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We're so close to Christmas I can almost smell it. Or maybe that's the mall Santa at the end of the bar drinking his paycheck. Bad Santa (loved that flick), but we accept all kinds here at Connolly's.

I've done my best to try and remain in the Christmas spirit. We have Dylan's "Christmas In The Heart." on the jukebox right now (it's definitely cool if you haven't picked it up), and I've listened to the Bowie-Bing "Little Drummer Boy" roughly 1,000 times so far.

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I did feel a little Scrooge-y earlier this week when my tremendous neighbor Denny allowed me to borrow his snowblower and I paid him back by running over a patch of Christmas lights and pulling the blower's blade right out of the casing. Seriously.

I am hoping it isn't broken -- another friend got the blade back in thankfully -- meanwhile Denny received an early Christmas present of a case of Blue Moon Belgian Wheat courtesy of his idiot neighbor.

Anyway, we'll be closing the doors for Christmas, but we'll move Prediction Friday to Prediction Thursday this week, and leave it up until Sunday's clash in Pittsburgh.

We'll talk football then. We'll talk Orioles now.

Garrett Atkins was introduced Tuesday and will likely be the Orioles' 2010 Opening Day third baseman unless they sign someone else -- such as Joe Crede -- later in the offseason and move Atkins to first base.

Atkins just turned 30, and had three seasons, from 2006 to 2008, in which he batted .286 or better, hit 21 homers or more and drove in 99 or more runs. In 2006, he batted .329 with a .409 on-base percentage, hit 29 homers, 48 doubles and had 120 RBIs.

He placed 15th in the MVP voting that year and was part of a Colorado Rockies team that made the World Series in 2007. But then there was 2009, when he batted .226 with nine homers and 48 RBIs, lost his starting job and eventually his spot on the Rockies' roster.

To me, his one-year $4.5 million contract (that includes a $500,000, 2011 option buyout) is a low-risk, high-reward move for a talented player looking to rebound. But, after hearing about the Atkins signing, a friend of mine shook his head and said, "The Orioles should have just re-signed Melvin Mora for another year."

Truth is the Orioles and Mora are probably both better off with a divorce after 10 seasons together, especially after Mora and manager Dave Trembley publicly clashed toward the end of the season. Mora turns 38 in February and had a rough 2009. He batted .260 with eight homers and 48 RBIs -- numbers similar to Atkins in about 100 more plate appearances.

But Mora was pretty good defensively last year and Atkins isn't known for his defense, though I have heard mixed reviews on that part of his game.

So, if you look at the numbers and throw in defense, I guess I can see my friend's point. Although I still contend it was time for the Orioles and Mora to part ways and Atkins, based on age alone, has a much higher upside.

Daily Think Special: Is Garrett Atkins an upgrade at third over Melvin Mora?

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