Posted on: November 2, 2011 1:34 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 11:19 am
 

McCourt, MLB agree to auction Dodgers

It's not quite the "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead" moment yet.

But Frank McCourt has never been closer to becoming the ex-Dodgers owner than he is right now.

But McCourt and Major League Baseball jointly announced overnight Tuesday -- at 1:03 a.m. EDT, to be exact -- that they have "agreed to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designated to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner Frank McCourt."

Translation: McCourt, cornered from all sides and quickly running out of money, has lost his appetite to fight following two years of lawyers, litigation, obstinance and sheer delusion.

In what amounts to a final surrender, McCourt essentially has agreed to auction off the team and disappear. In return, MLB gets what it wants: The Dodgers wrested from McCourt's cold clutch without a messy court fight in which secret financial details could be publicly revealed. The league will help facilitate the sale through the Blackstone Group LP.

The sale is expected to include the team, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. McCourt purchased the club and the properties for $421 million in 2004.

Best-case scenario for MLB, Los Angeles and Dodgers fans: A new owner is in place by opening day.

The Dodgers have been in free-fall since Frank and Jamie McCourt's marriage began crumbling in 2009, and the all-out war that developed between the two turned into one the ugliest and messiest battles in baseball history. Their excessively materialistic lifestyle first provided fodder for Los Angeles gossip columns, and then grist for MLB to seize the team from McCourt after it accused him of "looting" millions of dollars from the Dodgers to finance his over-leveraged personal life.

The aptly named McCourt battled in both divorce court and bankruptcy court trying to keep the Dodgers while remaining financially solvent. It's been clear to everyone but him for more than a year that he was fighting a losing battle.

His last-ditch bid to reverse his fall came when he attempted to arrange a future television contract that would front him millions even while the Dodgers were still operating under a present television contract with Fox. Selig would not allow it, and that was the basis for McCourt's latest battle with MLB.

Frankly, that McCourt stubbornly hung on for this long is an upset, given that there were rampant rumors last summer that he would not be able to meet payroll, which would have given MLB carte blanche to remove him as owner.

Or, as I wrote on June 22: "Welcome to the final days of the Dodgers' banana republic. You can hear the choppers whirring just over the hills. Soon, they'll have the place fully surrounded. It won't be long until Frank McCourt will be forced down from his coconut tree, frisked and exiled."

That time has come. According to financial figures McCourt himself submitted to the Bankruptcy Court, even if he settled his divorce and sold the club's television rights, he would still be far short of what he needs to restore the luster to the Dodgers and to renovate Dodger Stadium. As it is, McCourt has agreed to pay his ex-wife, Jamie, a divorce settlement of $130 million.

On the field, the Dodgers in 2011 drew fewer than three million fans in a non-strike-shortened season for the first time in 19 years and for only the second time since 1989.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, has expressed interest in the club. Closer to home, Dennis Gilbert, the one-time agent who headed a group that nearly landed the Texas Rangers in 2010, would be a perfect choice. Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has been rumored as potentially being interested, and one industry source theorizes that Oakland owner Lew Wolff, frustrated with the Athletics' inability to gain a new stadium, is another possibility.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Yanks winter: "Pitching, pitching, pitching"

On Monday, the Yankees re-jiggered CC Sabathia's contract before his opt-out window closed.

On Tuesday, they held a conference call with Brian Cashman, fresh off of signing a thee-year deal to remain as the club's general manager.

Don't expect Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder by Wednesday or Thursday.

"I don't anticipate a bat being of need at all," Cashman said on the call Tuesday afternoon.

As for what the Yankees will focus on, here's a hint:

"Pitching, pitching, pitching," Cashman said.

Offense, the GM said, is "not a problem with this club at all, despite what happened with Detroit." The Yankees ranked second in the American League in both runs scored and on-base percentage and third in slugging percentage this summer and, despite Tigers pitching shutting the Yankees down earlier this month, Cashman said he thinks New York has enough sticks to contend again in 2012.

While he maintains that "that doesn't mean I'm not open-minded, realistically, offense is not something we're focusing on." Improving the depth in both the rotation and the bullpen? Now you're talking.

With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and a post-surgery Joba Chamberlain on the horizon, Cashman called the New York bullpen "one of the strongest in the game." He would like to add another lefty to team with Boone Logan, if possible.

The free agent pitching market, led by C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, is not too strong. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters.

All of this is why Cashman's time the past few days was monopolized by making sure that Sabathia did not become a free agent.

"We all know what CC brings to the table," Cashman said. "Pitching in front of the rotation, he he's created a great atmosphere in the clubhouse, he's one of our team leaders, he's influential in the community ... regarding all aspects of what you want the team to be, he's a major, major piece.

"You're comfortable every time he takes the ball."

His continued presence also allows the Yankees to approach free agency differently this winter because they can play from a position of relative strength.

"Securing CC allows us to be very open-minded and conservative in our approach," Cashman said. "We're in position now to take out time, explore and digest, pursue things at our own pace and not be over-reacting because we're vulnerable."

Some other Cashman thoughts heading into the winter:

-- On Alex Rodriguez's health: "I don't have any health concerns with Alex." Cashman said time will heal his sprained thumb, and it already has helped his surgically repaired knee.

-- On the club's interest in Jorge Posada: "He's been one of the best catchers in Yankees history, he's a borderline Hall of Famer and he's a free agent. That's something we'll have discussions on in the short term. It's not something I'm prepared to talk to you about today. He's been part of a lot of special moments here. He's created a lot of special moments."

-- On whether he feels more in control as GM with a three-year deal: "I don't think it's healthy to feel like you're in control. ... If you feel like you're in control, you've probably very vulnerable to some severe disappointments coming down the line."

-- He called catcher Russell Martin "Thurman Munson-like" in what he meant to the 2011 Yankees both on the field and in the clubhouse. Will that translate into a multi-year contract for the former Dodger, whom the Yankees control for one more year? Cashman said the Yankees right now enjoy the flexibility to go one more year with Martin, or "more than one if we find common ground."

-- He said the club will not consider moving A.J. Burnett to the bullpen. "If he is with us, without a doubt he is in the rotation," Cashman said. Cryptic? Maybe. The GM said "it would be hard to replace his innings. But I'm open-minded if anybody wants to approach us on anybody on the roster who does not have a no-trade clause. The worst that can happen is I say no. I'm open to creatively listening to anything anybody has to offer."

-- The biggest thing, Cashman said, is, like always, he has to improve the club's talent. He noted that the club "did not play to the best of our ability" against Detroit, and "part of that was under our control and part of that is what the Tigers put forth." With 97 wins, the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball, Cashman said, "but October is a lot different. That's not an excuse. October is a lot different from April to September. You saw it with the crowning of the world championship team in St. Louis. They finished in the money the last day of the season, and then they ran the table. ... Is there a way to make it better? I'd like to think so. That's my job. I don't think all of our answers are in the clubhouse. Not at all. But I think some of the answers are in our clubhouse."

 

Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:38 am
 

Carpenter, St. Louis: True love

ST. LOUIS -- The cute little girl leaned into the microphone and spoke.

"I love my dad," Ava Carpenter, 6, said.

Not long after, her pop, the Cardinals ace who earned the win in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, chuckled.

"Yeah, but she's got a crush on David Freese," Chris Carpenter said.

On a noisy Friday night in St. Louis after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series title in franchise history, who didn't? Freese, the Series MVP who batted .348 with a homer and seven RBI, emerged into an overnight sensation.

But crushes come and go.

Everyone knows true love lasts forever.

While Freese is on the launching pad toward potential great things ahead, Ava Carpenter's dad already is there. The Cardinals now have played in three World Series during his time here, winning two. He's so thrilled to be here, he signed an extension in mid-September that will keep him in the St. Louis rotation through 2013.

And to that, add this: Carpenter is the first pitcher ever to win two elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before winning Game 7 of the World Series on Friday, he beat Philadelphia's Roy Halladay 1-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series.

Carpenter says these Cardinals are the best group of guys with whom he's ever played. And Friday, he gave them something to remember him by.

Working on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, Carpenter immediately spotted the Rangers two runs in the first inning when Josh Hamilton and Michael Young boomed back-to-back doubles.

But after that ... he threw five shutout innings during which he surrendered only two hits against a potent Texas lineup.

Carpenter said he felt "pretty good" in the first inning. He liked the pitch to Hamilton that turned into a double, but he left a pitch up to Young that became the inning's other double.

"Coming back out for the second, I didn't know how long they were going to let me go," Carpenter said. "So I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time. If it was for two innings, one inning, three innings, four innings ... I had no idea. And nobody said anything to me about it.

"So I just continued to go out and try to make pitches, and as the game went on, I felt stronger. My stuff got better, my command got better and I was able to make some really good pitches when I had to."

Turned out, it was more than enough.

And after the debacle of Game 2 in Philadelphia during the Division Series when he allowed four runs and five hits in three innings while starting on short rest for the first time in his career, there probably won't be many more skeptics if and when he is asked to do it again.

"These guys, again, never gave up," Carpenter said, raving about his teammates, and who else does he think takes the lead in that department?

"This team is unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Most amazing team I've ever been a part of."

Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:22 pm
 

Cardiac Cardinals win 11th World Series title

ST. LOUIS -- Forget "Go crazy, folks." This year, this autumn, this team, boil legendary broadcaster Jack Buck's famous phrase down even more than that. Strip it down to its base. To the one word.

Crazy.

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions in a season in which things looked so bleak, they didn't even send advance men out to scout potential playoff opponents.

Champions in a season in which they were 10 1/2 games out of a playoff slot on Aug. 25.

Champions after general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa in late August all but apologized to the Knights of the Cauliflower Ear -- a local civic club that meets to promote area sports -- for a lousy season.

Champions after whipping the Rangers 6-2 an anticlimactic Game 7 following a sensational Game 6 to win the 11th World Series title in franchise history, but please don't tell anyone around here about anticlimactic.

Kids, all that stuff your parents tell you about hard work and never giving up. ...

All true.

Ask Chris Carpenter, who was sensational in the first World Series Game 7 since 2002, working on short rest and extra guts.

Ask Albert Pujols, he of the record 14 total bases in Game 3, and David Freese, who delivered a two-run triple and game-winning homer in Game 6 that will be discussed for generations around here.

Ask Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday and a bullpen that provided the blood and guts that powered the Cardinals through one must-win situation after another during the month of September.

On a chilly Friday evening that pulled the curtain on a sensational final month to close the 2011 season, Carpenter held the Rangers to two runs and six hits over six innings.

It was only the second time in his career that he worked on short rest. The first? Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia, when Carpenter was knocked around for five hits and four runs over just three innings.

La Russa said before Game 7 that he thought Carpenter learned something from his one other short rest outing. He wouldn't say what it was, but it was clear Carpenter did. Just one more example of the trust La Russa places in his elite players, and they in him.

That, along with the talent, has been an essential ingredient in the Cardinals' three World Series appearances since 2004, and two titles.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:02 am
 

Injured Holliday hopes to play Game 7

ST. LOUIS -- Slumping Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left Busch Stadium following Game 6 with his right pinky finger encased in a splint and with his Game 7 status questionable.

"I should be able to play," he said.

The injury occurred when Holliday dove back into third base while getting picked off in the sixth inning. Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre "stepped right on" the finger, Holliday said, catching part of it with a spike.

"It bled a little bit," Holliday said.

And, he noted, "It's pretty swollen."

"We thought at first he had fractured it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "But I was told by the trainer later on that it's not a fracture.

"I think there's swelling, and he's got a pretty good bruise there. So it may be we need to replace him tomorrow."

Holliday said the biggest issue with it will be whether he can properly grip a bat. Already, he's been nursing tendinitis near the base of the middle finger in his right hand.

Though Holliday says that's better now than it was at season's end, and though La Russa predicted big things from him in Game 6 and/or 7, he's hitting just .158 in this World Series and was dropped from fourth to fifth in the lineup by La Russa in Game 6. Before leaving in the sixth, Holliday walked twice and reached on first baseman Michael Young's fielding error.

If Holliday cannot go in Game 7, Allen Craig likely would play left field in his place.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 7:55 pm
 

Pujols discusses fateful hit-and-run call

ST. LOUIS -- For the first time since free-lancing a hit-and-run call that backfired badly on the Cardinals in the seventh inning of Game 5, Albert Pujols discussed the play on a gloomy afternoon at Busch Stadium.

"I've been on this club for 11 years, and that's not the first time I've put on a hit-and-run," Pujols said. "I know there's been a lot of discussion of why did he put the play on and why didn't he swing.

"The pitch was high and away. I wouldn't have been able to touch it. And now I would have been 0 and 2 and you don't want to be in that situation."

Instead, Allen Craig was easily thrown out attempting to steal second on the play and, in a 2-2 game, the Cardinals not only didn't have a runner in scoring position, but the Rangers immediately moved to intentionally walk Pujols with first base open.

Manager Tony La Russa, during a passionate defense of Pujols that lasted four minutes a day earlier, said that Pujols has had the freedom to call a play like that hit-and-run for a long, long time because he trusts Pujols. He also said with Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando pitching Pujols so carefully, he would have told Pujols not to do it had the slugger asked him in the dugout before the at-bat -- which often happens.

"They're being very careful with him," La Russa said. "You can't really expect the ball to be around the plate. [Ogando] has a live arm."

Pujols is not the only star player who is given the freedom to use his judgment to make a call like the one he did Monday. La Russa noted some of the great base-stealers who have the green light and asked if you remove that just because it's the playoffs.

In Cleveland when the Indians had their championship teams of the 1990s, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton had signals and often would call plays among each other. In Texas, Micahel Young has done it.

"I did it earlier in my career," Young said Wednesday. "If I was a manager, Albert Pujols would be the one player I'd give the leeway to do whatever he thought was necessary to win a game.

"Albert, in my opinion, is the best player in the game. Not only does he have great power, but he does everything well offensively. So if he wants to put on a hit-and-run, set someone in motion, I would absolutely give Albert the leeway to do what he needed to do."

Pujols estimated that he has called a hit-and-run like that probably "more than 200 times" in his career. He added that he does not "deserve special treatment", but noted it simply is a matter of trust between him and his manager.

What he liked about being aggressive in that particular situation, Pujols said, was that the Rangers had just tied the game at 2-2 on Adrian Beltre's home run in the bottom of the sixth.

"I felt if we could put pressure on right there, maybe we can switch the game a little bit," Pujols said.

He said he did not put the play on for the first pitch because he was thinking Ogando would start him out with a ball. Instead, he got a slider for a called strike.

Then he called for the hit-and-run, Craig took off, and Ogando threw the fateful ball one far enough up and away that Mike Napoli was able to throw Craig out at second.

"People can throw rocks at Tony and me," Pujols said. "But I can tell you, out of 200 hit-and-runs [that Pujols has called], or maybe 150, believe me, we've won a lot of those games, too."
Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:41 am
 

Beltre's proposal: Winning a World Series

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's been called his wedding proposal swing. It's been called crazy, uncanny and several other things.

And Adrian Beltre broke it out again in clubbing a Chris Carpenter curveball over the left field wall in the sixth inning to erase a one-run Cardinals lead and help Texas pull within one win of clinching this World Series with a 4-2 Game 5 triumph Monday night.

In launching into the breaking pitch, Beltre got so low in his swing that his right knee was actually on the ground when he connected.

"I don't know, I can't explain it," Beltre said. "It's been a bad habit since the minor leagues."

That's many years worth of bad habits, being that Beltre is completing his 14th season in the majors with this World Series.

"I was trying to find a pitch up in the strike zone and put a good swing on it," Beltre said. "I know that Carpenter is not a guy who leaves a lot of things up. But he threw me a couple of breaking balls in the at-bat before that I was able to see, so when I saw him throw me another breaking ball. ..."

Ka-boom! Indeed, Beltre saw two curveballs in his fourth-inning at-bat, which resulted in a ground ball to third base. The curve on which he feasted in the sixth was a 75 m.p.h. breaking ball Carpenter left up.

And Beltre went down, to a knee.

"I don't know anyone else in the game who can do that," Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We've seen highlight after highlight. I don't know where it came from.

"He doesn't practice it in the cage."

Posted on: October 24, 2011 1:33 am
 

Cardinals: Wild Bill, meet Wild Edwin

ARLINGTON, Texas -- You won't find this in the reams of scouting reports St. Louis' advance guys produced on Texas. But trust me, it's in there -- in spirit, if not in black and white.

Anytime your walk rate soars anywhere close to that of a Cardinals pitcher named Wild Bill Hallahan in a World Series game, it's not a good thing.

Though he kept his team in the ballgame until his sixth-inning departure, Edwin Jackson walked the high wire all evening. His seven walks equaled the franchise record for walks in a World Series game set by, yes, Hallahan, in Game 2 of the 1931 World Series against the Philadelphia A's.

Though the Cardinals trailed only 1-0 when Jackson left, they instantly were down 4-0 just one pitch later. Rangers catcher Mike Napoli crushed Mitchell Boggs' first pitch, and the two batters Jackson had walked in front of Napoli -- Nelson Cruz and David Murphy -- scored on the homer.

Jackson said he mostly "made pitches when I had to" but acknowledged battling his location much of the evening.

"It's just one of those things," Jackson said. "You tell yourself, 'Just focus on the next batter.'"

Four of Jackson's walks came to the 6-7-8 hitters in the Texas lineup: One to Cruz, two to Murphy and one to Napoli.

"I actually thought, in his almost six innings, he deserves a lot of credit," manager Tony La Russa said. "I thought he pitched really well."

La Russa acknowledged the Rangers scoring just three batters into the game on Josh Hamilton's RBI double, but noted, "that's all they get, really. He missed a few times, walked a couple of guys, but he kept making pitches.

"Overall, I give him a huge plus for keeping us in the game."
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com