which will be available in February.

Lopez reportedly had $150,000 in outstanding student loans, but said he never considered profiting from the souvenir.

“Christian Lopez is the perfect role model and embodies everything that is right in baseball,” Mark Sapir, Topps VP, said. “Topps is proud to be able to help support this young man and place his rookie card right next to all of today’s legends.”

While here were many who chided Lopez as a fool, there were plenty who admired his decision. Steiner Sports and Modell’s pledged as much as $25,000 apiece toward Lopez’s student loans, and Miller High Life offered to cover his tax bill for the items he received from Jeter.

Lopez discusses his 15 minutes of fame below.


POSTED IN: MLB (110)

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December 13, 2011

Marlins' ballpark will offer 'Taste of Miami' with Latin flavor by 3 local restaurants

The Marlins have embraced the move to Miami in every way, and that includes food at the new ballpark in Little Havana, which will have a distinct Latin flavor.

Three restaurants with deep roots in the community will be serving local fare in the Taste of Miami area on the Promenade level on the third base side: Papo Llega y Pon, Latin American Grill and Don Camaron.

“Each concept will feature a specialty item, including seafood, pork sandwiches and Cuban sandwiches. It is important that we provide a unique experience for our fans,” said Claude Delorme, Marlins Executive VP of Ballpark Development.

Don Camarón will be seafood central.

“As a small business owner, and perhaps most importantly, a first generation Cuban-American raised in Little Havana, I am excited to showcase our Latin seafood menu, which is very popular in the Miami area,” said Miguel Alvarez, owner of Don Camarón. “Our menu will feature some of Miami’s most popular seafood items. Our oyster bar will be front and center when customers approach our concession. There will be a person shucking fresh oysters for everyone to see.

"Ceviche will also be a main item on our menu, as well as Miami’s most popular fish sandwich, the famous Cuban minuta sandwich. In addition, our menu will include bacalao fritters and a dolphin sandwich.”

Want a Cuban sandwich?

The Latin American Grill is the place to head between innings. They’ve been making them for more than 20 years at four locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Owner Reny Gonzalez said ballpark fare will include midnight sandwiches (medianoches), Miami sandwiches, empanadas, croquetas, mariquitas (plantain chips) and cafecito (Cuban coffee).

Papo Llega y Pon will be pork place in the ballpark.

“We have been part of this community for the past 33 years in selling one of the best pan con lechon (pork sandwich) that Miami has to offer, and we look forward to introducing it to our fans at the ballpark,” owner Julia Alfonso said.

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (32)

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December 9, 2011

Stanley C. Panther named second-best mascot by site; who is favorite in South Florida?

Panthers-stanley-Thanksgiving-111009.jpg

Not only have the resurgent Florida Panthers soared to second in the Eastern Conference as they aim to end a 10-year playoff drought, they have a newly anointed All-Star in Stanley C. Panther.

Stanley C was named runner-up for Best Mascot of 2011 by GameOps.com, which has been giving awards on the entertainment value in various categories at major and minor league sports venues since 2001.

Rocky, the Denver Nuggets mascot, was named Best Mascot, with Stanley gaining honorable mention. It was the first time a National Hockey League mascot has been honored in the Best Mascot category. It was the third time Rocky has received the top award.

“Stanley impressed the panel with high, high energy, interactivity and versatility on and off the ice,” GameOps.com wrote.

The site also lauded his many initiatives and appearances in the community, including a Healthy Habits program at local schools.

All the more satisfying for Stanley C., considering he was injured while attempting to hurdle a folding chair during the Panthers’ game against Buffalo on Dec. 17. He attended games in a wheelchair for a while last season as other local mascots filled in, including Billy the Marlin, Sebastian the Ibis (Hurricanes), Burnie (Heat) and T.D. (Dolphins).

South Florida does have a notable group of mascots. Billy the Marlins was No. 10 on Forbes’ 2011 ranking of “America’s favorite sports mascots,” which was headed by the Phillie Phanatic. It remains to be seen how his popularity will be effected by his redesign in the new Miami Marlins colors.

Burnie gained notoriety in 1994 during an exhibition game in Puerto Rico when he dragged a woman onto the court to dance during a timeout. The woman, who turned out to be the wife of a federal judge, fell during the escapade and pursued criminal and civil charges against Burnie. The case was widely ridiculed and finally settled for $50,000.

Sebastian the Ibis is one of the most recognizable collegiate mascots and was a candidate for the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2007, but didn’t get selected.

While there have been a few different people to wear the costume since 1957, the most memorable was John Routh, who once donned a fireman’s helmet and yellow raincoat and carried a fire extinguisher onto Florida State’s home field poised to put out the flaming spear of Seminoles mascot Chief Osceola. In other meetings between the rivals he carried a bucket of water with the same intent.

Routh, who was Sebastian from 1984-02, became the original Billy the Marlin until fired among budget cuts in 2003.

The Dolphins, the oldest of the pro teams in South Florida, may have the least noteworthy mascot in T.D. Thoughts on ranking the local mascots?

Photo: Stanley C.Panther was lauded for his involvment in community events, such as this Thanksgiving dinner for underprivileged families last year. MIKE STOCKER/Sun Sentinel

POSTED IN: Mascots (16)

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December 7, 2011

Marlins' pursuit of free agents spurs suitors for ballpark naming rights

Four months from Opening Day, the Marlins’ new home remains No-Name Ballpark.

Team President David Samson indicated Wednesday that the signings of Jose Reyes and Heath Bell and pursuit of more big-name free agents has sparked interest in companies wanting to attach their name to the retractable-roof park in Little Havana.

“No naming rights deal to announce. We certainly have gotten more calls in the past week than I would have expected from people we have never spoken to before, so I’m kind of glad there was nothing announced prior,” Samson said during a news conference at the Winter Meetings in Dallas.

That would suggest that companies aren’t concerned with implications from the federal investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission into the controversial financing of the ballpark that surfaced last week. Suggestions that might deter free agents quickly disappeared with the signing of Reyes and aggressive pursuit of Albert Pujols and others.

“How we look at naming rights is really focus on not how the building was built but what is the value for the team, what is the value for the sponsor moving forward,” said Eric R. Smallwood, senior vice president of Front Row Marketing Services, a firm that has negotiated naming rights on numerous venues.

The pursuit of a naming rights partner for the Marlins’ park has dragged on longer than expected without fruition. During a ballpark tour in June, Samson said negotiations were down to two companies and moving into the final stages.

The team also plans to sell secondary sponsorships to the four quadrants of the ballpark, but Samson said they wouldn’t finalize those until the primary deal was done.

Samson was asked Wednesday if the strategy was to load up on stars to up the ante for naming rights to the ballpark.

“It’d have to be one heck of a record-breaking naming rights deal,” he said.

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (32)

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December 6, 2011

Miami Heat offers meet-and-greet, partial ticket plan

After months dormant under the restraints of the NBA lockout, the Heat has begun rolling out the promotions.

Latest offerings include a partial ticket plan and a meet, greet and eat with a couple of Heat legends.

Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway are the main attractions for Eat with the HEAT at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Lunch trucks will gather on Northeast Eighth Street for what is billed as an afternoon of feasting and fun. Giveaways include tickets to Heat games and other events at the arena. Heat Dancers, Banana Man and DJ M Dot will add to the festivities.

Covered parking will be available in the P2 parking garage for a flat fee of $3. Access to the P2 parking garage will only be available through the Port Boulevard entrance.

Here’s the lineup of food trucks, in case you have a favorite:

Chamo’s On Wheels, Clarabelle’s Cupcakes, Daddy’s Grill, Dog Eat Dog, The Fish Box, The Flying Saucer, Gypsy Kitchen, Latin Burger & Taco, The MexZican Gourmet, Monster Burgers, Mr. Good Stuff, Ms. Cheezious, Pincho Factory, Porkalicious, Sugar Rush.

Keeping with the food theme, the All You Can HEAT Partial Ticket Plan goes on sale Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on HEAT.com. The All You Can HEAT Partial Ticket Plan is entirely customizable and based on an “a la carte” philosophy so that fans can select 10 games of their choice.

Be advised, these aren’t primo seats. The full-season packages have sold out, and these are the leftovers in the 400 level.

Fans can mix and match their partial plan by selecting games from four pricing tiers (Hot, Hotter, Hottest and Extra Spicy). Prices range depending on the appeal of the game from $25 to $150 for the Jan. 19 visit by the Lakers.

The complete range of price tiers for the All You Can HEAT Partial Ticket Plan is: Hot = $25, Hotter = $50, Hottest = $85 and Extra Spicy = $150. There is a four-seat maximum per account.

POSTED IN: Miami Heat (174)

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Pujols, like LeBron, would save a ton on taxes by taking talents to South Beach

When LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach, livelier night life wasn't the biggest advantage over electing to stay in Cleveland.

The tangible difference was in coming to a place with no state or city income tax.

The same benefit entices Albert Pujols as he weighs staying in St. Louis or opting for the Crayola colors of the Miami Marlins. The tax savings are gaudier than that grandiose home run feature he would be igniting with regularity at the new ballpark in Little Havana.

Just before LeBron announced The Decision, the Tax Foundation published a report showing that the tax savings in coming to Miami far outweighed the fact that the Cavaliers could offer $4.1 million more than the Heat due to the Larry Bird Exemption in the salary cap.

Ohio has a top income tax rate of 5.925 percent, and Cleveland adds another 2 percent. Florida and Miami have no income tax, so the saving is about $8 million on a $100 million contract.

Similarly, Missouri has a 6 percent income tax and St. Louis collects 1 percent. On a $20 million annual salary, Pujols would pay about $1.4 million in state and city taxes.

Then there is the so-called jock tax that many states impose on visiting athletes. The cut is computed based on “duty days” spent on trips to away games. The Tax Foundation figured that LeBron would pay about $211,000 more a year in jock taxes if he stayed with the Cavaliers because he would be playing more games in places that would reach into his wallet.

With the Marlins, Pujols wouldn’t be taxed at home or on Interleague trips to Tampa Bay. Washington and Texas are among the few places where pro teams play that don’t impose the controversial jock tax. So no tax to away games against the Nationals, Astros and Rangers. There was a bill to adopt a jock tax in D.C., but it hasn’t gained traction.

Illinois has a retaliatory jock tax that applies to players from places that tax visiting athletes. Since Florida doesn’t have a jock tax, Marlins players aren’t assessed the 3 percent fee when they play in Chicago. As a Cardinal, Pujols gets charged on every trip to Wrigley, and as a division rival of the Cubs it happens frequently.

Wherever he goes, Pujols will make a mountain of money. But he could take less and end up with more with the Marlins. More than enough to split the difference on stone crabs at Joe’s.

For more about the jock tax, a comprehensive report from 2004 on taxfoundation.org shows how it impacted all the players on the 2003 major league All-Star teams. Alex Rodriguez, who was making $22.5 million, was taxed almost $268,000 per duty day that season. It cost him $17,951 to play in the All-Star game in Chicago.

The Marlins' representatives, Brad Penny and Armando Benitez, weren't subject to Illinois' retaliatory tax. Nor was Toronto's Carlos Delgado, who was earning $19.7 million that season. Shows why differing tax laws would influence a free agent's decision.

For what it's worth, here is what Pujols would look like in the Marlins' new garb.

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (32)

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December 5, 2011

NHL realignment plan intriguing but would boost travel for Florida Panthers

If the NHL’s radical plan for realignment goes through, the Florida Panthers will be spending more time in the air, and transplants and visitors from Canada will be able to see their teams more often in South Florida.

The proposed shift to a four-division alignment is the hot topic at league meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif., and could be voted on later Monday or Tuesday.

The Panthers would sever Southeast Division ties with all but Tampa Bay and move into a new division featuring three of the NHL’s Original Six: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo and the Lightning.

The other proposed divisions:

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Washington and Carolina

Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado and Phoenix

Winnipeg, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota and Dallas

If adopted, teams would play five or six games with those in their division and home-and-home against everyone else.

From a fan’s perspective, that would seem much more attractive than those too-frequent meetings with Carolina and Atlanta/Winnipeg of recent years.

For the Panthers, it will greatly increase travel expenses and the number and duration of trips. GM Dale Tallon has frequently complained about the Panthers’ “terrible” travel situation. This would mean longer flights even to games within the division, with the exception of Tampa Bay.

However, Panthers center Stephen Weiss, a Toronto native, said he would relish the chance to play more often in his homeland.

“It’s a lot of travel. But at the end of the day we don’t have a say in what goes on anyway. What will be will be. But that would certainly be a neat conference to play in,” Weiss said.

The plan needs approval of 20 of the 30 teams, and is not a certainty. Support is strong among Western teams, but some in the East are not in favor of the increased travel.

A simpler alternative under consideration is moving Winnipeg to the Western Conference and granting Detroit a long-desired moved to the East while retaining the current six divisions.

Under the proposed four-division format, the top four teams in each would make the playoffs. Teams would play the first two rounds within their division, which would further strengthen rivalries. The Panthers would benefit from being in one of the two seven teams divisions, while the other two would have eight teams.

POSTED IN: Florida Panthers (108)

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December 4, 2011

Dolphins' charity bike ride raises more than $1 million for cancer research

In what may be the biggest achievement of this Miami Dolphins season, the Dolphins Cycling Challenge raised $1,070,000 for charity last month.

A check for that amount will be presented to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center during a ceremony before Sunday’s Dolphins-Raiders game at Sun Life Stadium. The amount is one of the largest gifts ever to Sylvester from a single event and represents 100 per cent of net proceeds raised by more than 860 cyclists.

More than 160 children and 21 cancer survivors participated in the second year of the cycling event. Twenty former Dolphins were among the riders, including Zach Thomas and Bob Griese.

“We are very grateful for the incredible support of our fans and friends who rode and for all of those who volunteered, donated or sponsored the challenge," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said. "The community has embraced this young event early on in a significant way so we're optimistic that in a matter of years it will rival some of the largest charity cycling events in the country and raise multi-millions for cancer research and treatment right here in South Florida."

The two-day event featured six different bicycle rides from 30 to 170 miles that went through 37 cities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Last year's inaugural ride had 311 adult riders, 100 kids and raised $533,000.

Sylvester is recognized as one of the top cancer research institutions in the country. Sylvester handles approximately 1,300 inpatient admissions, performs approximately 2,500 surgical procedures, and treats more than 4,400 new cancer patients annually with locations in Miami, Deerfield Beach, and Kendall.

Other sponsors of Dolphins Cycling Challenge were: Amgen, Breakaway from Cancer, Mack Cycles and Ford as well as Sun Life Financial, Publix, Downtown Bicycles, Giant Bicycles, Contender, Conchy Joe’s, Stearns Weaver, FedEx and WFOR-CBS4.

For more information about participating next year, visit www.RideDCC.com.

POSTED IN: Miami Dolphins (186)

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December 2, 2011

Heath Bell deal gives Miami Marlins instant credibility in free-agent market

While Heath Bell will give the Marlins a closer with All-Star credentials, his immediate benefit is as an attention-grabbing opener.

That is, it provides credibility heading into next week’s Winter Meetings where the serious tussle for the top-tier free agents is expected.

By reeling in Bell with a reported three-year, $27 million deal (with a vested option for a fourth year) the Marlins showed they aren’t just grandstanding in tossing out exploratory offers with stone crabs to the big names without intent of following through. It provides the best evidence yet that the Miami Marlins have truly parted with their Florida Marlins past.

Marlins officials have repeatedly stated they would be more willing to spend when the revenue stream kicked in with the new ballpark. But each report of an offer to a Pujols and Reyes brought more skepticism than expectation. And rightfully so, based on how this habitually frugal franchise has operated.

Are the Marlins overpaying for Bell? Possibly. Only the Yankees and Phillies are as heavily invested in a closer.

Already caution is being sounded by those pointing out that Bell’s strikeout total declined last season as well as his effectiveness away from San Diego’s pitching-friendly Petco Park.

There was similar alarm last winter when the Marlins signed Javier Vazquez, whose velocity dropped off the previous season. After those concerns appeared well founded early in the season, Vazquez righted himself and was among the most effective starters in the major leagues over the final four months.

Bell, like Vazquez, is in his mid-30s. He also has a track record of success with more than 40 saves in each of the past three seasons. He’s not on the level of Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon, but he solidifies a bullpen that was one of the Marlins’ strengths in 2011.

The immediate payoff will be if the signing helps convince other free agents that the Marlins are serious about putting a contender in their new retractable-roof palace. Because Bell alone doesn’t change their chances of achieving that.

They need to add starters and hitters who can deliver leads for him to protect.

POSTED IN: Miami Marlins (32)

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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