Re: The MLB Thread
Closer time: Braves Craig Kimbrel is named NL Rookie-of-the-Year
by Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- As Craig Kimbrel progressed through his first full Major League season, there was reason to wonder why there had been any concern about his readiness to serve as the Braves' closer.
Blessed with an overpowering fastball and a knee-buckling breaking ball, Kimbrel cruised through most of 2011, becoming one of the game's most dominant closers.
Adding to the list of awards and honors received over the past few weeks, Kimbrel was unanimously voted the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner on Monday. He received all 32 first-place votes and finished ahead of Braves teammate Freddie Freeman.
"When I got the call, I was definitely surprised to hear it was a unanimous decision," Kimbrel said. "It's an honor. For it [to be unanimous] makes it that much more special."
Currently in Hawaii to attend Peter Moylan's upcoming wedding, Kimbrel was on his hotel balcony with his fiancée when he learned he had become the first unanimous NL Rookie of the Year Award winner since Albert Pujols in 2001.
Kimbrel received congratulatory texts from many of his teammates and plans to savor the accomplishment with Eric O'Flaherty, Kris Medlen and Moylan this week in Hawaii.
"This is a good place to celebrate," Kimbrel said. "So I'm sure we'll be doing some of that."
The 2011 vote marked the first time teammates finished first and second in Rookie of the Year Award balloting since 1989, when the Cubs' Jerome Walton finished just ahead of Dwight Smith.
Kimbrel becomes the seventh player in Braves franchise history to win this award, and the first since Rafael Furcal in 2000. He is the first Braves pitcher to earn the honor, which is determined via balloting conducted by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Freeman received 21 second-place votes and was included on 28 of the 32 ballots. He and Kimbrel were the only Braves players to receive votes this year.
"It's really nice to have this honor, but it's not going to take away from what happened near the end of the year or anything like that," Kimbrel said. "If anything, the end of the year is going to help me strive to do better and become a better pitcher."
Kimbrel's memorable first year in the Majors was tarnished by late-season struggles that accelerated his team's September collapse. But while the forgettable conclusion was the final memory of a record-setting season, it did not detract from the overwhelming belief that Kimbrel was more impressive than any other NL rookie this year.
On his way to setting a new Major League rookie record with 46 saves, Kimbrel limited opponents to a .178 batting average and recorded 127 strikeouts in just 77 innings, an average 14.84 strikeouts per nine innings.
That kind of dominance allowed Kimbrel to join Carlos Marmol (2010), Eric Gagne ('03) and Billy Wagner (1998 and '99) as the only pitchers to record at least 14 strikeouts per nine innings and notch at least 30 saves in the same season.
"I understand that I did have, numbers-wise, a good year, but there's a lot of room for improvement, as well," Kimbrel said. "I'm always looking for a way to get better and to help my team more. That's one thing I'll do this offseason. I always expect to do better the next year and the next year."
Kimbrel's presence allowed Braves fans to feel less concerned about the fact that Neftali Feliz had been part of the mega-package used to acquire Mark Teixeira from the Texas Rangers in 2007. Feliz won the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year Award after notching 40 saves, which stood as the rookie record until Kimbrel came along this year.
Unfortunately for Kimbrel, one of the lasting images of his memorable season will be the disgust he displayed after issuing three walks and blowing the one-run ninth-inning lead the Braves held before losing their must-win regular-season finale to the Phillies.
It was one of the three blown saves for Kimbrel in September. Before the skid, he had blown just five of his first 48 save opportunities, and the final-month struggles could have been a product of fatigue. His 79 appearances ranked second in the Majors.
"My body felt good through the season," Kimbrel said. "I felt like the workouts I did last offseason were very beneficial to this year. As for throwing, I'm not going to start throwing until about January. Last year, I started throwing a little bit earlier, because going into Spring Training, I was fighting for a job and had to come in to prove myself. This year, I'm going to start a little bit later. I did learn that the season is long, and you do throw a lot."
Kimbrel experienced a few hiccups during the season's first two months before emerging as simply dominant through the middle portion of the season. In the 38 appearances from June 12-Sept. 8, he worked 37 2/3 scoreless innings, limited opponents to a .112 batting average and recorded 67 strikeouts.
"He's had a Rookie of the Year-caliber year," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said after the regular-season finale. "We wouldn't have been here without him. He's going to be a better closer down the road because of this."
Re: The MLB Thread
Retr-O! Cartoon bird [and orange colors]
make triumphant return to Orioles uniforms
by 'Duk / Yahoo! Sports-Big League Stew
Best news ever or ... best news ever?
After more than two decades of losing when getting their serious ornithology on, the Baltimore Orioles are returning to this updated version of the cartoon bird that adorned their caps during the franchise's greatest period.
See ya, quaint-looking oriole.
Welcome back, bird that adorned the caps of Baltimore's three World Series winners.
The new bird takes elements from both the 1970 and '83 versions and replaces the ornithologically-correct bird that was previously on the team's road and home caps. The look marks the first time since 1988 that the cartoon bird symbol will be part of the team's official uniform. Joining the new caps will be the orange jerseys, which were last worn during the inaugural season of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992.
As one commenter on Orioles Insider noted when this news was first rumored, the return of the cartoon bird won't mean much unless Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are able to complete a real, on-field resurrection of the Orioles Magic glory days.
But given the choice between the O's bowing to a fan-requested nostalgia trip and the San Diego Padres ignoring the wishes of their fans, it's an easy decision every time. As a child of the '80s who owned an inordinate amount of Lenn Sakata cards, I'm happy the cartoon bird is back. My Christmas list is in need of an update.
Here are the two cartoon birds that previously adorned the Orioles caps. As you can see, the new design borrows elements from both. A big BLS head nod to Chris Creamer for doing the lord's logo work.
And here are the new orange jerseys that they'll be wearing. They make me think of Mickey Tettleton for some reason.
Re: The MLB Thread
The 70's retro look may be cool, but everyone knows those bright orange uni's are meant to be a distraction to the almost guaranteed shittastic 5th place finish in the AL East.
O's have been totally irrelevant in the AL since the late 90's, short of last year's AL East deciding win over the Red Sox on the last day of the 2011 season, which shot the Rays into the playoffs.
Re: The MLB Thread
Rays Maddon wins AL Manager of the Year
by Bill Chastain / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon believed in his team, and the Rays responded to their boss, fighting all the way to the end of the season to claim the American League's Wild Card spot.
For Maddon's work as Tampa Bay's skipper, the Baseball Writers' Association of America honored him Wednesday with the AL Manager of the Year Award.
"My first thought is always about the group of people who helped get you into this position," said Maddon during a Wednesday afternoon conference call from his hometown of Hazleton, Pa. "I like to think of it as a validation of the Rays' way of doing things, and that the program we've put together and the culture we've created works. ... First of all, I think it's an organizational award. Personally, I'm very humbled by it."
Maddon received 26 of the 28 first-place votes on the AL ballot -- good for a total of 133 points. He now has two of the three highest totals in the history of the AL Manager of the Year Award voting. He received 27 first-place votes in 2008, tying the record set by Tom Kelly of the Minnesota Twins in 1991.
Detroit's Jim Leyland and Texas' Ron Washington each received one first-place vote and finished second and third, respectively. Cleveland's Manny Acta finished fourth in the voting.
"Joe clearly deserved it," Acta said. "He did an outstanding job with a ballclub that lost the likes of Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Rafael Soriano."
Since the Manager of the Year Awards began in 1983, Maddon becomes the 12th in either league -- and seventh in the AL -- to win the honor multiple times. He is one of four active managers to be named Manager of the Year two or more times, joining Mike Scioscia, Leyland and Dusty Baker.
Maddon's faith in his team has never been tested more than last season after the Rays' roster got depleted by free agency and trades -- including the losses of Crawford and Pena, who were popular in the clubhouse and were among the top producers on the field.
However, panic never entered the picture for the baseball lifer. Instead, Maddon brought the voice of calm, telling his players on the first day of Spring Training that they needed to find another way to get it done.
"I can see the boys sitting in front of me at Port Charlotte on that very first day when you talk to the team," said Maddon. "And that was the message. It wasn't, 'Well, we're rebuilding,' or 'We're hoping to do something good this year.' We talked about doing it in another way.
"My point was we were missing a lot of good guys from the previous season. Maybe the style of game was going to be a little different, because you're missing some speed or some power, [there were] new guys having to take over."
Finding another way became the team's mantra.
"And that's exactly what we've done," center fielder B.J. Upton said. "Obviously we lost some key guys to our success from the last couple of years, but he never made a big stink about it. He just told us to move on and we'll find a different way to win than we have in the past, which I think we have done this year."
Tampa Bay started the season with six consecutive losses, at which point Maddon told his team that it was the best 0-6 team in baseball. The Rays got back into the playoff race and found themselves nine games back in the AL Wild Card race on Sept. 2. Maddon led the team to wins in 17 of the team's final 25 games, including its final five, finishing with a 91-71 record and leapfrogging the Red Sox on the final day of the regular season to reach the playoffs.
"We are the best 0-6 team in the history of Major League Baseball," said Maddon after his team was eliminated in the AL Division Series by the Rangers. "It was a huge success this year, and anybody that wants to argue otherwise, please come by. I'd be happy to engage in that discussion."
Maddon is respected and loved by his players. When asked what made Maddon so successful in 2011 and what makes him a quality manager, Sam Fuld replied: "There's a lot."
"First and foremost, he's consistent with his demeanor and his approach," Fuld said. "And I think that's a huge asset as a manager. Whether we were 0-6 to start the year or we were on a roll in August and September, he was the same guy. And I think that's huge. It allows you to relax when you face adversity.
"His demeanor rubs off on us. He's an easy guy to play for. He just asks you to play hard. And otherwise, he just wants you to be yourself. There's just something to be said for being comfortable as a human, beyond being a baseball player. The second you meet him and the second you sort of realize what the whole team is about, you feel comfortable. And that definitely helps you as a ballplayer."
Looking at how Maddon managed a game, Fuld noted that "what struck me was his ability to use the bench and keep the bench fresh."
"Certainly I know that from my own perspective, you always feel like you're going to get an opportunity to contribute and help the team win," said Fuld, who was used as a reserve for much of the season. "And that's huge, because the reality for us to win and be successful, we can't just rely on our starting nine guys every day. We have to use all of our position players."
Fuld also pointed to the element of fun on the team, crediting Maddon for being responsible.
"It starts with him, really," Fuld said. "He encourages that kind of stuff. He knows that kind of stuff helps keep you loose during the games. It's just an intangible to feel like that sense of chemistry on the team. It does produce better results on the field. And he knows that and it definitely [helps], and the amount of fun we have is a product of what he wants and what he allows."
James Shields pointed to Maddon's understanding of the talent and personalities on the team for a big part of his success.
"We have the talent on the team to make the playoffs, it's just putting it together," Shields said. "I think one of the biggest attributes that Joe has is to put a team together and get the right chemistry together. He brings that loose attitude to the clubhouse. The way he works with each individual is pretty special. I think that chemistry is one of the most underrated things as far as an organization, and Joe definitely puts that together for us."
Shields summed up his feelings about Maddon and the job he has done.
"Over the last four or five years, he's done a phenomenal job with our team," Shields said. "I don't think there were a lot of people who thought we were going to make the playoffs at the beginning of the year, and Joe put it together once again. Three of the last four years, we've gone to the playoffs, and that's a tribute to Joe."
Maddon, who has compiled a 495-477 (.509) record in his six seasons as Rays manager, joins Baker as the only two to win the award twice in their first six seasons of managing. Only three managers in baseball have been at their post longer: Scioscia (12 seasons with the Angels), Ron Gardenhire (10 seasons with the Twins) and Charlie Manuel (seven seasons with the Phillies).
Thanks to Maddon's success, along with that of the team he manages, he has become a coveted managerial property. However, on Wednesday, he sounded content to remain in place as the manager of the Rays.
"I think any manager would love to be the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays," Maddon said. "I really mean that. It's a very pure form of baseball. I think a lot of people appreciate the way we do things and how we do it. Nationally, I think a lot of people are into the Rays' style. ... So for me, it's kind of a no-brainer. I love it there. ... A better place to work, I don't think one exists in baseball."
Re: The MLB Thread
Arizona's Gibson named NL Manager of the Year
by Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- While his name might be on it, the D-backs' Kirk Gibson said the National League Manager of the Year Award he won Wednesday belongs to the entire organization.
Gibson received 28 of 32 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America for a total of 152 points, which easily outdistanced Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke, who received 92 points. St. Louis' Tony La Russa finished third. Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon won the award in the American League.
"I'm honored to be named Manager of the Year, and I accept it humbly," Gibson said. "It's certainly an accomplishment, but as I sit here today after I was informed, I just think of all the people who made it possible for me. Though I accept the award today, it's just a great tribute to a great organizational effort."
Gibson becomes the second D-backs manager to win the award, joining Bob Melvin, who captured it in 2007. Last month, Gibson received the NL Manager of the Year Award given out by the Sporting News.
"I could not be prouder of Kirk and his staff, nor happier for our organization that he so well represents," D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "He has brought a sense of culture, calm and strategy, and he richly deserves the recognition."
Gibson led the D-backs to 94 wins and the National League West title in 2011, his first full season as a manager. The D-backs pushed the Brewers to five games in the NL Division Series before being eliminated.
The division title came on the heels of back-to-back last-place finishes as the D-backs lost 92 games in 2009 and 97 games in 2010. The 29-game improvement was the third-best improvement in Major League Baseball since 1998, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Gibson was handed the managerial reins on an interim basis July 1, 2010, when the club dismissed GM Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch.
During his first few weeks as manager, the club traded away high-profile veterans like Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson as it began to retool for the future.
After being hired as general manager in late September, Kevin Towers spent time with Gibson on a six-game season-ending road trip and decided to give him a two-year contract.
On a conference call with reporters, Gibson thanked the entire organization, starting with managing general partner Ken Kendrick and finishing with video coordinator Allen Campbell.
"Our team president, Derrick Hall, believed in me," Gibson said. "I was fortunate to get hooked up with a great general manager in Kevin Towers, who helped me weed through and hire a great coaching staff."
Following the 2011 season, Towers and Gibson both were given three-year contract extensions that included two club options, which could keep the pair in Arizona through 2016.
"I think from the first day of Spring Training, he let everybody know that the real job everybody had was to win games," Kendrick said. "That's what we were going to focus on, and he made them believe. I'm really happy for him. He certainly deserves it. He turned the culture around, and that's pretty hard to do in a year."
When he was asked to be interim manager, Gibson said his main priority was to change the culture in the clubhouse.
In addition to veteran players being brought in, Gibson instituted new rules such as a ban on cellphone use in the clubhouse and more focus on preparation.
"They bought into it," Gibson said of his players. "They bought into it, they stayed with us and they never wavered, and as it developed they just really enjoyed it. They played the game the right way, had a good time, treated everyone the way they should be treated."
Gibson put his team through an intense Spring Training, with morning workouts that harped on fundamentals, baserunning, cutoffs and relays as well as controlling the opposition's running game.
Maybe because of all the extra work in the mornings, the team played listless during the afternoon, and some picked the D-backs to finish at the bottom of the NL West. Gibson, though, was one of the few who maintained that month that his team would be successful.
At points during the season, Gibson was criticized for his lineup choices and strategy, and he mentioned that he noticed people calling his style "unconventional." The support of the organization helped give him the confidence to make those moves despite what people might have thought or said.
"It kind of makes me smile because, first of all, the sabermetrics -- the numbers part of the game -- I understand that where it's applicable, but sometimes you have to fail to become somebody who's a good ballplayer, or you have to fail for a team to become a good team," he said. "I had guys that stuck behind me when I did those things. I'm just trying to compete and win games. So it's important to have those people behind you."
Two of his mentors in the game, Sparky Anderson and Jim Leyland, won Manager of the Year Awards, but what Gibson craves most of all is something that Leyland accomplished once and Anderson three times.
"I still want to win the World Series as a manager," Gibson said. "So obviously good to be recognized, as I said, it's certainly not all because of me. I certainly played a part in it, I understand that. What I want to join with what [Anderson and Leyland] did is win a World Series."
Re: The MLB Thread
Dodgers' Kershaw runaway NL Cy Young Award winner
Nov 17 (Reuters) - Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League Cy Young Award as the top pitcher on Thursday, capping a season where he had the league’s lowest earned run average and highest strikeout total.
Kershaw, who tied for the NL lead in wins with 21 to go along with a 2.28 earned run average and 248 strikeouts in 2011, was named first on 27 of the 32 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Runner-up Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies received four first-place votes while team mate Cliff Lee finished third.
Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy, who tied Kershaw for the NL lead in victories and finished fourth in Cy Young voting, received the other first-place vote.
Kershaw, 23, finished the Major League Baseball season on an eight-game winning streak en route to becoming the youngest Cy Young Award winner since 20-year-old Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets took home the prize in 1985.
He is the first Dodgers pitcher to win the award since Eric Gagne in 2003 and the first Dodgers starter to win it since Orel Hershiser in 1988. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Re: The MLB Thread
Houston Astros sale approved: move to American League official
by Frank Pingue / Reuters
(Reuters) - Major League Baseball (MLB) owners have approved the sale of the Houston Astros as part of a deal that will see the National League Central Division club move to the American League West for the 2013 season.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but a report on the Astros website on Thursday said Drayton McLane, who has owned the club since 1992, sold the team to a group headed by Houston businessman Jim Crane for $610 million.
"I welcome Jim Crane and his group as they prepare to become the new stewards of the Astros," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
"I thank them for their patience and determination throughout a long but necessary process, which allowed us to accomplish our due diligence."
Under McLane, who put the team up for sale last November, the Astros have experienced some of the greatest moments in the franchise's history, including winning the NL pennant in 2005 and the opening of Minute Maid Park in 2000.
Houston's eventual move to the AL West will put them in a division with cross-state rival Texas Rangers, the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners.
It will also mark MLB's first realignment since the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the AL Central to the NL Central before the 1998 season.
When the Astros switch divisions, MLB will have 15 clubs in each league and five clubs in each of its six divisions for the first time.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)
Re: The MLB Thread
Huh? The weirdest move i've seen in YEARS. I guess the competition will be ante'd up having BOTH the Texas Rangers AND the Houston Astros in the SAME division, but it'll still be odd.
It just goes to show how absolutely corrupt Bud Selig is. Why did his precious Milwaukee Brewers move from the AL to the NL in the first place? Which MADE the disproportionate leagues (NL=16 / AL=14), and if ANY of the NL teams to move BACK to the AL... the most obvious choice was the Brewers.
I don't get it at all.
Re: The MLB Thread
Pujols continues shopping after Marlins rumored
9-year / $225 million offer
by Tim Brown / Yahoo! Sports
The contract offer made to Albert Pujols by the Miami Marlins seems to be about where the St. Louis Cardinals have lingered since spring training, or much closer to Joe Mauer’s numbers than Alex Rodriguez’s.
On Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports reported that the offer from the suddenly – and suspiciously – flush Marlins was for nine years. We couldn’t secure the dollar amount, but guessed – given the Marlins’ need to at least get Pujols’ attention – that it could have been in the $225 million range.
On Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post reported the offer was for less than $200 million, so the average annual value – at most – would be $22 million.
That’s not bad, but it is about where the Cardinals were last spring training, and so certainly not the kind of money that will bring an early close to Pujols’ winter of free agency. You’d assume Pujols would pick the Cardinals in a financial break-even, but maybe the Marlins know something we don’t.
According to one source, at least three teams are actively jockeying for Pujols. The Cardinals and Marlins we know about. The third could be the Chicago Cubs or Texas Rangers. And the list likely will grow.
Thus far, the Marlins are pushing the market, having scattered hundreds of millions of dollars in offers to Pujols, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Ryan Madson. There could even be others.
They also have a keen interest in Prince Fielder, but, according to sources, have not yet made the kind of offer to Fielder that they have to Pujols.
And, well, just to keep things interesting for the boys wandering the hotel lobby at the general manager and owners meetings in Milwaukee, a report out of St. Louis said Pujols would announce his return to the Cardinals on Friday.
That was shot down by all sides.
But, hey, you never know.
Re: The MLB Thread
Whether it's $25 million a year or $22 million a year or the Marlins or any other team... they're gonna HAVE to do better than that.
No way Pujols walks away from playing for one of his good friends (Matheny), and being a Stan Musial-caliber legend in St. Louis for LESS money than the Cards originally offered him to re-sign.
For that money... he'll give St. Louis a $5-10 million discount over the next 8-10 years and stay a Red Bird for life.
Now that the Cubs have their new manager Sveum locked in, I wonder if they'll finally start making some sales pitches to these free agents, like Pujols. They're still a rumored landing spot, and something tells me they'll offer more initially than the Cards or Marlins.