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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.

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