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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.

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