Posted on: October 11, 2011 1:35 pm

Bud Norris takes swipe at Brian Wilson on Twitter

By Matt Snyder

Have you seen those recent Taco Bell commercials with eccentric Giants closer Brian Wilson? If not, here you go:

Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris has seen it, and he's evidently not a fan (understatement alert). Witness his tweet from Monday night (via Big League Stew).

It's too bad that with Wilson being a closer and Norris being a starter, the odds of one stepping into the batter's box against the other are pretty astronomical.

Also, this kind of disrupts traditional hierarchy. Generally speaking, less established players don't really go after more established players. Norris, 26, had a decent season for the Astros -- who were the worst team in baseball. Wilson is a three-time All-Star and was a prominent member of the World Series champion Giants in 2010.

This example, in a long line of examples, is why Twitter is equally awesome for fans and maybe a bit too much for some athletes. If you're Bud Norris, why go after Brian Wilson? Nothing can possibly be gained by that. And, really? He can't tell if Brian Wilson plays baseball?

We can help, Bud: Yes, Brian Wilson plays baseball. He's better at it than you are.

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Posted on: October 6, 2011 6:06 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 6:10 pm

Tim Lincecum being sued for trashing apartment

Tim LincecumBy Matt Snyder

Tim Lincecum faces a lawsuit that alleges he has destroyed $200,000 worth of property in a furnished San Francisco apartment. The Giants ace is alleged to have illegally lived in the apartment after his lease was up, during which time he "broke, stained, defaced, tore, injured or destroyed" property inside the apartment. Landlord Mindy Freile is seeking $350,000 in damages from Lincecum. His lease expired Feb. 28, but Lincecum reportedly stayed until May 13, when Freile -- who had reportedly been trying to force Lincecum out -- entered the unit and noticed the damage.

"My belief is there was some kind of party that left it in really bad condition," said Freile's attorney Jonathan Bonstein (Mercurynews.com). "Maybe there's a perfectly good explanation on his side, but we haven't heard it yet."

Freile's complaint says that the following items were significantly damaged: "Bedding, doors, carpet, pillows, kitchenware, linens, furniture, household appliances, art work, decorations, patio furniture, lights, lamps, and mirrors, among other things."

The Giants haven't commented on the matter, but Lincecum's attorney has said it's an "unwarranted lawsuit" that he refuses to "dignify with a response."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in the past, but otherwise has a clean off-field record.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:03 pm

Rollins willing to leave Philly, wants five years


By Evan Brunell

Jimmy Rollins wants a five-year deal and if he has to the leave the Phillies, so be it. But any more than that, and Rollins hesitates.

"Five would be great. Five would be the number,'' Rollins told Sports Illustrated. "I don't think I want six or seven. You start thinking about 39 (years old). Do I want to play at 39?''

Rollins, 32, bounced back from two straight lousy seasons in which he hit .248/.304/.406, missing half the 2010 season with leg problems. He's rebounded this year, and while he's no longer a MVP-caliber player he is still a strong shortstop, contributing a .268/.338/.396 line which is above-average in today's offensively-starved culture. He's also held up favorably on defense after hamstring problems sapped much of his 2010, but there is question to believe just how much longer Rollins has left. And it will be surprising if there's a team out there that believes Rollins can handle a five-year deal.

A source tells SI.com that the Phillies would prefer to keep any deal to three years, which is completely understandable. The club does understand that it may have to pay a little over actual value for Rollins given his star stature, but they are one of the few teams that can afford to do so. In a poll, Jon Heyman found a baseball executive believing Rollins could get $58 million for four years on the free-agent market, while another projects a Phillies contract of three years with a minimum of $12 million a year. Currently finishing up a five-year, $40 million deal, it's clear Rollins will crack the eight-figure annual salary for the first time.

Philadelphia needs to be concerned about the market for Rollins. It's going to be a thin free-agent market, which can only help Rollins. Plus, finding good help at such an important position is an extremely difficult thing to do. Just ask the Red Sox, who have cycled through a dizzying amount of shortstops ever since trading Nomar Garciaparra.

One other team that could use a settled shortstop position is the Giants, which CC Sabathia mentioned as a potential landing destination for Rollins. People are giving this proclamation a lot more weight than usual because Rollins and Sabathia are close, and the shortstop accurately predicted Sabathia would sign with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season, even when the prevailing wisdom was that Sabathia would not. However, it seems as if Sabathia only mentioned the possibility, not the certainty, so there shouldn't be too much read into this just yet.

But it's still possible, as Rollins won't be afraid to leave town.

"Right now there is no better place to play baseball, especially in the National League,'' Rollins said "With that being said, I've been here since I am 17. I never thought of going anywhere else. But am I afraid to leave? Not at all. Nothing's permanent. I don't get caught up to the point where it's either this or nothing.''
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Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:59 pm

Breakout of Year Awards: Ellsbury, Morse shine

Ellsbury, Morse

By Evan Brunell

There's been plenty of discussion recently on who should win the awards baseball will hand out after the postseason. There are no shortage of opinions on who should grab the MVP or the Cy Young Award, to say nothing of Rookie of the Years, Gold Gloves and Comeback Player of the Year. But where's the category that rewards players who broke out? There hasn't one ... until now. Here's a top three, followed by two others.

MLB Awards
  • MVP candidates: AL | NL
  • Cy Young Award: AL | NL
  • Rookie of the YearAL | NL 
  • Comeback players: AL | NL
  • Gold Gloves: AL | NL
  • Tin Gloves: AL | NL
  • Manager of the Year: AL | NL
Eye on Baseball will chronicle the five top candidates per league for the Breakout Player of the Year. It's important to keep in mind the separation between a breakout and a comeback. By its very name, to win the Comeback Player of the Year, you have to have "come back" from something. Breaking out has no such restrictions. Who had a season for the ages that has most adjusted a player's value for the better? Last season, Jose Bautista would have ran away with this award in the AL. Who takes the top spot this year?

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: Surprised? Don't be. Ellsbury is by all accounts one of the three top candidates to win the AL MVP award alongside Bautista and Justin Verlander. Just a year ago, Ellsbury played in just 18 games, struggling with fractured ribs suffered in an early-April crash. His commitment and toughness were called into question, and the 28-year-old was entering a make-or-break year. Safe to say he made it, with a .323/.378/.552 line with 31 homers and 38 steals, becoming Boston's first-ever 30/30 man. By Wins Above Replacement, Ellsbury has more than doubled his previous best season of 2008, his first full season in the bigs.

2. Doug Fister, Tigers: Last season, I picked up Fister in a fantasy baseball league midway through the season. That's how poorly he was thought of -- he was an injury replacement halfway through the year, even though he finished the season with 28 starts and a 4.11 ERA. While Fister displayed strong command, he didn't strike out many batters and averaged 88-mph on his fastball without a true out pitch. He wasn't considered a pitcher worth caring about. Except this year, his fastball velocity has ticked up and his slider has developed into a weapon. Then, he got traded to Detroit where he's gone bananas, giving Fister a total season ERA of 2.83 in 216 1/3 innings. Now, Fister is Detroit's No. 2 starter in October and no one thinks that's odd. So, yeah: Breakout.

3. Alex Avila, Tigers
: Fister's new batterymate in Detroit had a season truly out of nowhere. At least Ellsbury was a former first-round pick dripping with talent while Fister had previous success in the majors. Avila, though, struggled to a .228/.316/.340 line in 333 plate appearances last season. Certainly lower than his minor-league average line of .280/.373/.424, but even that didn't portend what was coming. In 2011, Avila was one of the best catchers -- strike that, one of the best players -- with a .298/.391/.513 mark in 543 PA, banging 33 doubles and 19 HR.

Also deserving:

Alex Gordon, Royals: One compared to George Brett, it took Gordon five years and a position switch, but he's finally delivering on his promise with a .303/.376/.502 figure.

Brandon McCarthy, Ahtletics: McCarthy had one of the best seasons a pitcher could have, dodging his way through a couple bumps and bruises to post a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, allowing just 1.5 walks per nine and striking out 6.5. That's Doug Fister-ian. And just like that, the A's have yet another good pitcher.

1. Michael Morse, Nationals: Morse followed in Jose Bautista's footsteps by hinting toward a breakout season, slamming 15 homers in part-time duty. But a 30-homer season? That was tough to envision, and yet the 29-year-old broke out this year with just that and added to it by hitting .303. Now the Nationals have a fearsome middle-of-the-order bat at minimal charge and the ability to play either first base or left field. Morse's development is for real, and his power is here to stay.

2. Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: You had to know Vogelsong would land on this list. And why not? Vogelsong didn't throw one major-league pitch for four years before casually throwing up a 2.71 ERA over 179 2/3 innings this season. From 2000-06, Vogelsong was nothing short of an awful pitcher, so this is absolutely a breakout in every sense of the word ... and he began the year as a 33-year-old. His peripherals are strong enough that you can expect the fun to continue next season.

3. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: The former Yankees top prospect has found a home in Arizona, following up a solid 2010 with a sublime 2011 that should get him some Cy Young Award votes. Kennedy's soaked up 222 innings, posted a 21-4 record and a pristine 2.88 ERA, striking out 198 while at it. That's a fantastic pitcher through and through. While Kennedy may not have been ready for the AL East when he was with the Yankees, he'd certainly do just fine anywhere the way he's come along.

Also deserving:

Cameron Maybin, Padres: Maybin struggled for consistent playing time for years in Florida and finally got his chance with San Diego. His overall numbers are depressed because he plays in Petco Park, but his defense more than makes up for it. To give you an idea of how good he has been offensively, here are his road numbers: .294/.349/.457. Safe to say the Pads picked the pocket of Florida here.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Molina is a great defender with a fantastic arm. We all know that. He's also, for the first time in his career, been a significant contributor on offense with a .306/.349/.469 line, punching 32 doubles and 14 homers. It's power never seen before from Yadier.

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:15 am

Pepper: From afterthought to MVP candidate

Michael Young

By C. Trent Rosecrans

I'm not sure I'd vote for Michael Young for the American League MVP, but I sure would have to consider the Rangers veteran if I had a ballot in the AL -- and that's a far cry from where Young started the season.

Remember going into spring training? Young had no home on the diamond and reportedly wanted a trade from the only team he's played for as a big leaguer. At 34, he seemed to be anything but what his surname suggested and of declining skills, not to mention he was a man without a position. The team signed Adrian Beltre to take over at third base, displacing him once again. Young had been moved off shortstop to make room for Elvis Andrus after previously being moved from second base. And now the team had another third baseman and it seemed there was nowhere for Young.

Instead, Young has wound up playing everywhere. In addition to 68 starts as the team's DH, he's made 39 starts at third base, 36 at first base and 13 at second. He may be the team's MVP -- with V standing for both valuable and versatile. He played in all but two games this season, and produced. He's hitting .338/.380/.477 -- all improvements over last season -- along with 11 home runs (down from a year ago), 104 RBI and a MLB-best 209 hits.

"People want to talk MVP? It's ridiculous if they don't consider Michael Young," Rangers manager Ron Washington told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I'd like someone to tell me a utility player who does what he does… When it all started, nobody thought he'd be able to get playing time."

The AL MVP vote could be one of the toughest in recent years, but Washington's right, Young should seriously be considered.

Rockies to be aggressive in offseason: The Rockies were many people's pick to win the National League West, or at least the wild card. Instead, the team has limped to a 71-87 record so far, 21 games behind the surprising Diamondbacks. Colorado has money to spend and will look for several upgrades in order to be competitive in 2012. [Denver Post]

Sayonara Kuroda? Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda said there's a 50-50 chance he returns to Japan next year. Kuroda is 13-16 with a 3.17 ERA this season. [MLB.com]

Rasmus blames Cardinals: Colby Rasmus hasn't played well since going to Toronto, and for that, he's blaming the Cardinals. The 25-year-old center fielder has as much talent as anyone, but his head seems to continue to get in his way. Maybe Tony La Russa was right… [National Post]

Pinch-runner paying dividends: Tyler Greene isn't playing much shortstop for the Cardinals, but he's still making his mark on the bases. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Stadium holding back A's: The A's still hope to get a new stadium in San Jose, but if they do they'll likely hold back on spending -- because the stadium wouldn't be ready for at least three years, and the team would want to build toward opening strong in the new stadium. At least, that's what the agents for Josh Willingham hear. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Extending DatDude: Reds general manager Walt Jocketty will meet with the agents for second baseman Brandon Phillips in New York this week to talk about an extension. Jocketty has already said the team would pick up Phillips' $12 million option for 2012. [MLB.com]

Sanchez hopeful: Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said he expects to be ready for opening day in 2012. Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery in August. [San Jose Mercury News]

Homecoming: You think it's bad when you see minivans with a kid's name and number on the back? I know I'd be embarrassed if if my mom had "Trent" and "CBSSports.com" on the back of her car. Or even if she wore a t-shirt with that around town. Well, imagine how embarrassed Reds rookie Devin Mesoraco felt when his mother distributed more than 700 t-shirts with his image and name on it for Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. [OMGReds.com]

Maybin wants to stay in San Diego: Cameron Maybin has apparently found a home in San Diego. When asked if he was open to signing a long-term deal with the Padres, Maybin said "100 percent." You can also find out where he buys his shoes. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

If you don't hit does it matter where you hit? The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano isn't happy about batting seventh most of the season fo rthe Cubs. Shouldn't he be more upset with him putting up the type of production that makes him a seven-hitter? [ESPNChicago.com]

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 12:34 am

Playoff Race: Braves win, get help in wild card

By Matt Snyder

Friday night did a lot in sorting out what the National League playoffs will look like. Both the Brewers and the Diamondbacks clinched their respective divisions, for one thing. For another, both the Cardinals and Giants lost while the Braves won. We can write off the Giants now, as they trail by five with five games to go -- and have a team between them and the Giants. They haven't been mathematically eliminated, but let's be real: It ain't happening. The NL wild-card race is a two-teamer now. And probably soon to be one.

Let's break it down:

Atlanta Braves
Remaining schedule: 2 @ WAS, 3 v. PHI
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 92.8 percent

St. Louis Cardinals
86-70, 3 GB
Remaining schedule: 2 v. CHC, 3 @ HOU
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 6.8 percent

Let's lay this out in the most understandable way possible: If the Cardinals win their remaining five games and the Braves only go 2-3, a one-game playoff would be forced. The Braves' magic number is three, meaning a combination of Braves wins and Cardinals losses equaling three clinches the wild card for Atlanta. It's still possible for the Cardinals to get in, but it's a pretty big mountain to climb.

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 12:17 am

Diamondbacks clinch NL West title

By Matt Snyder

For the fifth time in franchise history -- in 14 total seasons -- the Arizona Diamondbacks are National League West champions. They entered Friday night with a magic number of one and were facing the Giants. Considering there were six games left in the season and that the D-Backs had a six-game lead, winning the West was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Still, getting the victory right away had to be nice. They can now start planning for the NLDS.

Friday night's game packed some serious drama. The D-Backs trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. They tied it in the seventh and then in the eighth, a two-out, two-run triple by rookie Paul Goldschmidt gave them the lead for good.

The Diamondbacks previously won the NL West in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2007.

This one has to be especially sweet, though. Arizona had finished in last place the past two seasons and was coming off a 97-loss season. Heading into 2011, the national consensus was pretty much that the Diamondbacks would finish last again, but behind a tough manager (Kirk Gibson), a Cy Young candidate (Ian Kennedy) and an MVP candidate (Justin Upton), they became one of the best stories in baseball by going worst-to-first.

Arizona only trails the Brewers by one game for the second-best record in the NL. Assuming the Braves hold on in the wild card, and considering what happened Friday night it's likely, the No. 2 seed will avoid playing the Phillies in the first round and instead get the Braves. That feels important enough to keep playing for wins, though setting up the playoff rotation will take precedent over everything come next Monday through Wednesday.

For now, though, it's time for Arizona to celebrate ... for the fifth time in 14 years.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 23, 2011 4:52 pm

On Deck: Braves face Strasburg


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

Stephen StrasburgBraves' tall task: Stephen Strasburg gets to pitch in a pennant race -- well, sort of. The Braves are trying to hold on to their two-game lead in the National League wild card race, but St. Louis' loss on Thursday gave Atlanta a little breathing room. With six games remaining, the Braves have a 75 percent shot of hanging on to the wild card, according to Coolstandings.com. It can't be too good to see Strasburg on the hill in such an important game. Strasburg hasn't recorded a victory since returning from Tommy John surgery, but that's through no fault of his own. In three starts, the right-hander has allowed two runs on nine hits in 14 innings, while striking out 11 batters and walking none. Atlanta beat Strasburg last season, getting to him for six hits and four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings. At that point, it was the most any team had scored against Strasburg. Tim Hudson, 15-10 with a 3.19 ERA, starts for Atlanta. Braves at Nationals, 7:05 p.m ET

Back home: Not only does it rhyme, but the Jays-Rays matchup has quite a bit on the line. For the first time in nearly two weeks, the Rays are back home. Tampa went 5-6 on their 11-game road trip to Baltimore, Boston and New York. Tampa Bay is slightly better at home (42-33, .560 winning percentage) than on the road (44-37, .543 winning percentage) and have won seven of their last eight games at Tropicana Field. David Price takes the mound for Tampa Bay after leaving his last start when he was hit in the chest by a ball. Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow is coming off an eight-inning scoreless performance against the Yankees, getting his first win since Aug. 17. Blue Jays at Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET

Last chance: With a win on Friday, the Diamondbacks will clinch the National League West, but the game may be more important to the Giants. San Francisco probably needs to not only win the rest of its six remaining games, but also get some help along the way for a shot at the National League wild card. A loss tonight and the Giants not only are realistically out of the wild card race, but they're also mathematically out of the NL West race. Matt Cain is 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in five starts against Arizona this season and 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA at Chase Field. Arizona left-hander Joe Saunders was one out away from a shutout in his last start, Sunday in San Diego, and has won his last three starts. His last loss was to the Giants, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings on Sept. 2. Giants at Diamondbacks, 9:05 p.m. ET

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com