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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

As part of plea deal, La Russa gets probation, fine, community service

La Russa is a fine individual and tremendous manager. In meeting him personally at the Cardinals spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida, I was extremely impressed with his conduct and demeanor.

Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pleaded guilty to driving under the influence Wednesday, eight months after police found him asleep inside his running sport utility vehicle at a stop light and smelling of alcohol.

La Russa said he had decided to plead guilty to the misdemeanor because it was in the best interest of all concerned.

"I accept full responsibility for my conduct and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again," La Russa said in a statement released by his attorney, David Roth. La Russa did not appear in court to plead guilty.

As part of his plea agreement, La Russa will serve at least six months' probation, pay a $678.50 fine, complete DUI school and any recommended treatment and complete 50 hours of community service, according to state prosecutors.

The Cardinals said their concerns were addressed during the season.

"We addressed this matter with Tony last season and the nature of those discussions will remain private," chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "We have been satisfied with Tony's responsible approach to this issue and we respect his decision. With today's news, our ballclub considers the matter closed."

The 63-year-old La Russa was arrested in March in Jupiter, where the Cardinals play spring training games.

He gave two breath samples and was determined to have a blood alcohol content of 0.093 percent, Jupiter police have said. Florida's legal driving limit is 0.08 percent.

Undercover officers first saw La Russa's SUV partially in an intersection around midnight and not moving despite several green lights, police had said. Officers knocked on the vehicle's window and La Russa did not initially respond.

The SUV was in drive and running, with La Russa's foot on the brake, police said. When he eventually woke up, the officers asked him to get out of the SUV.

He was booked in the Palm Beach County jail.

La Russa went to law school in Florida and passed the bar exam, but he no longer practices.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Reports: Free-agent closer Cordero reaches preliminary deal with Reds

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Free-agent closer Francisco Cordero has reportedly reached a preliminary agreement on a four-year, $46 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

The deal, which includes a club option for a fifth year, is subject to Cordero passing a physical exam, ESPN.com reported Friday.
The agreement was first reported by FoxSports.com.

The 32-year-old Cordero was second in the National League with 44 saves last season for Milwaukee and made the NL All-Star team.

Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Friday night. David Weathers led the team with 33 saves last season, but will be 39 next year and has been a setup man for most of his career.

Cordero, speaking Friday on a sports radio program in the Dominican Republic, hinted that he had received a lucrative offer from Cincinnati.

"There still isn't anything concrete," he said. "I would have liked to stay in Milwaukee, but it's not up to me. We will see what happens with the management and the owners of the Brewers, because we are willing to hear their offers."

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he offered Cordero a four-year, $42 million deal with an option for a fifth year.

"I thought we had a chance to keep 'Coco,"' Melvin said. "Our offer was competitive. As important as he was to us, we just felt (the bidding) was getting to be too much."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pitcher Joe Kennedy, 28, dies in Florida after passing out

First Daryl Kile of St.Louis, then Cory Lidle of the Yankees, Josh Hancock of the World Champion Cardinals and now Joe Kennedy of the Blue Jays. Is it me, or is something mysterious occurring among relatively young starting pitchers in Major League Baseball over the course of the last several years?

November 23, 2007

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Major league pitcher Joe Kennedy died early Friday morning, a Hillsborough County sheriff's official said. He was 28.

Kennedy passed out at home and was brought to a hospital, Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. She had no further details.

Kennedy's agent, Damon Lapa, told ESPN.com that Kennedy died while at home with family in Florida. He did not return phone calls and an e-mail from The Associated Press.

"We were terribly shocked," Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said. "From what we understand he was in Bradenton ... to be the best man at a wedding today."

Godfrey said he didn't have any particulars on the cause of death.

"When a 28-year-old man dies it's terrible," he said.

The left-hander was 43-61 in seven major league seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays. Kennedy compiled a 43-61 record with a 4.79 ERA, pitching 908 2/3 innings over 222 career appearances.

ESPN.com first reported the news of his death.

Kennedy made his major league debut in June 2001 and made his last appearance in relief on Sept. 29 in a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.

He started the 2007 season with Oakland, appearing in 27 games. Claimed off waivers by Arizona in August, he was released on Aug. 15 after just three appearances. The Blue Jays signed him Aug. 29, and Kennedy got his first win as a Blue Jay on Sept. 21 at the New York Yankees.

"The entire Oakland's A's organization sends our thoughts out to Joe's family," Oakland assistant general manager David Forst told ESPN.com. "He was a valued member of our organization for almost two years, and certainly a guy we loved having around."

AP Writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jimmy Rollins edges Holliday in close race for NL MVP

By ROB MAADDI, AP Baseball Writer
November 21, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Jimmy Rollins never thought about winning an MVP award until teammate Ryan Howard did it last year.

"Seeing him do it inspired me because the only thing he can do better than me is hit the ball a lot further," Rollins joked.

Howard is nine inches taller and about 80 pounds heavier than Rollins, so he packs a mightier swing. But Rollins' season stood above everyone else's this year.

The switch-hitting shortstop captured the National League MVP award Tuesday, edging Matt Holliday in a close race after leading Philadelphia to its first playoff berth in 14 years with his combination of speed, power and defense.

Rollins, a first-time Gold Glove winner, received 16 of 32 first-place votes and finished with 353 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"I just wanted to be mentioned with those guys who are MVP candidates every year," Rollins said on a conference call from California. "To win it is a blessing."

Rollins put pressure on himself and his team back in January when he boldly predicted the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East. Philadelphia won the division on the last day of the season, helped by the New York Mets' historic collapse.

J-Roll made it possible, proving to be the most indispensable player on a team ravaged by injuries. Howard, Chase Utley and several key pitchers spent time on the disabled list. But with Rollins leading the way, the Phillies went 23-17 in games that Howard and Utley missed.

Batting mostly out of the leadoff spot, Rollins finished with a .296 batting average, 38 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers, 41 steals, 94 RBIs and scored an NL-best 139 runs. He became the first player in major league history to have 30 doubles, 20 triples, 30 homers and 30 steals in one season.

No shortstop in the NL ever had more extra-base hits (88) and only Alex Rodriguez had more (91) in 1996 with Seattle. The durable Rollins, who's only 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, played every game, becoming the first NL shortstop in 34 years to do so.

"He's getting the recognition he deserves," team president David Montgomery said. "He's a complete player. Clearly his offense was spectacular and he's so consistent on defense. He was terrific, and he's a solid person."

Rollins, left off the All-Star team in July, had an outstanding second half. He also had more runs, hits and doubles on the road and an equal amount of RBIs away from home, disproving any thought that his stats were inflated because he plays at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Holliday, the left fielder who led Colorado's surprising charge to the World Series, got 11 first-place votes and 336 points. Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder came in third, with five first-place votes and 284 points.

It was the closest election for NL MVP since Atlanta third baseman Terry Pendleton beat out Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds by 15 points in 1991.

Holliday, the NL championship series MVP, hit .340 with 137 RBIs -- becoming the third player since 1967 to lead a league in both categories. He also had 36 homers and topped the NL in hits (216), total bases (386) and doubles (50).

Voting took place before the postseason, when Holliday and the Rockies completed a three-game sweep of Philadelphia in the first round.

Holliday's performance in the wild-card tiebreaker against San Diego did count, however. He hit a tying triple off career saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the bottom of the 13th inning and scored the winning run on a shallow sacrifice fly with a headfirst dive at the plate. Still, it wasn't enough to catch Rollins.

"I called Matt and congratulated him on having a great season and told him how much he inspired me to play," Rollins said. "You never know which way it's going to go."

Rollins, who turns 29 next week, came through when the Phillies needed him most. Booed in New York all season, he batted .346 with six homers and 15 RBIs against the Mets. That helped the Phillies go 12-6 in the season series, winning the final eight meetings with their division rival.

Philadelphia trailed the first-place Mets by seven games on Sept. 12, but went 13-4 down the stretch to finish one game ahead.

Rollins was particularly proud that he, Fielder and AL Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia, also from the Bay Area, have set an example that might encourage more black kids to play baseball.

"I hope they one day say, I want to be Cy Young or I want to be MVP," Rollins said.

In his second full season in the majors, the 23-year-old Fielder led the league with 50 homers -- becoming the youngest player to reach the plateau.

It was the seventh time a Phillies player took the honor. Besides Rollins and Howard, Mike Schmidt won three times (1980, '81, '86), pitcher Jim Konstanty won in 1950 and outfielder Chuck Klein in 1932.

Rollins and Howard became the 11th pair of teammates to win the NL MVP in consecutive seasons, the first since Jeff Kent (2000) and Bonds (2001) with the San Francisco Giants. The previous NL shortstop to win the prize was Cincinnati's Barry Larkin in 1995.

With Torrealba talks dead, Mets get Estrada from Brewers for Mota

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets acquired Johnny Estrada from Milwaukee for reliever Guillermo Mota on Tuesday, moving quickly to plug their hole at catcher after talks with Yorvit Torrealba collapsed.

Estrada batted .278 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs for the Brewers this year. He is eligible for arbitration this winter and can become a free agent after the 2008 season.

"Johnny adds depth to our catching situation," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "He's a former All-Star who switch-hits and has hit over .300 three times in his career."

Mota served a 50-game steroids suspension at the beginning of the season and finished 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA in 52 appearances. Often booed at home, the 34-year-old right-hander struck out 47 and walked 18 in 59 1-3 innings.

"We are getting a quality relief pitcher who can pitch out of the back of the pen," Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. "We have been looking for a pitcher who can give us multiple innings, and last season Mota showed he could do that, pitching 2.0 innings 13 times."

The trade leaves Paul Lo Duca, New York's starting backstop the past two seasons, looking for a job elsewhere. Last week, the Mets re-signed Ramon Castro to be their backup catcher again, though he could get more playing time now than he did behind Lo Duca.

The 31-year-old Estrada had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Oct. 4 to repair a torn meniscus. He also had a bone spur removed from his right elbow. The operations were performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

Estrada threw out only 11 of 84 basestealers (13 percent) in his lone season with the Brewers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and he also lacks discipline at the plate. He drew just 12 walks despite getting 442 at-bats, leaving him with a meager .296 on-base percentage.

Torrealba appeared set to become New York's No. 1 catcher when he and the Mets reached a preliminary agreement last week on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical.

The Mets said Saturday they had ended negotiations with Torrealba, leading to speculation that a medical exam left them with concerns about his throwing shoulder. Torrealba, who helped Colorado reach the World Series this year, missed nearly three months in 2006 with a strained right shoulder.

"I'm just going to say that we couldn't get a deal done," Minaya said Monday.

An All-Star in 2004 with Atlanta, the slow-footed Estrada is a .280 career hitter with 42 homers and 281 RBIs in 589 games spanning seven major league seasons. He has spent his entire career in the National League, also playing for Philadelphia and Arizona.

Estrada made $3.4 million this year. Mota is guaranteed $3.2 million next season, then can become a free agent.

The Mets acquired the 6-foot-6 Mota in August 2006 after he struggled with Cleveland, but he pitched extremely well down the stretch to help New York wrap up an NL East title.

News of his positive test for a performance-enhancing substance surfaced after the season, and Mota said he felt terrible for making a mistake. Knowing he would be suspended for the first 50 games of 2007, the Mets re-signed Mota to a $5 million, two-year contract.

Mota is 28-29 with a 3.91 ERA and seven saves in nine major league seasons with Montreal, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida, Cleveland and the Mets. Since 2002, he ranks fourth among big league relievers with 444 1-3 innings pitched.

Former Twins star Hunter agrees to 5-year contract with Angels

ESPN.com news services
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Outfielder Torii Hunter and the Los Angeles Angels reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday night on a five-year contract thought to be worth $90 million.

"They play the game the right way," Hunter said. "They play hard-nosed baseball."

The agreement is subject to a physical.

The 32-year-old becomes the much-needed hitter the Angels sought to protect Vladimir Guerrero in the batting order. Hunter hit .297 with 28 homers and 107 RBIs for the Minnesota Twins this year and is a seven-time Gold Glove winner.

He finished 15th in AL MVP balloting and was on the AL's All-Star team for the second time in his career.

"We are very excited to have Torii joining our organization," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said in a statement. "Not only is he an outstanding ballplayer but he's also an outstanding human being. He'll impact our ballclub and community in a very positive way."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals were among those interested in Hunter. The newspaper reports that Reagins, the Angels' rookie general manager, called Hunter's agent Larry Reynolds on Tuesday and a deal for Hunter came together quickly.

"You're a little surprised, huh?" Reynolds told the newspaper Wednesday night. "It all happened within the last 24 hours."

Said Reagins: "In the past, we said we're going to pursue every opportunity to make our club better. This was an opportunity. I had the support of some people around me, then I got aggressive."

Hunter will join a talented outfield that includes Gary Matthews Jr., Garret Anderson, Guerrero, Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits.

With Guerrero in right and Anderson in left, the move leaves no space in the starting outfield for Matthews Jr. The Angels said the center fielder, who signed a $50 million, five-year deal as a free agent last offseason, could see time at designated hitter and spell the corner outfielders.

Matthews was sent human growth hormone in 2004 from a pharmacy being investigated for illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, The Times Union of Albany, N.Y., reported last winter. Matthews denied using HGH, which was not banned by baseball for players with major league contracts until 2005.

With Hunter gone, the low-budget Twins' attention turns to two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. His contract expires after the 2008 season, and other teams think Minnesota will make him available if he doesn't agree to an extension.

Hunter said he also had negotiated seriously with the Rangers, but he thought they were a year or two from contending. The White Sox and Royals also were interested.

Staying with the Twins wasn't a real option.

"Sometimes it's time to move on," Hunter said. "Sometimes your welcome is gone."

Hunter recalled when the Angels eliminated his Twins in the 2002 AL playoffs en route to the World Series title.

"I watched the Angels go to work on us. They play the game the right way," he said. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Hunter added: "Maybe I can do some damage and get about three rings out of this."

According to the Times, the Angels were also in trade talks with the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, but it wasn't known Wednesday night whether the Angels would still pursue Cabrera.

Reagins has made a splash on the job even before the agreement with Hunter. On Monday, the Angels traded Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for pitcher Jon Garland.

For his career, Hunter is a .271 hitter with 192 homers and 711 RBIs in 1,234 games.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Report: Castillo agrees to four-year deal

The market value for a slightly above average second baseman is mind boggling.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Second baseman Luis Castillo decided to stay with the New York Mets, reaching a preliminary agreement Sunday night on a $25 million, four-year contract, according to the Associated Press.
Castillo must pass a physical for the deal to be finalized, according to AP.

The three-time All-Star hit .296 for the Mets with 10 steals and 20 RBIs, who acquired him from Minnesota on July 30. He batted .304 with 18 RBIs for the Minnesota Twins.

Castillo also won three Gold Gloves and provided steady defense up the middle with shortstop Jose Reyes despite playing on a sore knee that limited his speed. The 32-year-old hit .316 in September, one of the few Mets who came through as the team collapsed and blew a seven-game lead.

Castillo's preliminary agreement came on the same day that two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine decided to leave the Mets and return to the Atlanta Braves, his original team. Glavine was given an $8 million, one-year contract after turning down a $13 million option to stay with New York and receiving a $3 million buyout.

On a busy weekend, the Mets also broke off talks with free-agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba. The sides had reached a preliminary agreement last week on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical.

Report: Rivera to re-sign with Yanks

The linchpin to New York's bullpen is expected to dawn Yankee pinstripes for the next three seasons.

Veteran closer set to accept record deal for reliever
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera's icy negotiations with the Yankees may be reaching a thaw, as the future Hall of Fame closer appears primed to remain with the club.
According to a report published Sunday in the New York Post, Rivera is expected to accept the Yankees' three-year, $45 million contract offer early this week. Rivera had spent last week in the Dominican Republic conducting baseball clinics.

The Post reported that Rivera will meet with his representatives on Sunday. According to multiple reports, Rivera may have had interest in a fourth year being added to his contract.

Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner has said the team would hold firm with its offer, which would make Rivera baseball's highest-paid closer, eclipsing Billy Wagner's deal across town with the Mets, where he earns $10.5 million annually.

Rivera, who turns 38 on Nov. 29, has pitched for the Yankees since 1995, compiling an American League-record 443 saves in the regular season. The most dominant postseason pitcher of his generation, Rivera owns a Major League-record 34 more saves in the playoffs, where he has a 0.77 career ERA.

Rivera made 67 relief appearances for the Yankees in 2007, finishing with 30 saves while going 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA. His signing has been earmarked by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman as one of the club's priorities leading into the early offseason months, along with re-signing catcher Jorge Posada.

Hours before he could have discussed financial terms with other clubs, Posada reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52.4 million deal. Posada had a physical last week and an official announcement is expected shortly.

The Yankees are also continuing to hammer out the details of Alex Rodriguez's landmark 10-year, $275 million contract, just weeks after the likely American League MVP delivered word that he had opted out of contract during Game 4 of the World Series.

"It feels great," Steinbrenner told the Post. "There was never any question we wanted to keep all of them. Obviously, they are being paid very well. Alex was the thing nobody expected, and he came through."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mets close to filling hole at catcher with deal for Yorvit Torrealba

November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Mets were close to filling their big hole at catcher Thursday night, nearing a contract with free agent Yorvit Torrealba after completing a two-year deal for backup Ramon Castro.

The moves would leave Paul Lo Duca, New York's starting backstop the past two seasons, looking for a job elsewhere.
Torrealba has never been known for his bat, but he was a steady defensive presence for the NL champion Colorado Rockies this season. He and the Mets were closing in on a $14.4 million, three-year contract, according to a person familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized.

The Mets retained Castro to be their backup again, though now he could get more playing time than he did behind Lo Duca. Castro passed his physical Thursday after agreeing to a $4.6 million, two-year contract negotiated by agents Sam and Seth Levinson.

The 29-year-old Torrealba batted .255 with eight homers and 47 RBIs in 113 games for the Rockies this season. He was roundly praised for a deft touch in expertly handling Colorado's young pitchers.

"We didn't see him a lot last year. Obviously, he was in the World Series and we got a chance to see him a little bit. I like the way he receives the ball," Mets manager Willie Randolph said Thursday night at third baseman David Wright's charity gala.

"There are not a lot of catchers that really throw really above average in the market, so everyone was kind of in the same boat, basically," he added. "It just depends on what you're looking for and what you want for your team. Not too many Johnny Benches, that's for sure."

If the sides agree on terms, Torrealba would have to pass a physical for the deal to be completed. After that, an announcement by the Mets could come as early as this weekend.

Castro filed for free agency after hitting .285 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 144 at-bats during an injury-shortened season. He has spent the past three years with the Mets, serving as the primary backup to Mike Piazza in 2005 and then Lo Duca the past two years.

The 35-year-old Lo Duca, a four-time NL All-Star from 2003-06, also is a free agent. A fiery voice in the clubhouse who provided leadership in New York, he hit .272 with nine homers and 54 RBIs in 119 games this year for the Mets, who collapsed in September and missed the playoffs.

"I'm still not over it. It's been tough," Randolph said. "It's going to take a while for me."

The manager said he thought Lo Duca was looking for a three- or four-year deal.

"Every year, things change," Randolph said. "This year, yes, I thought he brought a lot to this year, but that doesn't mean that you hold onto a guy because of that. Hopefully, you bring other guys in that maybe can pick up that slack. But each year is totally different."

This was the first time in Torrealba's seven-year major league career that he played more than 76 games. He is a .251 career hitter with 30 homers and 173 RBIs in 440 games.

Torrealba got some clutch hits for the Rockies, batting .256 with a home run and eight RBIs during the postseason. He was much more productive all year at hitter-friendly Coors Field, batting .296 with six homers and 34 RBIs at home but only .212 with two home runs and 13 RBIs on the road.

The 31-year-old Castro spent his first six major league seasons with the Florida Marlins. He is a .234 career hitter with 41 homers and 137 RBIs in 398 games. He set a career high for home runs this season.

Castro gets a $250,000 signing bonus, a $1.85 million salary next year and $2.5 million in 2009.

He would earn an extra $125,000 each for 65 and 70 games started at catcher in either season. He also could earn $250,000 bonuses for starting 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 125 and 130 games behind the plate each year.

An announcement from the Mets on Castro's deal was expected soon.

Selig: Baseball revenue climbed to $6.075 billion this year.

By FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer
November 15, 2007

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) -- Baseball revenue climbed to $6.075 billion this year, and commissioner Bud Selig envisions an even rosier financial future.

"As I told the clubs today, we're on a great high here," Selig said Thursday following the conclusion of a two-day meeting in which owners discussed, among other things, ways to speed up games.

"When you look at the final numbers and you see what's happened, it's remarkable. There are times, honestly, when I have to pinch myself to make sure all of this is happening. ... Growth and revenue, growth and profitability; it's just been really, really good."

And with attendance up, and Major League Baseball also making a concerted effort to expose its product to other parts of the world, Selig is confident the game will continue the trend next season, and beyond.

"I'm putting myself on the spot here, but I'm very hopeful to draw 80 million-plus, and I think our revenues will continue to go up," Selig said of 2008, later adding that he's "very proud" of the growth.
"We started at $1.2 billion, and I can remember waking up in `93 and `94 and `95 and thinking how are we ever going to get to $2 billion? So here we are at $6 billion, 75 million. And if we just keep doing our work, stay out of controversies, keep the focus on the field, we'll get to numbers someday that will be stunning. And these are stunning."

The commissioner said there was nothing new to report on talks to have the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres play two exhibition games in Beijing in March, a recommendation that instant replay be used to help umpires with some calls, or George Mitchell's investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Selig still expects Mitchell's report to be released before the end of the year.

Owners heard a presentation on pace of games from Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

Solomon said last week during general managers meetings in Orlando that to speed up games, baseball was considering limiting when a hitter could step out of the batter's box between pitches, restricting the number of times a player could visit the mound, and limiting the number of players allowed to visit the mound.

"Obviously I have a lot of concern about the length of our World Series games, playoff games, regular-season games," Selig said. "We're going to work on that over the course of the winter."

In addition to enforcing existing rules, the commissioner said consideration will be given to adding new rules.

"We just need to speed things up a little bit for everybody's best interest," Selig said.

Indians' Wedge wins AL Manager of the Year award, Diamondbacks' Melvin honored in NL

By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Backups as ballplayers, Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge certainly caught on as managers.

The career .233 hitters were honored Wednesday as managers of the year, having found far more success in the dugout than on the field.

Wedge became the first Cleveland manager to win the AL award, chosen by a wide margin after the Indians and Boston tied for the best record in baseball. Melvin was the first Arizona manager to get the NL prize, picked after leading his young team to the top mark in the league.

There are nearly a dozen former catchers now managing in the majors.

"There's been quite the trend," Wedge said on a conference call. "The catcher has to be aware and knowledgeable of every aspect."
"It's a leadership position. That position demands a great amount of passion for your teammates and the game of baseball," he said.

Wedge and Melvin crossed paths years ago. A month after Colorado took Wedge from Boston in the November 1992 expansion draft, the Red Sox wanted a second-string catcher and signed Melvin as a free agent.

Wedge received 19 of the 28 first-place votes and got 116 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He finished ahead of a pair of former catchers, the Angels' Mike Scioscia (62 points) and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre (61). Terry Francona of the World Series champion Red Sox got 13.

"There's always challenges and unexpected challenges you go through over the course of six months. I think we were the extreme of that," Wedge said.

Wedge, a no-nonsense guy with a John Wayne calendar in his office, guided the Indians to a 96-66 record. Cleveland made its first playoff appearance since 2001, then lost to the Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL championship series.

Melvin was chosen on 19 of the 30 first-place ballots and got 119 points. Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel (76), Colorado's Clint Hurdle (58), himself a former catcher, and the Cubs' Lou Piniella (25) followed.

Melvin was honored for his steady hand in leading a team that sometimes started six rookies to a 90-72 mark. Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Arizona swept Chicago in the first round before getting swept by Colorado in the NLCS.

"At the beginning, we were cautiously optimistic. We liked the young group," Melvin said on a conference call.

The 39-year-old Wedge played 39 games for Boston and Colorado in the early 1990s. He's done a lot better with the Indians since starting out 68-94 in 2003.

The Indians took over first place for good on Aug. 15 and went a major league-best 31-13 down the stretch. C.C. Sabathia, picked as the AL Cy Young Award winner Tuesday, and Fausto Carmona each won 19 games.

Cleveland rewarded Wedge with a three-year contract extension in July. "I look at this as an organizational award," he said.

The 46-year-old Melvin played 10 years in the majors with seven teams. He managed Seattle from 2003-04, got fired and took over the Diamondbacks in 2005.

A year after Arizona went 76-86 and tied Colorado for last in the NL West, the Diamondbacks surged. They did it despite becoming the first team since the 1906 Chicago White Sox to have a league's best record despite the worst batting average.

Melvin's evenhanded approach meshed well with his young team, which lost stars Randy Johnson and Orlando Hudson to season-ending injuries.

Eric Byrnes and rookie Chris Young led the offense, and Melvin counted on ace Brandon Webb and closer Jose Valverde.

Manuel received seven first-place votes after Philadelphia won the NL East, Hurdle got four first-place votes with the NL champion Rockies and Piniella got two first-place tallies after winning the Central in his first season with Chicago.

"Originally, I thought it was Friday. You try to put it out of your mind, to an extent," Melvin said.

Scioscia got four first-place votes after leading Los Angeles to the AL West title. Torre, since hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, got the other five first-place votes.

The BBWAA first presented the manager awards in 1983.

The NL Cy Young Award will be announced Thursday. San Diego's Jake Peavy, who led the league with 19 wins and topped the majors in ERA and strikeouts, is the heavy favorite.

San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy wins NL Cy Young Award in unanimous vote

November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jake Peavy has been one of the best pitchers in the National League for years. This season, he pulled away from the pack.

The San Diego Padres ace was an unanimous winner of the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday after leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts -- pitching's version of a Triple Crown.

"It was just one of those seasons where kind of everything came together," he said on a conference call.

Peavy received all 32 first-place votes and finished with 160 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Arizona sinkerballer Brandon Webb, last year's winner, was a distant runner-up with 94 points. He was listed second on 31 ballots and third on one.
"Obviously, I was elated. This is as big as it gets as far as individual awards," Peavy said. "Truly amazing. A very humbling day when you think about all my peers that take the mound every fifth day."

Peavy went 19-6 while topping the majors in ERA (2.54) and strikeouts (240) for the Padres, who came within one win of their third consecutive playoff berth. He joined Roger Clemens as the only starting pitchers to win a Cy Young Award without tossing a complete game.

Clemens did it once in each league: 2001 with the New York Yankees (AL) and 2004 with Houston (NL).

"I can definitely get better. Our bullpen's been so stinkin' good around here it's hard to get deep in these games," Peavy said. "I've got a long way to go to be who I want to be."

It was the 12th time an NL pitcher has been an unanimous choice for the honor, the first since Arizona's Randy Johnson in 2002. Peavy became the fourth San Diego pitcher to win the award, joining reliever Mark Davis (1989), Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry (1978) and lefty Randy Jones (1976).

Peavy had a chance to put the Padres in the postseason -- and earn his 20th win -- when he started the wild-card tiebreaker against Colorado. But the 26-year-old right-hander was ineffective at Coors Field, giving up six runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings.

The Rockies rallied for three runs against career saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the 13th and won 9-8, then charged all the way to the World Series.

"That was a tough way to go. We were so close and had grinded it out for so long," Peavy said. "I really thought that this year's team, if we got in the playoffs, could really make some noise."

Brad Penny of the Los Angeles Dodgers finished third in the voting. Cincinnati's Aaron Harang was fourth and Chicago's Carlos Zambrano came in fifth.

Peavy, the National League's starter in the All-Star game, was the front-runner nearly all season. He consistently stymied opponents, allowing only 13 home runs in 34 starts. He gave up 169 hits and 68 walks in 223 1-3 innings.

Selected by San Diego in the 15th round of the 1999 draft, Peavy became the fifth different NL pitcher to take the prize since Johnson won four straight times from 1999-2002.

Webb was 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA and 194 strikeouts, pitching an NL-best 236 1-3 innings. His streak of 42 scoreless innings helped the surprising Diamondbacks finish with the best record in the league (90-72).

Atlanta's Tom Glavine in 1992 was the only other NL pitcher to finish second one year after winning the award.

A two-time All-Star, Peavy also won an ERA title in 2004 and a strikeout crown in 2005. His nasty stuff has made him one of baseball's toughest assignments for years, but this season was his most impressive.

"I don't really feel that I did anything different in '04 or '05, other than just had better luck to help win some games and obviously get some recognition for that," he said.

Peavy earned a $100,000 bonus for winning the award, and the price of San Diego's 2009 club option increased by $3 million to $11 million.

He knows the kind of money he could command on the open market. Still, he said he'd like to work out a contract extension and stay with the Padres, though he doesn't want to negotiate during the season.

"I think it can be distracting," Peavy said. "We're either going to do it this offseason or we'll address the issue next offseason.

"I'm really not worried about it," he added. "The team has given me financial security for the rest of this old Alabama boy's life. ... I just want to be fair to the rest of my peers when I sign something."

The American League MVP will be announced Monday -- with Alex Rodriguez considered a lock -- followed Tuesday by NL MVP, which could be a close race.

Cleveland lefty C.C. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday.

A-Rod and New York Yankees have outline of $275 million, 10-year deal

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
November 15, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees have agreed to the outline of a record $275 million, 10-year contract, a deal that potentially would allow him to earn millions more if he sets the career home-run record.

The amount of the guaranteed money was revealed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been finalized. A-Rod and his wife met Wednesday in Tampa, Fla., with brothers Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, but the parameters of the agreement were set in place last weekend.

"The meeting was a final get-together," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said. "He wanted to make sure myself and my brother knew that he was sincere and serious."

The Yankees still must draft the agreement with Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras. Asked whether the only remaining details were putting the deal on paper, Steinbrenner responded: "pretty much so."

Boras wasn't a part of the negotiations, in which Goldman Sachs managing directors John Mallory and Gerald Cardinale conducted shuttle diplomacy.
"They were the go-betweens, initially," Steinbrenner said. "That's how he reached out to us."

The Yankees were notified by Boras on Oct. 28 that Rodriguez was opting out of the final three seasons of his $252 million, 10-year contract -- the previous record -- and becoming a free agent. New York maintained then that it no longer would negotiate with A-Rod because the decision eliminated a $21.3 million subsidy from Texas that was negotiated in the 2004 trade.

About a week later, A-Rod contacted Mallory, a friend who works in private wealth management in Goldman's Los Angeles office. Rodriguez knew the Yankees have a close relationship with the investment bank, which was instrumental in the launch of the team's YES Network.

Mallory called Cardinale, who works in the merchant banking section in New York and helped finance the network. Cardinale in turn got in touch with Yankees president Randy Levine.

A-Rod and the Yankees exchanged proposals via the bankers, and the deal gradually was framed in about a dozen telephone calls.

The sides still are working on putting together a provision that would allow Rodriguez to share revenue created by his pursuit of the career home record held by Barry Bonds, who was indicted Thursday on perjury and obstruction charges. A-Rod has 518 homers, 244 shy of the mark.

"The Yankees have never had a player since Babe Ruth that really had a 100 percent chance" of setting the record, Steinbrenner said. "(Mickey) Mantle should have, but he had too many injuries. It's a historical achievement bonus more than it is an incentive bonus. There is no yearly incentive bonus."

That provision must be drafted carefully because of Major League Rule 3 (b) (5), which states no contract shall be approved "if it contains a bonus for playing, pitching or batting skill or if it provides for the payment of a bonus contingent on the standing of the signing club at the end of the championship season."

Even with that, the commissioner's office allowed the Boston Red Sox in 2003 to give Curt Schilling a provision for a $2 million raise in a season following a World Series championship. Boston won the title the following year.

The Yankees already have been in touch with Major League Baseball, and A-Rod's side contacted the players' association.

"Because he's generating such enormous revenue potential, both to the player and the club, there should be some way for the player and the club to capitalize on that achievement in some fashion," said Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer. "The devil will be in the details. The minds of men and women in the sport should be able to figure this out."

Steinbrenner said Rodriguez was given bad advice by Boras during the time before the decision to opt out.

"Boras did a lot of good things for Alex through the years, and Alex knows that. I mean, obviously, he's going to look to Scott's advice on everything," Steinbrenner said. "That's not unusual today. It's not like he's the only one. And if an agent gets out of line or makes bad decisions, then that's going to hurt the player. And obviously, that's one of the things that happened here."

Rodriguez still winds up with baseball's largest contract, a fact that got the attention of Schilling.

"None of us are worth that much relative to 'real world' salaries," the pitcher wrote on his Web site. "But if someone in the game was getting a contract that big, I am not sure you could argue it being Alex. On the field this guy is the MVP-in-waiting every year, it seems."

Steinbrenner said he thinks that had Rodriguez tested the free-agent market, he would have gotten a more lucrative contract and cited the interest of the Los Angeles Dodgers, led by new manager Joe Torre, and perhaps other teams.

"There are a few cynics who say, 'Well he really couldn't get this there,"' Steinbrenner said. "Trust me, he would have gotten probably more. He is making a sacrifice to be a Yankee, there's no question. ... He showed what was really in his heart and what he really wanted."

Now that he's staying with the Yankees, will A-Rod get a Yankeeography on YES?

"Well, we'll see," Steinbrenner said, chuckling.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yankees offer Rivera $45 million for 3 years, by far the most for a relief pitcher

It's imperative that for the Yankees future they keep their long standing closer.

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
November 13, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mariano Rivera was offered a $45 million, three-year contract to stay with the New York Yankees. Now, the team is waiting to hear back from its star closer.

"He'd be by $4 million a year the highest-paid relief pitcher," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said Tuesday. "To say that's a strong offer would be an understatement."

On Monday, the Yankees retained catcher Jorge Posada when they upped their offer to $52.4 million for four years. Posada is due to take a physical Wednesday, another step toward finalizing that agreement.

Rivera, the next step in the team's offseason plan, was allowed to start discussing money with other teams Tuesday. Steinbrenner confirmed the $45 million offer, which was made several days ago and was first reported by The New York Times.

"The ball's in their court," Steinbrenner said. "If they still want to look for more somewhere else, that's up to them."

Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, did not return telephone messages.

Mets closer Billy Wagner is the highest-paid reliever, averaging $10.75 million during his $43 million, four-year contract. Only four pitchers are signed for next year at higher average salaries than the Yankees' proposal to Rivera: Carlos Zambrano ($18.3 million), Barry Zito ($18 million), Jason Schmidt ($15.7 million) and Atlanta's Mike Hampton ($15.1 million).

In addition, the Yankees have a standing $16 million offer to Andy Pettitte, who hasn't decided whether to pitch or retire.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was more guarded in his comments about Rivera than Steinbrenner was.

"He's a free agent and he's fielding offers from other clubs. He's certainly received offers from us," Cashman said.

Posada decided not to test the free-agent market and accepted a deal averaging $13.1 million, the most for a catcher in baseball history. Before Monday, the Yankees had offered a three-year contract to the 36-year-old catcher.

Steinbrenner wasn't concerned that Posada will be 40 when the deal expires.

"He's a catcher, but he can also later on be a DH," Steinbrenner said. "I'm fine with keeping his bat another four years. And as far as the salary is concerned, he was pretty logical. You can't argue with that. He didn't go nuts with what he asked for."

Steinbrenner said it was too early to evaluate the trade market. Florida is dangling third baseman Miguel Cabrera, and teams are waiting for the Minnesota Twins to determine if they can re-sign ace Johan Santana. If not, they might listen to offers for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

"Everybody is just probing, including Brian," Steinbrenner said. "The only probing we've done thus far is on Cabrera. Obviously, there will be an interest in Santana. Everything with Santana and Cabrera is very preliminary right now."

Brewers 3B Braun named NL Rookie of the Year

Unfortunately, Tulowitzki should have been awarded this prestigious award.

NEW YORK (TICKER) -- Ryan Braun's monstrous season at the plate was barely enough to trump Troy Tulowitzki's solid all-around campaign.

The third baseman of the Milwaukee Brewers, Braun won the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Braun edged Tulowitzki, the Colorado Rockies' shortstop, to become Milwaukee's first Rookie of the Year since shortstop Pat Listach won the American League honor in 1992.

"You don't like to put expectations on players," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "But he certainly went well beyond what we anticipated from him in his first year.

"To show you how good Ryan was, in any other year, Troy Tulowitzki would have won hands down."

Braun received 17 first-place votes, 14 second-place votes and one third-place vote for 128 points, just two more than Tulowitzki.

Tulowitzki was first on 15 ballots and second on the other 17 for 126 points. The two-point differential was the closest in the NL since the current points system was adopted in 1980.

Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence was a distant third with 15 third-place votes. He was followed by Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young, Philadelphia Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick, Atlanta Braves infielder Yunel Escobar and Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman James Loney.

Braun, who did not make his major-league debut until May 25, led all rookies with a .324 average, 34 home runs and 66 extra-base hits.

"Ryan Braun came to the major leagues and had as much offensive impact as I have seen in my 12 years as a general manager," Melvin said.

The fifth overall pick of the 2005 draft, Braun finished second in RBI (97), runs (91) and total bases (286) and established a rookie record with his NL-leading .634 slugging percentage.

Braun, whose only drawback was his 26 errors, helped the Brewers (83-79) finish over .500 for first time since 1992, and nearly helped them secure their first postseason berth in 25 years.

"Offensively, I've done well," Braun said. "Defensively, I just need to work harder. I have to make my defense as good as my offense. I feel like for two weeks I'll be great, and then I'll find a way to be terrible for two games. It's just a process, and the more experience I have, the better I'll be."

After a slow start, Tulowitzki batted .291 and hit an NL shortstop rookie-record 24 home runs, while driving in 99 runs. He led all rookies in hits (177), runs (104) and doubles (33).

The 23-year-old Tulowitzki didn't get his average over .200 for good until April 28 and had just two homers through June 5.

Unlike Braun, Tulowitzki, who was selected with the seventh overall pick in 2005, excelled in the field. He led all major-league shortstops with a .987 fielding percentage and showed off his cannon arm to a national audience during Colorado's magical postseason run.

"Everybody knows in this locker room I would have much rather had a World Series ring," Tulowitzki said. "I care about the team much more than individual stuff."

Red Sox 2B Pedroia named AL Rookie of the Year

November 12, 2007
NEW YORK (TICKER) -- The World Series champion Boston Red Sox added to their list of honors Monday, as second baseman Dustin Pedroia was named American League Rookie of the Year.

Pedroia received 24 of the 28 first-place votes in balloting conducted by two writers from each of the 14 American League cities. He also received four second-place votes and 132 total points.

The only player named on all 28 ballots, the diminutive Pedroia led all rookies in batting average at .317, on-base plus slugging at .823, runs scored with 86 and doubles with 39.
"I'm not too big on personal accomplishments, I just want to help my team win," Pedroia said. "There have been some great players to get this award, and it's definitely been such a fun and exciting year for me and my teammates. I'm so happy for the people that have stuck with me through this whole thing."

Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young was second with 56 points, including three first-place votes. Kansas City Royals righthander Brian Bannister earned the other first-place vote and finished with third with 36 points.

Boston righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka finished fourth while Los Angels Angels of Anaheim outfielder Reggie Willits was fifth. Boston lefthander Hideki Okajima was sixth, followed by Chicago White Sox third baseman Josh Fields and Kansas City Royals righthander Joakim Soria.

Pedroia, 24, is the sixth Red Sox player to be named as the AL's top rookie and first since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.

"We're very proud of Dustin for what he has accomplished and how he has conducted himself in a Red Sox uniform," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "So it's especially gratifying to see him recognized today with such a prestigious honor."

Pedroia became just the fourth AL player to win the award while playing the majority of his games at second base, joining Minnesota's Rod Carew (1967), Detroit's Lou Whitaker (1978) and Minnesota's Chuck Knoblauch (1991).

Pedroia began the season in a horrible slump, batting just .172 on May 1. The fans were clamoring for popular backup Alex Cora to take Pedroia's spot in the lineup. But Red Sox manager Terry Francona stuck with him, and had his faith was rewarded.

"Everyone has doubted me at every level I've been at, saying I'm too small, I'm not fast enough, my arm is not strong enough," Pedroia said. "But there's a lot of people that have stuck by me and knew deep down that there's something about me that makes me a winning baseball player."

He batted .335 between May 3 and the end of the season, working his way from the No. 9 spot in Boston's lineup all the way to the leadoff hole.

Pedroia won over the fans with his ability to fight through at-bats, tallying 165 hits and 47 walks while only striking out 42 times - ranking him second among all AL players with 12.4 at-bats per strikeout.

Pedroia was at his best during Boston's playoff run, hitting .345 against the Cleveland Indians in the AL Championship Series and clubbing a two-run homer in the decisive Game Seven. He batted .283 in the World Series against the Colorado Rockies and led off Game One with a home run.

"The only thing I cared about was trying to help the team win," Pedroia said. "That was our ultimate goal. We set out to try to win the American League East and try to win the World Series. We accomplished both of those things.

"I think that if you're dedicated into team goals, individual goals will come later."

Youkilis loses goatee for $5,000 donation

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
November 13, 2007

BOSTON (AP) -- What's next, Curt Schilling shaving his legs?

The Boston Red Sox continued their odd tradition of post-championship grooming Tuesday when first baseman Kevin Youkilis shaved off his goatee for a $5,000 donation to his charity, youkskids.org. The public haircut came three seasons after outfielder Johnny Damon ditched his caveman look for charity in the Back Bay, with giant TV screens to give the throngs a better view.
Youkilis was shaved by two blonde stylists from a local salon at the Cask 'n Flagon, a bar across the street from Fenway Park. Nine TV cameras captured the moment -- including one that broadcast a live shot ("The shaving is under way, as you can see") -- with their trucks parked outside to beam the images to a grateful nation.

Master of ceremonies Greg Hill of local radio station WAAF compared Youkilis' goatee to other great hair in local lore, including Carl Yastrzemski's sideburns, Larry Bird's mustache and Manny Ramirez's cornrows.

"By far, the most memorable piece of body hair in Boston sports history," Hill said, neglecting to mention Damon's beard, which came off in a charity stunt in 2005 before he left the Red Sox to sign with the rival New York Yankees.

Youkilis said he would re-grow the goatee in the offseason and maybe even cut it off again if the Red Sox win another World Series in 2008. "Hopefully, we'll do this again next year," he said.

Youkilis claimed ignorance about whether third baseman Mike Lowell would re-sign with the team, but he had heard that Josh Beckett finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting to Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia.

"It's disappointing, but Josh has the World Series," Youkilis said. "I'm sure C.C. would rather win the World Series than have the Cy Young."

Red Sox to open World Series title defense in Tokyo with two-game series against Athletics

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
November 14, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox will open their World Series title defense in Tokyo.

Following months of negotiations, the Red Sox agreed to a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics in Japan on March 25-26, and the commissioner's office announced the trip early Wednesday.
With Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the Red Sox figure to be an attractive draw for the games at the Tokyo Dome. The Red Sox and A's also will play exhibition games on March 23-24 against Japanese teams.

After the trip, the teams return to the United States and open the rest of their regular-season schedules with a two-game series at Oakland on April 1-2. That originally was to be a four-game set.

Oakland will be the home team for the games in Japan.

The Japan visit is one of two Asian trips Major League Baseball hopes to make next year. Talks have been under way for months to have the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres play exhibition games in Beijing, most likely on March 14-15, at the ballpark to be used for the 2008 Olympics. That would be Major League Baseball's first trip to China.

If the Beijing games take place, the Dodgers likely would then travel to Arizona for most of their remaining spring training games. Next spring is their last at Vero Beach, Fla., where they first trained in 1949. They switch their training base in 2009 to Glendale, Ariz.

Boston and Oakland will be the third set of teams to open the regular season at the Tokyo Dome, following the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs (2000), and the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2004). A scheduled 2003 series between Oakland and Seattle at the Tokyo Dome was canceled because of the threat of war in Iraq.

"Opening our regular season in Japan for the third time is another example of Major League Baseball's commitment to continue the global growth of the game," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Cleveland Indians lefty C.C. Sabathia wins AL Cy Young Award

November 14, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- C.C. Sabathia scanned the stats, comparing himself to Josh Beckett and other top pitchers in the American League.

This time, Sabathia was good enough to beat Boston's ace -- albeit a few weeks later than he hoped.

The big left-hander won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday, topping Beckett and two other worthy contenders by a comfortable margin to become the first Cleveland Indians pitcher in 35 years to earn the honor.

Sabathia received 19 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 119 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Beckett, who outpitched Sabathia twice in the playoffs, was second with eight first-place votes and 86 points.

"I did look at a few numbers," Sabathia said on a conference call from his California home. "I definitely thought that Beckett -- it could have went either way. I'm just happy and thankful that it went my way."

It might have gone the other way if October results counted. Voting took place before the postseason, when Sabathia struggled as Beckett put together a string of dominant outings to help Boston win the World Series.

The Red Sox right-hander trounced Sabathia two times in the AL championship series and went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four postseason starts, striking out 35 and walking two. Sabathia was 1-2 with an 8.80 ERA and 13 walks in three playoff outings.

"The first two I can definitely say I was trying to do too much," Sabathia said. "Just trying to make perfect pitches."

John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels got the other first-place vote and came in third. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona was fourth.

Sabathia went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts, pitching a major league-high 241 innings. Beckett (20-7) became the only big leaguer to win 20 games since 2005, compiling a 3.27 ERA in 200 2-3 innings. Lackey led the AL in ERA at 3.01, going 19-9 and tossing 224 innings. Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA.

"I was surprised. Beckett had a great year and an even better postseason," Sabathia said.

The only other Cleveland pitcher to win the award was Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry in 1972.

Sabathia is the first black pitcher to win a Cy Young Award since Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets in 1985 -- and the first in the AL since Oakland's Vida Blue in 1971.

"That's awesome to be mentioned with him," said Sabathia, adding that he recently attended a meeting designed to foster ideas on how to generate more interest in baseball among inner-city kids.
While the top four Cy Young candidates had similar statistics, Sabathia's stamina apparently set him apart. After being sidelined by injuries the previous two seasons, the 6-foot-7, 290-pounder stayed healthy all year and made 34 starts to Beckett's 30. That helped account for their wide gap in innings pitched.

"I can't really say I was tired in the postseason," Sabathia said. "My arm felt fine."

The 27-year-old Sabathia also walked only 37 batters, giving him a remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratio that took pressure off his defense all season. Beckett was nearly as tough, with 194 strikeouts and 40 walks.

"Being able to go deep in the games I think was the biggest deal in helping me win this," Sabathia said. "I think it was just being able to stay healthy, being able to go out there and take the ball every fifth day."

Sabathia is entering the final season of his contract with the Indians, who are preparing to offer him a long-term deal this winter. Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro would like to have his ace locked up before spring training.

Selected by the Indians in the first round of the 1998 draft, Sabathia has made it clear he'd like to stay in Cleveland -- for the right price.

"This year he crossed the final gates of being a true No. 1," Shapiro said. "C.C. took ownership of what he could control and let go of the things he couldn't control, and that allowed him to really focus pitch to pitch, stay in his delivery and turn into a pitcher instead of just a guy with great potential and a great arm.

"Maybe the most influential leadership he demonstrated this year was how he handled the stretch of five to seven games where he got almost no run support," the GM added. "He never pointed fingers, never felt sorry for himself, stayed a positive, team-oriented guy and continued to contribute and pull for our team's victories, not worrying about his own individual performance."

Beckett gets $100,000 for finishing second, and his 2010 base salary increases $100,000 to $12.1 million. Lackey earns $75,000 for coming in third, and his 2009 base salary goes up $500,000 to $10 million.

AL and NL Manager of the Year will be announced Wednesday and then the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday, with San Diego ace Jake Peavy considered the favorite.

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Phillies ink Romero to three-year pact

Lefty's strong stretch run rewarded with $12 million deal
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- What began as a hopeful experiment has now become a dedicated commitment. The Phillies signed left-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a three-year contract extension on Saturday night, transforming a pitcher who was unemployed just five months prior into a bullpen mainstay.

"J.C. had an outstanding three months for us this year, particularly down the stretch," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro said in a statement. "He was an integral part of our winning the NL East, and we're very happy we could get him signed before he hit the open market."

The deal is worth $12 million, and includes a club option for 2011 that would bring the total value to $16.75 million.

After losing a roster spot with the Red Sox in June, Romero signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies and immediately flourished. The lefty didn't make an appearance in the Minors, but instead went straight to Philadelphia, where he posted a 1.24 ERA in 51 games. Perhaps more impressive -- and certainly just as useful -- he allowed only five hits to left-handed hitters during that span.

There aren't many lefties who can boast that kind of success, which would have made Romero a hot commodity on the free-agent market -- and the Phillies knew it.

"I'm glad I didn't have to go out and test the free-agent market," Romero said in a statement. "I had a great time with the Phillies and really wanted to come back."

The fact that the Phillies had such a hometown advantage in re-signing Romero came more from good timing than anything else. Romero signed with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to last season, and while he didn't completely struggle -- posting a 3.15 ERA -- his 15 walks in 20 innings were enough to make the Red Sox leery. So when the team needed roster space to activate Mike Timlin, Romero's control issues -- along with the emergence of lefty Hideki Okajima -- made him expendable.

Lucky for the Phillies. Romero remained just as wild in Philadelphia, but became so unhittable that the walks rarely hurt. Opposing batters mustered only a .130 average off him after the trade.

Romero was considered one of the top lefty relievers in baseball at the start of the decade, posting a 1.89 ERA with the Twins in 2002. But struggles in subsequent years plagued his value, until an apparent revitalization with the Phillies.

With Romero, the Phillies secured another important piece at the back end of their bullpen. The team traded for new closer Brad Lidge on Wednesday, shifting Brett Myers back into the rotation. But some concern lingers.
Geoff Geary, who pitched in more games than any reliever other than Antonio Alfonseca last season, was shipped off to Houston in the trade that landed Lidge. And Alfonseca declared for free agency last month, meaning the Phillies still have plenty of bullpen holes to fill.

That's typical of any year, but coming off a down year, it looms larger. The Phillies ranked just 24th in the Majors in ERA last season with a 4.41 ERA. Even under the assumption that the addition of Lidge will cancel out the subtraction of Myers -- and such an assumption remains a leap of faith -- the Phillies haven't yet done anything to shake last summer's incriminating statistics.

That doesn't mean they won't, of course, and -- even more encouraging -- they may not have to. The Phillies won the NL East even with the division's worst bullpen last season, so there's no reason to think they can't do it again. But the signing of Romero is the first step toward ensuring that they won't need to try.

"I'm excited and looking forward to next season and hopefully we come out and defend our NL East title the way I know we can," Romero said. "The nucleus has remained the same, and we added the right pieces. We need to go out and do what everyone expects us to do, which is win a World Series."

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Free agent Hunter halts talks with Twins

Torii Hunter filed for free agency and told the Twins he didn't want to negotiate with them prior to hitting the open market.

By Joe Christensen, Star Tribune
Last update: October 29, 2007 – 9:35 PM

Torii Hunter filed for free agency Monday, saying he has halted negotiations with the Twins.

Teams have an exclusive 15-day negotiating period with pending free agents before the market officially opens Nov. 13, but Hunter said, "I don't think there's going to be any negotiations."

Asked which side had halted the talks, Hunter said, "I think it was more me telling them."

This doesn't mean that the All-Star center fielder is leaving for sure, but it does suggest he will entertain other offers before resuming talks with the Twins.

With the World Series ending Sunday, Monday was the first day eligible major leaguers could file for free agency, and Hunter and Twins pitcher Carlos Silva were among the 57 players who wasted no time.

During this 15-day window, other teams can discuss potential contract lengths, but they are not supposed to discuss financial terms.

"We want to see what may or may not be some of Torii's options, and the filing is just the start of the process," said Larry Reynolds, Hunter's agent.

Hunter, 32, hit .287 with 28 homers and 107 RBI this year and was selected to his second All-Star Game. He rejected a three-year, $45 million offer from the Twins in late August, and neither side has come forward with a new proposal. Hunter said there have been very few discussions since the season ended.

Now, other teams can talk to Hunter without being penalized for tampering.

He did not rule out a return to the Twins.

"They might want to see what other teams offer and then get back to me," he said.

Twins General Manager Bill Smith said the early free-agent filings came as no surprise.

"That's a formality," Smith said. "They're going to talk to other teams. They've earned that right. ... If I was them, I'd want to get out there and get it filed."

Silva, 28, filed on the same day he fired longtime agent Peter Greenberg, choosing Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro as his new representation.

Greenberg also represents Twins pitcher Johan Santana. Praver represents former Twins pitcher Sidney Ponson, and Shapiro was Carl Pavano's agent when Pavano signed a four-year deal worth almost $40 million with the New York Yankees in December 2004.

Some other notable names who filed included Barry Bonds, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Kerry Wood and former Twins players Luis Castillo, Shannon Stewart, Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie.

Nathan returns

As expected, the Twins said they have picked up closer Joe Nathan's option for 2008.

Nathan will make $6 million after notching 37 saves last season and posting a 1.88 ERA.

"I wish every decision we had to make was as easy as this one," Smith said.

Nathan was aggressive in pursuing a contract extension last offseason, but now that he's one year away from free agency, the righthander will leave it up to the Twins.

"Bill and my agent had discussions, but as far as numbers, they didn't get into that," Nathan said. "We told them in the spring that after the season it was going to be even harder."

Nathan, 32, noted that Hunter might have been more tempted to take the Twins offer had they presented it in spring training, instead of waiting until August.

"I'm definitely not judging what they're doing because obviously they've done some pretty good things there," Nathan said.

As for this winter, Nathan said, "I'm hoping that they can fill some holes and see what they do with Torii and Carlos."

New era dawns with Girardi at helm

New York's new manager holds court at Yankee Stadium
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- In his first day as a manager at the current Yankee Stadium, the structure he experienced as a player, coach and broadcaster, Joe Girardi was offered a preview of the Yankees' future.
Inspecting the rising structure of the franchise's new home across the street, Girardi saw concrete being poured, foul poles in place, and walked a pathway leading from the dugout to the clubhouse -- and, of course, the manager's office.

It is a tomorrow that now includes Girardi, who was formally introduced on Thursday in a press conference at the Stadium Club of the current facility. Two days after agreeing to terms on a three-year contract, Girardi found himself in New York, grinning as he slipped on the pinstripes once more.

"It's a tremendous time to have this opportunity," Girardi said. "To be a part of the history here, and then to be part of it in the new stadium, it's really neat."

With that, Girardi became the 32nd manager in club history, and as he posed for photographs, he reiterated his excitement for perhaps the biggest challenge of his multifaceted career.

"I can't tell you how honored we are to be putting on this uniform for the third time," Girardi said after donning a jersey with the No. 27 on its back -- appropriate, perhaps, since Girardi will be trying to lead the Yankees to their 27th World Series title.

"This is the place to be. For the Girardis, this place is home."

Choking back emotion at the podium, Girardi opened his introduction with a story about his father, Gerald, whom he said is suffering from Alzheimer's. Gerald Girardi had not spoken in a month, but that changed when a caretaker showed him a photograph of Girardi as the new Yankees manager.

"Oh, yeah," the elder Girardi said.

The 2006 National League Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins, Girardi beat out internal candidates Don Mattingly and Tony Pena in an interview process that took place last week in Tampa, Fla.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the decision was not an easy one, but grouped in a trio of potential candidates, Girardi aced every exam sent his way to emerge as the front-runner.

"I wanted someone that understood the complexity of the Yankee organization," Cashman said. "We're a very complex situation, whether you're dealing with the media, the New York fan base, the expectations."

"Whoever hits the ground running, they're not getting caught up to speed and having a learning curve added on," he added. "It wasn't one thing that stands out. There were several things that stood out for me to help me gravitate to Joe Girardi."

Succeeding Joe Torre after a 12-year run at the helm, Girardi inherits a Yankees club prepared for transition, continuing to filter in younger talent while attempting to win its first World Series championship since 2000.

Cashman said that the Yankees are expecting Girardi to carve his own dynasty.

"He's going to be different, because there's only one Joe Torre," Cashman said. "I think Joe Girardi will slowly reveal himself as what he is in the Yankee universe as manager in due time."

Though Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner preached during the interview process that observers should have "patience" with the new manager, saying that he would not necessarily be inheriting the 1996 Yankees, Girardi has objected to that viewpoint.

A key contributor on the 1996 club -- it was his third-inning triple off the Atlanta Braves' Greg Maddux in Game 6 that sent the Yankees to their first World Series title since 1978 -- Girardi said that he expects nothing less than to be playing in the Fall Classic come October.

Girardi won the Yankees over with a prepared, information-based approach during the intensive interview process. Upon receiving the job, Girardi said he received a message from principal owner George Steinbrenner.

"He was very congratulatory," Girardi said. "He said, 'It's great to have you aboard.' I said, 'Well, I can't wait for the season to start.'"

In 2005, Girardi served as Torre's bench coach and catching instructor before receiving his first and only previous managerial opportunity, guiding the Marlins to a 78-victory season and keeping a young club flush with rookies in the Wild Card race until the season's final week.

"It made me more prepared," Girardi said. "I didn't necessarily ever feel tense. Obviously there are tense situations in games where you have to make tough decisions, but you go with the information with your head. It's thought out. I never thought of it that way."

A 15-year Major League veteran who also played for the Chicago Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Colorado Rockies (1993-95) and St. Louis Cardinals (2003), Girardi becomes the 17th Yankees manager to have also played for the club.

A lifetime .267 hitter, Girardi performed on three Yankees World Series championship clubs, winning titles in 1996, '98 and '99. At 43, Girardi becomes the third-youngest manager in the Major Leagues, behind the Washington Nationals' Manny Acta (38) and the Cleveland Indians' Eric Wedge (39).

"The Joe Girardi that I know is a determined individual," Cashman said. "He's got a big heart -- genuine and sincere. He's decisive in what he wants to do, but yet open to a great deal of information to allow him to be in the best position possible to come together with a plan and execute it.

"I know the person and obviously I'm betting on this person."

Girardi is preparing to transition from the broadcast booth to the dugout, having spent the 2007 season as a broadcaster for the YES Network working as an analyst on Yankees broadcasts.

Girardi said he believes that time spent intimately watching the organization, on the field and off of it, will help him in his new assignment.

"I was a part of about 35 games watching the Yankees," Girardi said. "I think, as a club, there's always areas you can improve. The New York Yankees have a chance to go to the World Series.

"They were in a tough playoff with Cleveland, and obviously Cleveland outplayed them during that four-game series. There [are] areas that you have to improve on all over, because you can't be satisfied with where you're at. In my heart, I have feelings of things we have to do."

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

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Torre is new Dodgers manager- The Saga Continues

The former Yankees manager signs a three-year deal to replace Grady Little, who resigned Tuesday. News conference is scheduled for Monday.

By Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
2:17 PM PDT, November 1, 2007

It's official: Joe Torre is the new manager of the Dodgers.

Torre and the Dodgers finalized a three-year deal today to replace Grady Little, who resigned Tuesday. The contract is believed to be worth around $4 million a season.

"Having grown up in Brooklyn, I have a great understanding of the history of the Dodger organization and I am committed to bringing a world championship back to Los Angeles," Torre said in a statement released by the team. "I consider it an honor to be a part of this organization, which is one of the most storied franchises in all of sports."

Said General Manager Ned Colletti: "Few managers in the history of the game have accomplished what Joe has delivered. Throughout his career he has demonstrated the ability to turn a vision for success into results on the field and we welcome his passion and leadership. We have tremendous fans and they deserve no less."

A news conference has been scheduled for Monday at Dodger Stadium.

Torre became available Oct. 18, when he parted ways with the New York Yankees after turning down an incentive-laden contract with a base salary of $5 million to return for a 13th season. Torre led the Yankees to the playoffs in every season he managed them and won four World Series titles.

Colletti made it clear Wednesday that Torre was the organization's top choice.

"When you look at his resume and what he's done and the market he's done it in, certainly, you have to start from there," Colletti said.

Torre was said to be negotiating for the right to appoint his own coaches, among them Don Mattingly. He also wanted assurance that he would have input on player personnel moves, which could lead to the free-agent pursuit of Alex Rodriguez.

Torre is taking the place of Little, who managed the team for two seasons. The Dodgers won the National League wild card in Little's first season in 2006, but were 82-80 and finished fourth in the NL West last season.

The Dodgers were able to expedite the hiring of Torre by receiving permission from Commissioner Bud Selig's office to skip the mandatory interviews of minority candidates. The exemption was granted because of the Dodgers' hiring record.

Assistant general managers Kim Ng and De Jon Watson are minorities -- Ng is an Asian American woman and Watson is African American -- and Dodgers President Jamie McCourt is the highest-ranking female executive in baseball.

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