Category:MLB
Posted on: October 31, 2011 7:30 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 8:16 pm
 

Sabathia won't opt out, staying with Yankees

CC Sabathia is staying with the Yankees.

Sabathia announced his decision early Monday evening via his own website, saying that he has agreed to a contract extension and that he hopes to finish his career as a Yankee. According to sources, the one-year extension guarantees Sabathia another $30 million, on top of the $92 million the Yankees already owed him for the final four years of his contract. It includes a vesting option for a sixth-year, which would bring the entire package to $142 million.

Essentially, the 31-year-old left-hander has a new five-year deal for $122 million guaranteed.

Sabathia originally came to the Yankees as a free agent three years ago, signing a seven-year, $161 million deal that was the biggest ever for a pitcher. To convince Sabathia to agree to the contract, and to overcome any reservations he had about coming to New York, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman added a clause giving Sabathia the right to opt out after three years.

As it turned out, Sabathia and his family liked New York, and he helped the Yankees to a World Series title in his first season. And the opt-out clause became simply a way for Sabathia to get more money, rather than an escape clause.

Sabathia and the Yankees faced a Monday night deadline, although technically the pitcher could have opted out by the deadline and still signed a contract with the Yankees after becoming a free agent.

The Yankees had little choice but to retain Sabathia, because neither the free-agent market nor the trade market seemed to include any starters who could successfully take his place at the top of their rotation. With Sabathia off the market, the best free-agent pitchers available are C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle, none of whom profiles as a true ace.

Sabathia is 59-23 in his three years with the Yankees, with a 3.18 ERA over 101 starts. The only pitcher in the major leagues with more wins in that span is the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who is 61-23 with a 3.08 ERA.

Sabathia put on considerable weight during the 2011 season, and Yankee officials whispered concern about whether committing too many more long-term dollars to him made sense. But their rotation needs help even with Sabathia, and no matter how heavy he was, he was still one of the very best starting pitchers in baseball this season.


Category: MLB
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:44 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Next stop, Cooperstown (with Cox and Torre?)

There's absolutely no doubt that Tony La Russa is headed to the Hall of Fame.

And what a Hall of Fame class it could be.

La Russa will be eligible for a December 2013 vote on the "expansion era" ballot for managers and executives, on a ballot that will also include Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and John Schuerholz, among others. The ballot for managers and executives is separate from the player ballot, but Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will appear on the player ballot for the first time that same year.

All of them could be part of the same induction ceremony in July 2014.

La Russa, Cox, Torre and Schuerholz would be voted on by a 16-member panel, and each would require 12 votes to be elected. There is no maximum on the number of managers or executives voted in in any one year (although each of the 16 voters has a maximum of five votes).

Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:35 am
 

Leyland on La Russa: 'Probably best of all time'

Tony La Russa goes out on top.

On top of the baseball world in 2011, because his Cardinals won the World Series. On top of the list of modern-era managers, with only Connie Mack (who retired in 1950) and John McGraw (who retired in 1932) ahead of him in total wins.

On top . . .

"He's probably the best of all-time," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Monday morning, after La Russa announced his retirement. "I think you could make an argument that he's the best."

La Russa went from the White Sox to the A's to the Cardinals, and he was successful at all three stops. He won a World Series with the A's, and he won two with the Cardinals.

Along the way, he and Leyland became the closest of friends. They managed against each other in the minor leagues. La Russa hired Leyland as his third-base coach with the White Sox. And La Russa's Cardinals beat Leyland's Tigers in the 2006 World Series.

They nearly met again this year, but Leyland's Tigers lost to the Rangers in the American League Championship Series. So Leyland watched from home as the Cardinals won.

"You talk about capping off a brilliant career," Leyland said.

Yes, Tony La Russa went out on top.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Best game ever? How about best month ever?

The Yankees don't think it was such a great month. The Phillies are sure it wasn't a great month.

Oh, and the Red Sox? No, the last 31 days weren't exactly pleasant for them.

But it sure was great for the rest of us, the best month of baseball most of us have seen, or will see, in our lifetimes.

If it gets better than this, I won't complain. But I'm not planning on it.

We had the best single regular-season night ever, on the final night of the regular season, and maybe the best game ever, on the next-to-last night of the World Series.

We had so many great games that the best individual offensive performance in World Series history barely makes the list. So many that Chris Carpenter's three-hit 1-0 shutout in a winner-take-all Game 5 wasn't even his most important performance of the month.

This is the third year now that I've written a postseason recap, and it's the first time that the best game of the month wasn't the first game I saw. Nothing against Tigers-Twins (Game 163 in 2009) or Roy Halladay's no-hitter (Division Series 2010), but it's a better month when the drama builds.

This month, we saw Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and David Freese. We saw squirrels. We saw Na-po-li. We saw history.

We saw Game 6.

What a month.

Here's a look back:

Best game: Some people are insisting that Game 6 of the World Series can't be called great, because there were physical errors early and possible managerial errors late. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. So it wasn't the best-played game ever. Fine. It had thrills, it had drama, it had plenty to second-guess, it had great performances and gritty performances. You go ahead and say it wasn't perfect. I'm going to say it was the best game I've ever seen.

Best moment: The flashbulbs going off when Albert Pujols batted in the seventh inning of Game 7 were great. Yes, it could have been his final Cardinals at-bat. But the best moment of the postseason -- Pujols' best moment -- was when he called time out to allow the Miller Park crowd to honor Prince Fielder, who very, very likely was stepping to the plate for his final Brewers at-bat.

Best chant: In the end, maybe this wasn't the Year of the Napoli, after all. But it sure was the month of the "Na!-Po!-Li!" at Rangers Ballpark. Mike Napoli became such an instant hero that I saw a Rangers fan who had altered his year-old Cliff Lee jersey, adding "Na-po" above the "Lee."

Best crowd: It was incredibly loud all month in Texas. It was louder than ever in St. Louis for the final outs of Game 7. But everyone who was at Miller Park this month came back raving about the atmosphere and the Brewers' fans (and everyone who was at Chase Field said there was barely any atmosphere for the Diamondbacks' two home games).

Best player: Tough call. Freese was a revelation, and not just in the World Series. Cabrera was outstanding. So was Ryan Braun. But Pujols was the guy I'll remember most, from his great defensive play against the Phillies to his historic three-homer game against the Rangers.

Best movie review: Moneyball took a beating every time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took to the podium. La Russa went to see the movie the night Game 6 was rained out, and the next night he said that it "strains the credibility a little bit." La Russa, like others, complained about the portrayal of scouts, and about the lack of mentions of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. "That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way," La Russa said. "That part wasn't enjoyable, because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough."

Most disappointing team: The Red Sox. The Phillies didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Yankees, who then apologized to their fans for their "failure." But Boston's collapse was so bad that it led to the departure of the manager and general manager who broke the curse. The Red Sox will recover, but they'll never be the same.

Best prediction: It's well established by now that I can't pick winners. But when the postseason began, I jokingly wrote that every series would go the distance. Turned out I was almost right, as 38 of a possible 41 games were required. Three of the four Division Series went the distance (and none were sweeps). Both League Championship Series went six games. And the World Series went seven, for the first time in nine years. Oh, and I even picked the World Series winner, Cardinals in 7, even if I did it because Rangers officials demanded that I pick against them.

Five who helped themselves: 1. Pujols. I'm not saying it makes a difference in his final free-agent price, but a great postseason reminded all of us how good he really is.

2. John Mozeliak. You think Cardinals fans will finally admit that it was a good idea to trade Colby Rasmus to help this team win now?

3. Mike Napoli. The Angels traded this guy for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays then traded this guy for Frank Francisco. The Rangers will not be trading him.

4. Ryan Braun. MVP voting includes only the regular season, and not the postseason. But anyone who chose Braun over Matt Kemp in the National League race had to be happy to see him hit .405 with a 1.182 OPS in October.

5. David Freese. He was the best story of the month, the hometown kid who quit baseball after high school, and came back to become the World Series MVP. Now everyone knows him.

Five who hurt themselves: 1. C.J. Wilson. He's still going to get overpaid on the free-agent market, but imagine how much he might have gotten if he'd had a good October, instead of a lousy one.

2. CC Sabathia. He's still going to get a great new contract, too, but imagine how much he might have gotten if his postseason ERA was 1.23, instead of 6.23 (and if his waist size didn't expand just as fast).

3. Cliff Lee. The team he left went to the World Series without him. And the team he couldn't beat in Game 2, after his teammates gave him a 4-0 lead, went on to win the World Series.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Two years ago, he had a nice October and shed the label of postseason choker. This year, he went 2-for-18 against the Tigers and appeared on the back page of the New York Post as one of the Three Stooges (along with Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira).

5. Tony La Russa (for about 48 hours). I'm guessing Cardinals fans will now totally forgive him for the phone/noise/bullpen mess from Game 5. He's now the guy who has won two World Series in St. Louis, to go with the one he won in Oakland. Still one of the very best managers in the game -- in the history of the game, that is.


Posted on: October 29, 2011 2:37 am
 

Rangers bullpen won ALCS, lost World Series

ST. LOUIS -- The innings added up. The innings caught up to them.

We don't know for sure if that's the answer for what happened to the Rangers bullpen, but it seems like a reasonable guess.

We do know the results.

In six American League Championship Series games against the Tigers, the Ranger relievers were basically unhittable, with a 1.32 ERA.

In seven World Series games against the Cardinals, the Ranger relievers were basically unwatchable, with a 7.43 ERA.

"The bullpen won the ALCS," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Then they struggled here."

The bullpen pitched too much in the first two rounds, because the starters didn't pitch enough. To be fair, the Cardinals had the same problem . . . and maybe that's why their bullpen leaked a little at the end, as well.

You could see it happening. I wrote about it when the Rangers lost Game 3. Mike Adams admitted then that fatigue could be setting in, especially with ALCS difference-maker Alexi Ogando (who would end up allowing 14 baserunners in just 2 2/3 World Series innings).

When it was over, Adams said he wasn't sure.

"You never know," he said. "I'm not sure you can say that's why we weren't as effective.

"The bullpen had a good run. We just didn't pitch as well [in the World Series] as we did in the last series."

You've got to think the workload had something to do with it. But it's not like they could have done much to lighten that load, short of risking an ALCS loss by forcing more innings from their rotation.

"You're aware of it," Daniels said. "But at that point, there's not much you can do about it."

He had tried. He was as active as any GM in seeking bullpen help in midseason trades, adding Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez. But Adams seemed to run out of gas, Uehara was a complete bust in the postseason (three appearances, three home runs), and Gonzalez was only mildly effective.

And the bullpen that beat the Tigers never made it to the World Series.

The bullpen that won the ALCS basically lost the World Series.


Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:51 pm
 

In Game 7, home team has edge (or not)

ST. LOUIS -- You've no doubt heard by now that no road team has won a World Series Game 7 in 32 years.

The Cardinals won at home in 1982, the Royals did it in 1985, the Mets in 1986, the Twins in both 1987 and 1991, the Marlins in 1997, the Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Angels in 2002.

It's tough to win the decisive game on the road . . . except when it isn't.

There were three decisive Game 5's in the Division Series this month. Two of the three were won by the road team (Cardinals over Phillies, Tigers over Yankees).

The Rangers won a decisive Game 5 last year at Tampa Bay.

The Cardinals won Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series on the road.

In fact, over the last 10 years, there have been 18 decisive games in the postseason (Game 5 in the Division Series, Game 7 in the LCS or World Series), and the visiting team has won 11 of them.

After Game 5 three weeks ago at Yankee Stadium, Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the argument that it can actually be an advantage to be on the road, because there's more pressure on the home team (certainly true in the cases of the Yankees and Phillies), and because there are more distractions at home.

Oh, and about those eight straight road-team wins in Game 7 of the World Series?

Go back through eight more Game 7's, and it basically evens out. From 1965-79, the road team won seven out of eight Game 7's.


Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:07 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 7:50 pm
 

Cruz, Napoli in Rangers' Game 7 lineup

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Napoli is hurting. Nelson Cruz is hurting.

But it's Game 7.

It's Game 7 of the World Series, and both Napoli (left ankle) and Cruz (right groin) are in the Rangers' lineup for Friday night's game at Busch Stadium. Both were regarded as questionable after getting hurt in Thursday's incredible Game 6.

Napoli, in line for World Series MVP honors if the Rangers win, hurt his ankle when he went into second base awkwardly in the fourth inning Thursday. He stayed in the game, but said afterwards that the ankle was "pretty sore."

"He showed the type of warrior he is," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If you hadn't seen him hurt the ankle, you wouldn't have even known it was hurt."

Cruz left the game after batting in the top of the 11th inning. The Rangers believe he got hurt banging into the wall trying to catch David Freese's game-tying triple in the ninth inning.

Cruz was in more doubt Friday, but the Rangers decided after batting practice that he was good enough to go. The Rangers didn't seriously consider removing him from the World Series roster, in part because they thought that at the very least he could give them a pinch-hit at-bat.

While Napoli and Cruz are in the lineup, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday is out. Holliday severely injured his right pinky when he was picked off third base in the sixth inning. The Cardinals replaced him on the roster with Adron Chambers, and Allen Craig replaced him in the Cardinals lineup for Game 7.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made another lineup change, dropping Rafael Furcal out of the leadoff spot for the first time this postseason, and putting Ryan Theriot atop the order.

Furcal sparked the Cardinals for a while, and his first-inning triple was the biggest hit in their 1-0 Game 5 Division Series win over the Phillies. But in his last 11 games, Furcal has hit just .128 (6-for-47) with a .196 on-base percentage.

Full lineups for both teams are in Matt Snyder's excellent Game 7 preview, available here.


Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:04 am
 

Hamilton says his HR was called, from above

ST. LOUIS -- Josh Hamilton hadn't homered in more than a month.

He's hurting. We all know that by now. He has a groin injury, maybe a sports hernia.

By this time next week, he may well be having surgery.

And when he came to the plate in the 10th inning of an incredible Game 6, he knew he was going to hit a home run.

"The Lord told me it was going to happen," Hamilton said. "He said, 'You haven't hit a home run in a while. You're going to hit one now.'

"Believe it if you want."

As you might have guessed, Hamilton believed it.

"It was probably the most relaxed, peaceful at-bat I've had in a long time," he said.

Did the Lord tell him what pitch Jason Motte would throw?

"No, but I kind of figured that out on my own," said Hamilton, who hit a 98 mph fastball.

Hamilton's home run put the Rangers ahead of the Cardinals, 9-7. It stood to be a World Series winner, until the Cards scored twice to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th.

But Hamilton said none of that was in the message he heard as he walked to the plate.

"It wasn't like a premonition, 'You're going to do this, and you're going to win,'" Hamilton said. "It was, 'You're going to do this -- period.'"

He heard it, and he did it.

"It was pretty cool, man," he said.

Believe it if you want.
 
 
 
 
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