MLB Offseason

Lackey to Red Sox and a three-way trade

One week after the winter meetings in Indianapolis, things are really heating up in Major League Baseball.

First, it looks like John Lackey is set to sign with the Boston Red Sox for somewhere in the neighborhood of five years, $85 million.

Obviously that means the Angels would have to turn to plan B, Toronto’s Roy Halladay. Just one problem there. It also appears that Halladay has been dealt, in a three-way trade, to the Phillies. Philadelphia would send Cliff Lee to the Mariners and Seattle would likely empty its farm system to Toronto.

In addition, Lee, at least for this season would cost the Mariners just $8 million, leaving them tons of money to sign a bat, say Jason Bay. Interesting stuff…

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Could Hernandez be next $100 million man?

Sports Illustrated is reporting that the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez is looking the neighborhood of $100 over six years as he negotiates with his current club.

Hernandez will see his salary go up around $10 million this year through arbitration and should he have another year like this one (and even not), he could see $15 in 2011.

The 23-year old went 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2009.

The baseball winter meetings got underway today in Indianapolis.

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Figgins, Mariners close to deal
Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com

This doesn’t have the makings of a quiet offseason for the Mariners, who appear poised to sign speedy free agent third baseman Chone Figgins.

Seattle is “on the verge” of signing the 31-year-old switch-hitter, FoxSports.com reported on Friday. The Web site said the two sides were “very close” on a deal that is believed to be for four years and worth about $36 million

Figgins would step in as the Mariners’ everyday third baseman. And if Adrian Beltre surprises the front office by accepting arbitration, Figgins could move to second base or play left field. Either way, he would form a dangerous combo at the top of the order with Ichiro Suzuki.

Figgins batted .298 with a .395 on-base percentage, 42 stolen bases, 54 RBIs and an American League-leading 101 walks in 2009. In eight seasons in the big leagues — all with the Angels — he has hit .291 with a .363 on-base percentage and 280 steals.

On Thursday, the Mariners were associated with four of the most sought-after free agents this offseason, as multiple outlets reported their interest in Figgins, Jason Bay, John Lackey and Rich Harden.

The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the club is making a “concerted push” to land Bay, a 31-year-old Type A free agent. The Gonzaga University product’s bat would be a welcomed addition to the lineup.

Bay, however, will command top dollar this offseason and is sure to have his share of suitors — most notably the Red Sox, the team he was with all of last season and part of 2008.

And, besides, it’s pitching that’s the top priority in Seattle at the moment, and the Mariners are reportedly looking at Lackey and Harden as options to try to bolster a starting staff currently led by young ace Felix Hernandez.

FoxSports.com cited two Major League sources late Thursday night in saying the Mariners are “showing strong interest” in Harden. The franchise’s location in the Pacific Northwest could help the club snag Harden, who, along with Bay, is a native of nearby British Columbia.

Harden, coming off a rough year that saw him go 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA in 26 starts while battling back problems and arm fatigue, wasn’t offered arbitration by the Cubs, which could open up widespread interest in the 28-year-old right-hander.

Lackey, the top pitching prize in this year’s free-agent class, is another Type A free agent who will command top dollar this offseason. FoxSports.com added that Seattle is “actively pursuing” Lackey, who, like Figgins, has spent his entire career with the Angels.

Jeter first Yankee to be named Sportsman of the Year

NEW YORK — Derek Jeter posed in his crisp pinstripe uniform, resting a shiny black bat on his shoulder, while a photographer lying on the ground near the entrance to a Bronx subway station snapped pictures of the New York Yankees shortstop from a low angle.

Photographing the Yankees captain from below to make him look more regal seemed beside the point. Jeter already has an image that is larger than life.

Jeter was back at Yankee Stadium a couple of weeks after winning his fifth World Series title, capping a stellar season with a photo shoot for his latest achievement: Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.

The magazine made the announcement Monday.

“It’s unbelievable. It was completely unexpected. It came out of the blue,” Jeter told The Associated Press during a break in the photo shoot. “When I heard it, what can you say? It’s one of the greatest honors you can achieve in sports.”

The 35-year-old Jeter is the first Bronx Bomber to be tapped for the award that has been given out since 1954. Swimmer Michael Phelps was last year’s recipient.

“That’s even harder considering all the great Yankee players that have played for this organization,” said Jeter, standing under the banners depicting Yankees greats that hang in the Great Hall of the new stadium. “So I hope I’ve done them proud.”

Sports Illustrated Group editor Terry McDonell certainly thinks he has.

“This verifies my idea that he is on the level of Ruth and Gehrig,” McDonell said. “He’s the greatest shortstop in the history of the game.”

Some other baseball players to win the award are Sandy Koufax (1965), Tom Seaver (1969), Cal Ripken Jr. (1995); and the recent nemeses of Jeter’s teams, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (2001), and the Boston Red Sox (2004).

All business between the lines, Jeter has become one of the untarnished ambassadors in the steroids era of baseball through steady play and quiet leadership on and off the field.

“He’s so classy,” McDonell said. “He brings a dignity and elegance to the game.”

Jeter’s 2009 season was remarkable.

He batted .334 with 18 homers and 66 RBIs with 30 steals to help lead the Yankees to their first World Series title in nine years — a frustrating drought for the player who won four championships in his first five seasons.

And as calls swelled for Jeter to switch positions after his contract expires in 2010, the 10-time All-Star went out and had one of his best defensive seasons: He made a career-low eight errors in winning his fourth Gold Glove.

He also passed Yankees icon Lou Gehrig’s club record for hits, won the Hank Aaron Award as the AL’s top hitter, and was given the Roberto Clemente Award for excellence on and off the field.

The World Series victory might have been Jeter’s most cherished accomplishment this year, but what clinched the sportsman award for him was his philanthropic work. Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation has doled out over $10 million in grants since 1996 to organizations that help keep young people away from alcohol and drugs.

“It’s about the manner of the striving and the quality of the effort, too,” McDonell said. “Off the field he has grown so much as a member of the community.”

Coming 15 seasons into a career full of honors, the award could be seen as a lifetime achievement, but both McDonell and Jeter dismissed the idea.

McDonell was impressed by Jeter’s leadership, how he “stepped in and molded a team” this spring with the arrival of three expensive free agents, and Alex Rodriguez’s admission to using steroids from 2001-03 and then having hip surgery that kept him out until May.

For Jeter, who only looks as far ahead as the next game, he’s nowhere near the end of an illustrious career that could culminate with 4,000 hits.

“I’ll take it one hit at a time. That’s a long way in the future,” said Jeter, who has 2,747 hits. “I’m going to play as long as I’m having fun. Right now I’m having a blast.”

Mauer takes home AL MVP

NEW YORK — Joe Mauer became only the second catcher in 33 years to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award, finishing first in a near-unanimous vote Monday.

The Minnesota Twins star received 27 of 28 first-place votes and 387 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Yankees teammates Mark Teixeira (225 points) and Derek Jeter (193) followed, while Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera drew the other first-place vote and was fourth with 171 points, one point ahead of the Angels’ Kendry Morales.

Mauer became the second Twins player to win in four years, following Justin Morneau in 2006.

After missing April with a back injury, Mauer homered in his first at-bat of the season and went on to lead the AL in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587), the first AL player to top all three categories in the same season since George Brett in 1980.

Mauer set a major league record for highest batting average by a catcher and won his third batting title, becoming the first repeat batting champion since Nomar Garciaparra in 1999-00.

Mauer set career bests with 28 homers and 96 RBIs, had more walks (76) than strikeouts (63) and batted .378 after Morneau’s season-ending back injury Sept. 12, helping the Twins overtake Detroit for the AL Central title. He was voted to his third All-Star team and won his second straight AL Gold Glove.

Born in St. Paul, the 26-year-old can leave the Twins and become a free agent after the 2010 season, when he is due to make $12.5 million. Minnesota is expected to try to sign him to a new deal.

Ivan Rodriguez in 1999 had been the only catcher since Thurman Munson in 1976 to win the AL MVP. The other catchers to win in the AL were Mickey Cochrane (1934), Yogi Berra (1951 and 1954-55) and Elston Howard (1963). NL catchers to win were Gabby Hartnett (1935), Ernie Lombardi (1938), Roy Campanella (1951, 1953 and 1955) and Johnny Bench (1970 and 1972).

In addition to Mauer and Morneau, other Twins to win were Zoilo Versalles (1965), Harmon Killebrew (1969) and Rod Carew (1977).

Mauer receives a $100,000 bonus for winning the award, and Cabrera gets $200,000 for finishing fourth. Cabrera’s first-place vote came from Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News, a member of the Seattle chapter.

Teixeira led the AL with 122 RBIs and tied for first with 39 homers. Jeter was second to Morneau in the 2006 voting and finished third behind Juan Gonzalez and Garciaparra in 1998.

AL MVP Voting


Joe Mauer received 27 of 28 first-place votes to win his first AL MVP award. The only other player to get a first place vote was the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who finished fourth. A breakdown of the voting:

Player, team Total
Joe Mauer, Twins 387
Mark Teixeira, Yankees 225
Derek Jeter, Yankees 193
Others receiving votes: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; Kendry Morales, Angels; Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox ; Jason Bay, Red Sox; Ben Zobrist, Rays; Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners; Alex Rodriguez, Yankees; Chone Figgins, Angels; Aaron Hill, Blue Jays; Bobby Abreu, Angels; Mariano Rivera, Yankees; Adam Lind, Blue Jays; Michael Young, Rangers; Zack Greinke, Royals; Robinson Cano, Yankees; Evan Longoria, Rays; Justin Verlander, Tigers; CC Sabathia, Yankees; Michael Cuddyer, Twins; Victor Martinez, Indians/Red Sox; Jason Kubel, Twins; Placido Polanco, Tigers; Felix Hernandez, Mariners; Ian Kinsler, Rangers.

Coghlan, Bailey pick up Rookie of the Year honors

NEW YORK (AP) — Florida Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan won the National League Rookie of the Year award in a close vote Monday, and Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey took the AL honor.

Coghlan edged Philadelphia Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ, receiving 17 first-place votes and 105 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Happ, the only player picked on all 32 ballots, had 10 first-place votes and 94 points.

“It’s very exciting,” Coghlan said. “I couldn’t have written it better.”

Bailey, a surprise All-Star this season, was selected first on 13 of 28 ballots and finished with 88 points. Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus was the runner-up with 65 points, one more than Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello.

Bailey, who had 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA, was driving when he got word on his cell phone that he won.

“At first I thought it was a prank call. Which one of my friends is playing a prank on me?” he said. “I didn’t want to take my eyes off the road.”

Once he realized the news was legit, Bailey passed it along to his family.

“My mom was crying and my dad was stoked,” he said.

Coghlan dug himself out of an early slump and had a superb second half. Emerging as pesky leadoff hitter for the Marlins, he batted .321 with nine homers and 31 doubles in 128 games. He scored 84 runs and drove in 47.

Called up from the minors in May, the 24-year-old Coghlan topped NL rookies in batting average, runs, hits (162), total bases (232) and on-base percentage (.390). He became the third Florida player to win the award, joining shortstop Hanley Ramirez (2006) and pitcher Dontrelle Willis (2003).

“At the end of the year I knew that I put myself in a good position to win,” Coghlan said.

A second baseman in the minors, Coghlan was with Triple-A New Orleans this year when the Marlins told him they wanted to try him in the outfield.

He played one minor league game in left – without getting a fly ball – and then was brought up to the majors. He finished the season with five errors.

“A lot of people think I’m pretty bad out there. But I think it’s an adjustment,” Coghlan said. “I have confidence playing the outfield. It was a situation I embraced to get me to the big leagues the quickest and to help the team win games.”

Happ’s versatility was a huge plus for the Phillies, who won their second consecutive NL pennant before losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

The left-hander went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 35 games, including 23 starts. He led NL rookies in innings (166), strikeouts (119) and complete games (three).

Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson finished third in a competitive field with two first-place votes and 37 points. Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who came in fourth, also was chosen first on a pair of ballots. Milwaukee infielder Casey McGehee received the other first-place vote.

“When you get up there’s so many different aspects to the game. … It takes a while to get comfortable in a routine,” Coghlan said. “In the second half, things turned around and it all ended well. In the beginning it wasn’t as easy as it was at the end of the year.”

Bailey went 6-3 and had 24 more saves than any other AL rookie. He also led the league’s rookie pitchers in ERA.

He is the eighth A’s player to win the award, tying the New York Yankees for most in the AL.

“I can’t feel disappointed,” Andrus said. “Andrew Bailey is a great player, He had a great season, too.”

Bailey was struggling as a starter in Double-A last year when the A’s moved him to the bullpen. Turned out to be a terrific decision.

In his first big league camp, Bailey made the Oakland roster and soon got an opportunity to close partly due to injuries. He took advantage of it, earning a trip to the All-Star game in July as the team’s lone representative.

The 25-year-old right-hander struck out 91 and walked 24 in 83 1-3 innings. He yielded only 47 hits, holding opponents to a .167 batting average.

“Certainly the first credit goes to Andrew. It’s also a credit to our staff and the people who saw the change to the bullpen being a good step,” general manager Billy Beane said. “He had always been a prospect, but as a starter he hit a wall. There was a suggestion to move him to the bullpen and he hasn’t looked back. Since he made the switch to the ‘pen he’s been dominant.”

Bailey became the third Oakland player in six years to win the award, joining closer Huston Street (2005) and shortstop Bobby Crosby (2004).

After hearing the news, Bailey packed a bag and rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Oakland for a news conference Tuesday.

“It’s been a crazy day,” he said.

The AL Cy Young Award winner will be announced Tuesday.

NL announces 2009 Gold Glove winners

NEW YORK -AP- That travel team back in Virginia a decade ago must have played great defense on the left side of the infield.

Ryan Zimmerman succeeded boyhood friend David Wright as the National League’s Gold Glove third baseman on Wednesday. In high school, when Zimmerman was a shortstop, the two played together on a youth team.

“Hopefully if we’re lucky enough to continue doing what we’re doing, this will be a yearly thing,” Zimmerman said. “It’s fun for us.”

A college teammate from the University of Virginia, Arizona’s Mark Reynolds, is competing with Zimmerman for a Silver Slugger award, to be announced Thursday.

“We all push each other to work harder,” said Zimmerman, who had 33 homers and 106 RBIs.

Zimmerman led major league third basemen with 325 assists and became only the second Washington player to win the award, joining catcher Earl Battey of the original Senators in 1960. He also became the second infielder to win a Gold Glove from a team with the worst fielding percentage in the majors, following Texas shortstop Michael Young last year.

The Nationals led the major leagues with 143 errors.

“Our team as a whole needs to realize that if we want to win we’ve got to play defense,” Zimmerman said. “We need to take more responsibility on the defensive side of the ball and realize that if we want to start winning that, you know, that’s just as much a part of winning as hitting and scoring runs.”

Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins earned his third consecutive Gold Glove and Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino won for the second straight time.

“Defense is a very important part of my game, and it truly is an honor to be recognized as one of the best defensive players in the league,” Rollins said in a statement.

Of course, the Gold Gloves were far more rewarding last year, when the Phillies won the World Series for the first time since 1980. Philadelphia failed in its attempt to repeat, losing to the New York Yankees in six games last week.

“I take a lot of pride in fielding my position,” Victorino, nicknamed the Flyin’ Hawaiian for his speed, said in a statement.

Rollins became the Phillies fifth three-time winner, joining Mike Schmidt (10), Garry Maddox (eight), Manny Trillo and Scott Rolen (three each).

St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez were also second-time winners announced Wednesday.

“I don’t think I made as many plays as I made the year before. That’s because teams were more reluctant to bunt my way,” Gonzalez said. “You need a couple of years of doing things over and over before coaches say there’s a guy I could vote for.”

Adam Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to win since Joaquin Andujar in 1984 and succeeded Greg Maddux, who won his record 18th Gold Glove last year. Wainwright is also a favorite for the NL Cy Young Award after going 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA.

“I would have thought if there was one award that I would never win, or never have a chance to win, that would be a Gold Glove Award,” Wainwright said. “There’s probably a ton of guys that are better fielders than me.”

Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson overcame a broken left wrist sustained in August 2008 and won for the fourth time, taking over from Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips even though Hudson lost playing time by September to teammate Ronnie Belliard. Hudson didn’t make a single postseason start for Los Angeles and then became a free agent.

“I had a good season,” he said. “I would be interested in coming back.”

Houston outfielder Michael Bourn and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp were also first-time winners — and gave the NL three center fielders in the Gold Glove outfield.

Kemp had 14 assists, up from two in 2007.

“Now you’re supposed to win a Gold Glove every year,” he said.

Bourn concentrated on fielding during winter ball.

“When I went to the Dominican, I didn’t just try to work on my offense. I tried to work on my defense as well,” he said. “It helps me a little bit more over there because the ground’s a little bit rough and you have harder bounces and so you’ve got to get used to playing those tough bounces. When it comes to a regular field it made it seem a little easier for me.”

Wright and his New York Mets teammate, center fielder Carlos Beltran, were dropped from the Gold Glove team. Beltran was sidelined for much of the season. Outfielder Nate McLouth, traded from Pittsburgh to Atlanta in June, also missed out.

Gonzalez, Molina, Rollins and Wainwright each earned $50,000 bonuses, and the price of Gonzalez’s 2011 club option increased by $100,000 to $5.7 million. Bourn and Victorino each earned $25,000 bonuses. Hudson and Kemp didn’t have bonus provisions in their contracts.

Rawlings began presenting Gold Gloves in 1957. Managers and coaches voted on players in their own leagues before the regular season ended but couldn’t select members of their own teams.

American League winners were announced Tuesday.

Riggleman to stay on in Washington

Jim Riggleman will be the Washington Nationals manager for 2010, a source told ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian.

The team said Thursday it would hold an afternoon news conference to announce its manager.

Riggleman was promoted from bench coach to interim manager in July, replacing the fired Manny Acta. The Nationals were 26-61 (a .299 winning percentage) at the time and went 33-42 (.440) under Riggleman, finishing with a major league-worst record of 59-103.

Clearly, this is a rebuilding — or as general manager Mike Rizzo prefers to say, “building” — team, and the Nationals apparently appreciated the signs of progress that came in the second half of 2009.

From the outset of Washington’s managerial search, Rizzo made clear that Riggleman had a strong shot at the permanent job, calling him a “legitimate candidate” in late September.

“He put us on pace to really focus in and bear down on the fundamentals of the game, to play cleaner, more efficient ball. He’s got the guys playing at a high level of attention. I think he’s done the best job he could with the ability level he had on the field,” Rizzo said then.

“Jim is a definite candidate to stay on,” Rizzo added at the time. “Like I said, he’s done a great job.”

Riggleman also made it known he wanted the job.

He found himself in a similar situation a year ago with the Seattle Mariners, who fired their manager during the season and gave Riggleman the position on an interim basis. He was a candidate to stay on there, too, but didn’t get the job.

In addition to his brief stint in Seattle, Riggleman managed in the majors with the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.

He has a losing record in his career and only one finish as high as second place. His best season came with the 1998 Cubs, who were led by NL MVP Sammy Sosa’s 66 homers and went 90-73 to make the playoffs as a wild card.

But Chicago went 67-95 to finish last in 1999, Riggleman’s final year there. Next season will be his first since then with a full-fledged managing job from spring training.

Riggleman is the Nationals’ third manager since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington. He follows Frank Robinson, who guided the Nationals in 2005 and 2006, and Acta, who was recently hired to manage the Cleveland Indians.

Griffey signs up for another year with M’s

Courtesy of The Seattle Times

It’s official: Ken Griffey Jr. is coming back to the Mariners in 2010.

The outfielder, who will be 40 on Nov. 21, has reached a one-year agreement to play his 22nd year in the major leagues, as first reported in The Seattle Times. The Mariners made the announcement this morning.

“This is where he belongs,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said from Peoria, Ariz., where he is watching M’s prospects in the Arizona Fall League. “I’m happy. He was a joy last year.”

The contract figures are expected to be similar to last year, when Griffey earned $3.15 million in a contract that included incentives for attendance and playing time. His base salary in 2009 was $2 million, but it’s likely the base will be slightly higher this year.

“I’d like to thank the Mariners organization for inviting me back to play in 2010,” Griffey said in a news release. “While 2009 was an awesome experience for me, my ultimate goal is for the Mariners to get to and win the World Series. To that end, I look forward to contributing in any role Don sees fit on the field, and any manner I possibly can off the field.”

When 2009 ended for the Mariners, Griffey’s future was one of their big questions, but it has now been answered.

“Now he has some peace of mind,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a conference call from the GM Meetings in Chicago.

“At the end of the year, Ken said it was our decision. He said, ‘If you want me back, I want to come back.’ That was a driving force — we wanted him back.”

Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, said from Cincinnati that the negotiations went smoothly, and rapidly.

“It really took only a few conversations to figure out the Mariners wanted Junior back, and he wanted to come back,” Goldberg said. “How much money was involved, and how much he’ll play was not at all an issue in getting something done. Those will all take care of themselves in a natural way.”

Goldberg confirmed that “the framework for this year’s deal is similar to last year’s,” but would not discuss salary figures.

Griffey is the fifth-leading home run hitter in major-league history with 630. He’s 30 behind the next man on the list, Hall of Famer Willie Mays, whose guidance a year ago helped steer Griffey back to Seattle when he was also seriously considering the Atlanta Braves.

This time, however, the decision apparently came down to his family being OK with Griffey playing one more year, and the Mariners being comfortable with his role. Griffey is likely to have a reduced role after serving last year primarily as the team’s left-handed designated hitter in a platoon with Mike Sweeney. Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, has said that neither money nor playing time would be an issue for his client.

“Ken is going to be part of the 25-man club,” Zduriencik said. “Although he’s had a spectacular career, his driving force is to be part of the club. He wants to contribute any way he can. [Playing time] will dictated by performance on the field, and different situations through the course of the season. Ken is going to go out and do the best he can, and let the manager make the call.”

Wakamatsu said it was too early to pinpoint Griffeys’ role in 2010.

“I can’t,” he said. “Just in fairness, we don’t know what our team is shaping up like. Jack is obviously working a lot of deals. To say where that fits, I have no idea.”

Asked if he believed Griffey would accept a potentially reduced role, Wakamatsu said, “It was a reduced role at the end of last year. He wants to play, especially the way he ended up. He felt he could contribute. I know him. More than anything, he wouldn’t come back unless he thinks he can contribute. One thing I learned — you can’t predict the future. I’m happy to have him back.”

He added, “You know me — if a guy can do it, I’ll put him in that situation. There’s a lot of time to figure that stuff out.”

Goldberg said “Junior is adamant he will be ready for whatever role Don has in store for him on the field, large or small.”

Asked how he would respond to fans who view Griffey’s return as a sign the team is not serious about winning, Zduriencik said, “I have tremendous respect for the fans; I listen to what they say. They trusted us a year ago when we were able to bring players in. I’d ask them to trust us again.

“A lot of pieces have to fall into place this winter. We have to do things to help the club get better. It’s still so early in the process. I think when you look at a club that had 24 more wins that the year before, Ken was a big part of that team. I don’t know how anyone can second-guess that it wasn’t a very strong move for us.”

Talking about Griffey’s clubhouse influence, Zduriencik said, “I thought he’d be a good influence. He went beyond that. He went beyond anything I would have expected. He was never asked to do that, but he’s a smart player. He analyzed where we were headed, bought into it, and realized his role could be enormously influential.

“What can you tell Ken Griffey Jr.? He’s been there, done that. He’s a great guy, a fun guy, he loves life, loves baseball, loves the Mariners, loves the community. It’s a real bonus to have him back.”

Griffey underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last month. Zduriencik said the Mariners’ medical staff has talked to Dr. Tim Kremchek, who performed the surgery in Cincinnati, “and we don’t feel like there’s anything to be overly concerned about. When Ken comes out, he’ll get a physical like all our players. But we’re feeling real good about the information we received from Dr. Kremchek.”

Griffey was still a teenager when he broke into the majors with the Mariners in 1989, the son of former Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. and the No. 1 pick in the 1987 draft.

During his initial stint with the Mariners, he became one of MLB’s iconic players, a featured star in Nike’s ad campaigns and perennial All-Star, winning the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1997. He hit .304 that year with 56 homers and 147 RBI — one of five seasons in which he hit 45 or more home runs. He also participated in the signature moment in franchise history, scoring the winning run from first base on Edgar Martinez’s double in the clinching game of the 1995 Division Series against the Yankees at the Kingdome.

However, after the 1999 season, Griffey requested a trade to be closer to his family, and was eventually dealt to the Reds in a deal that brought Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer to the Mariners.

Griffey’s second stint with the Mariners might have been set in motion in June 2007, when he received a hero’s welcome during a three-game interleague series between Seattle and Cincinnati at Safeco Field.

Last year, Griffey’s fate remained undecided until after spring training opened, but on Feb. 21, he chose the Mariners over the Braves. Griffey was given considerable credit for improving a clubhouse that had been riddled with dissension the previous year.

Will this be Griffey’s last year? Goldberg wasn’t ready to say that.

“You never know,” he said. “I’m sure he’s taking it one year at a time, but you don’t want to lock yourself in to say it’s the last year if something happens during the year to change that. Just like you don’t want to prognosticate you want to play more years if it’s logical you shouldn’t.”

Goldberg added that Griffey came back only after getting the blessing of wife Melissa and his three children. But he never considered negotiating with another team besides the Mariners.

“At this point, it was not a matter of where to play, it was either come back for another year with the Mariners, or he wasn’t going to play,” Goldberg said. “He has no desire to play anywhere else.”

Baseball GMs pass on expanding instant replay

CHICAGO (AP) — Upon further review … baseball general managers like instant replay the way it is.

GMs failed to take a vote Tuesday on expanding instant replay following a postseason filled with blown calls by umpires.

“I know there are some who have talked off line about the expansion of instant replay,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner’s office. “Right now, the commissioner doesn’t see any reason to consider it.”

Baseball began video review in August 2008 but only to determine whether potential home runs were fair or foul or cleared fences.

Any change for 2010 likely would be likely have to be instigated by commissioner Bud Selig, who repeatedly has said he’s against widening the use of video review. While there was discussion, Solomon said “it was all confined to the current instant replay system that we have.”

“I think it’s working great, and for the most part the umpires are getting the calls right when replay is used,” Los Angeles Angels GM Tony Reagins said. “Can we always tweak and get better? Absolutely. But I think were headed in the right direction. For the most part they’re getting calls right and not afraid to use instant replay. As long as things are moving in the right direction, I don’t see a need to change.”

The GMs also heard a report from umpiring vice president Mike Port on training, evaluation and structure.

“I think commissioner Selig is going to look at the entire umpiring structure and he’s going to seek ways to enhance the entire structure,” Solomon said.

Other topics touched on during the GMs’ initial 4 1/2-hour meeting were restructuring the Arizona Fall League to include younger players and modifying the amateur draft to reflect the previous year’s postseason performance.

Solomon said there was no discussion on pace of the game, a topic that came to the forefront during the World Series after numerous visits to the mound by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.

No major trades were expected at this shorter-than-usual annual meeting, which ends Wednesday. Agents also are on hand at the gathering, being held at a hotel in O’Hare International Airport. Among the top available free agents are outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, pitcher John Lackey and infielder Chone Figgins.

Reagins said the Angels are interested in re-signing both Lackey and Figgins.

“These guys have opportunities to market themselves, and they’ve earned that,” Reagins said. “And we’re hopeful that we can come to an agreement at some point. Right now it remains to be seen.”

Holliday, acquired by St. Louis from Oakland in July, figures to get among the largest contracts of the offseason. The 2007 NL batting champion is represented by agent Scott Boras.

“There’s no doubt there will be a significant financial commitment with regards to Holliday, and at some point if we feel we’re not getting to a successful conclusion of that, then we would start to decide how we would redeploy those resources,” Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said. “I haven’t spoken with Scott for some time. I’m hopeful that before I leave here we will have a face-to-face.”

Boras, who was at the hotel to meet with some GMs, drew a parallel between Holliday, who turns 30 in January, and another of his clients, the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira. Boras negotiated a $180 million, eight-year deal for Teixeira.

“Last year we had one club that went out and made a commitment to a franchise player and they won a world championship,” Boras said. “I think a Matt Holliday is another player like that in this marketplace. You have a franchise player at a young age and you have a chance to really differentiate yourself as a franchise from all others. And we’ll see how many teams are really going to be involved in that.”

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein hopes to re-sign Bay, a three-time All-Star obtained from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in July 2008.

“We’d love to have him back under the right circumstances and he’s certainly open-minded to returning to Boston, it’s just a process that has to play itself out,” Epstein said. “He’s never been a free agent before. He’s got the ability and a right to see what other teams have to offer.”

MLB “offseason” begins

You could call it an offseason. Or it could be the busiest time of the year for MLB, as player transactions and signings become daily news. Already some of the biggest names have been throw around.

    Manny Ramirez exercised his own $20 million option with the Dodgers.Minnesota picked up Michael Cuddyer‘s $10.5 million option.And two pitchers, Cliff Lee will be back with Philly and Brandon Webb will remain in Arizona, for now.A couple of guys were bought out, Jermaine Dye by Chicago and Austin Kearns by the Nationals

    The White Sox have already replaced Dye, completed a trade for Mark Teahan from the Royals. Also dealt was Milwaukee’s J.J. Hardy for the Twins’ Carols Gomez.

    And finally, Giant‘s ace Tim Lincecum appears to be settling his recent drug charge.

    World Series ratings spike

    NEW YORK (AP) — World Series television ratings bounced back from last year’s record lows.

    The Yankees’ six-game victory over the Phillies on Fox averaged an 11.7 rating and 19 share. That’s the highest since a 15.8/26 in 2004, when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to end an 86-year championship drought.

    It’s up 39 percent from the record-low 8.4/14 for the 2008 Phillies-Rays series. Fox said Thursday that was the biggest one-year increase ever.

    Game 6 on Wednesday night earned a 13.4/22.

    The rating is the percentage of households with televisions tuned to a program. The share is the percentage of homes watching among those with TVs in use at the time.

    Lackey to start opener against Yankees

    John Lackey will start Friday night’s Game 1 of the AL championship series against CC Sabathia and the Yankees, getting the nod from manager Mike Scioscia before the Angels traveled to New York on Wednesday.

    Lackey pitched 7 1-3 innings to lead Los Angeles to a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the division series. The right-hander is 3-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 12 career postseason games, 10 starts.

    “It’s a fun atmosphere, for sure,” Lackey said. “It’s the same as the last round. It helps to win the first game, but the importance is probably a little bit less in a seven-game series, especially being on the road. It’ll be a challenge the whole series. They’re a great team.”

    Lackey was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA after missing the first 33 games because of a forearm strain. He got Los Angeles off to a great start in the first round of the playoffs, allowing just four singles against Boston.

    “When John is on that mound, he competes as well as anybody I’ve seen,” Scioscia said of the eight-year veteran, who won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie.

    Lackey was 3-3 with a 3.76 ERA at the old Yankee Stadium and has yet to pitch in the new park — which is much more conducive to home runs. The right-hander gave up 23 in his 32 starts this season.

    “You can’t just focus on one guy in that lineup because they’re too deep,” Lackey said. “Hopefully you keep guys off base in front of him and limit the damage.”

    Scioscia revealed his four-man rotation following a morning workout at Angel Stadium that preceded the team’s flight to New York.

    Left-hander Joe Saunders will start Game 2 against A.J. Burnett on Saturday. Jered Weaver, the Angels’ Game 2 pitcher in their sweep of the Red Sox, will face Andy Pettitte when the series shifts to Anaheim on Monday for Game 3.

    “There’s a lot of things that went into it, but I don’t think it was a tough decision. We just wanted to evaluate a couple of things,” Scioscia said. “I think it makes sense for Joe to pitch Game 2 in that ballpark. Joe has the tools to pitch in that stadium. Joe’s had a terrific year for us and we’re confident when he’s out there pitching.”

    Saunders will be making his second postseason start. He allowed four runs over 4 2-3 innings in the Angels’ 5-4 victory at Boston in Game 3 of last year’s division series.

    Scott Kazmir, acquired Aug. 28 from Tampa Bay, will start Game 4 in Anaheim — most likely against Sabathia.

    New York manager Joe Girardi announced Tuesday he was leaning toward a three-man rotation, and weather could be a factor in his decision.

    “I’m hearing a lot of rain. We may face Sabathia seven times,” Scioscia joked. “We might play just one game a week. I don’t know.”

    Dodgers take out brooms against Cardinals

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — Unemployed in August and a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers in October. Once Vicente Padilla got out of the first inning, he slammed the door on the St. Louis Cardinals’ season.

    The second-chance pitcher kept Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday quiet in a 5-1 victory Saturday night that gave Los Angeles a second straight trip to the National League championship series.

    “Anytime you win a series it’s good,” Casey Blake said. “But to sweep the Cardinals, it just doesn’t happen. I would have never guessed we would have swept them.”

    The Dodgers got their sweep in a series that will be remembered most for Holliday’s pivotal dropped fly ball with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 2.

    Andre Ethier missed the cycle by a single, Manny Ramirez had three hits and two RBIs and the Dodgers didn’t need another St. Louis fielding blunder to sweep their division series opponent for a second straight season. Los Angeles scored all five runs with two outs.

    Closer Jonathan Broxton struck out Rick Ankiel for the last out and pumped his fist as the Dodgers ran out to the mound to celebrate becoming the first team to advance to the championship series. They await the winner of the Philadelphia-Colorado series that is even at a game apiece. The Phillies beat Los Angeles in the NLSC last season in five games.

    Pujols and Holliday were a combined 2 for 8 with a late RBI for the Cardinals, who never recharged after becoming the first National League team to clinch a division title. Counting the postseason St. Louis was 1-9 after wrapping up the NL Central, and was swept for the first time in the division series or NLCS play and only for the third time overall in the postseason.

    This team and the 1928 team that got swept in the World Series by the Yankees are the only teams in franchise history to fail to win a game in the postseason.

    “It’s hard to believe we’re thinking about next year,” Ryan Ludwick said. “It just seems a long way away.”

    Pujols, 3 for 10 with an RBI and no extra-base hits in the series, left Busch Stadium without speaking to reporters. Holliday was 2 for 12 with a solo homer.

    “For some reason, our offense, we couldn’t get anything going,” Holliday said. “We had some good at-bats here or there but as far as stringing anything together we had a hard time.”

    Padilla, designated for assignment by the Rangers in early August, was 4-0 the final month with the Dodgers before shutting down the Cardinals on four hits over seven innings in his first career postseason appearance. After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning he was dominant, retiring 19 of 21 hitters against a team he last faced in 2003.

    “Big lineup,” Padilla said through an interpreter. “I just tried to make the pitches that I knew I was capable of throwing.”

    The Dodgers were already up 3-0 in the third inning when starter Joel Pineiro dropped Pujols’ simple toss at first for an error on James Loney’s grounder for the lifeless Cardinals, who were beset by bad play this series.

    Holliday got a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 47,296 before his first at-bat with two men on and one out in the first. Then he tapped out to the mound. Pfft.

    Over and over, he said he was touched by the ovation. Even if it was a recruiting pitch for a player headed for free agency.

    “Whatever it was, I’m appreciative of it,” Holliday said. “Obviously that was a hard pill for me to swallow, that ball. To get that kind of acknowledgment, I’m very appreciative.”

    Ramirez, only 1 for 8 the first two games amid suggestions by manager Joe Torre that he was trying too hard, gave the Dodgers the early lead with a two-out RBI double in the first.

    “I was just trying to be more aggressive,” Ramirez said. “Anything on the plate, I was ready for.”

    Ethier, who had only one homer in the last 12 games of the regular season, jumped on a 3-1 pitch for a two-run shot that made it 3-0 in the third. It was his second homer of the series.

    “To show up now and contribute and be a main guy, it’s nice to come through,” Ethier said.

    Ronnie Belliard singled to start the fourth, stole second and scored on Rafael Furcal’s single for a 4-0 cushion.

    That was more than enough for the Dodgers, who were 2-5 against the Cardinals during the regular season with all the games between mid-July and mid-August when St. Louis was its best.

    Joel Pineiro, a 15-game winner and the last of the Cardinals’ big three starters to come up empty, allowed four runs in four innings in an outing that matched his shortest of the season. The sinkerball specialist allowed only 11 homers in the regular season, but surrendered five in his last three starts.

    The Cardinals’ demise, though, was due to the failure of an offense beefed up with the acquisitions of Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo since late June. St. Louis was 4 for 30 (.133) with runners in scoring position against an underrated Dodgers pitching staff, totaling six runs and stranding 28 runners.

    One of them, Yadier Molina, doubled with one out in the seventh and than ran into an easy out on a groundball in front of him.

    Furcal, the Dodgers’ leadoff man, had two hits and was 7 for 12 in the series with two RBIs. Ethier was 6 for 12 with three RBIs after getting no RBIs in his first 37 career postseason at-bats.

    John Smoltz struck out five in two innings. The Cardinals finally broke through on Pujols’ run-scoring single off Broxton in the eighth.

    The Cardinals totaled three or fewer runs in 18 of their last 33 games. They fell to 6-2 in division series in 14 seasons under manager Tony La Russa.

    “I’ve ended playoffs 14 times this way,” Smoltz said. “It’s never easy. You always think you’re going to win the next game.”

    NOTES: Matt Morris, who pitched for five Cardinals postseason teams, threw out the ceremonial first pitch with Chris Carpenter on the receiving end. … Attendance of 47,296 was the largest at 4-year-old Busch Stadium. … Cardinals 3B DeRosa played for the Cubs last year and has been on the wrong end of Dodgers first-round sweeps the last two years.

    MLB Playoffs opening night blog

    C.C. Sabathia struggled early, throwing a whole bunch of pitches in his first three innings, but settled down to pitch into the seventh and allowed just one earned run, as the Yankees won their first playoff game in the new stadium last night. Derek Jeter reached base four times, including the towering homerun and Alex Rodriguez had a pair of RBI’s, scoring Jeter twice, to break out of his playoff slump.

    Another former Cleveland Indian lefty, Cliff Lee, broke into the playoffs for the first time and didn’t disappoint, tossing a complete game six-hitter to hold down the Rockies in Philly. Raul Ibanez had a pair of RBI and the wind, up to 47-mph gusts at times, also had its say. Game two is tonight in Philly.

    Chris Carpenter had a rough start, giving up a long homerun to Matt Kemp in the first and totaling four runs on nine hits, while the Dodgers’ bullpen allowed just one run in the last 5.1 to lead L.A. over St. Louis in game one last night. Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with two intentional walks for the Cards. They also play game two tonight.

    Twins cut Tigers lead to half game; Tigers trail Sox

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nick Punto’s voice was hoarse and he strained to describe how the Minnesota Twins have rallied from seven games down in less than a month to push the AL Central race to the final day.

    “It’s been Game 7 for the last two weeks,” Punto croaked.

    And, thanks in large part to Michael Cuddyer, for one more day.

    Cuddyer hit a solo home run in the eighth inning, lifting the Twins to a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday that moved them within a half-game of first-place Detroit.

    “This is what it’s all about,” Cuddyer said. “When you break spring training, you hope to experience this. All 162 games are going to count. You can’t go wrong with that.”

    The Tigers hosted the Chicago White Sox at night. Sunday is the final day of the regular season.

    Joe Mauer delivered his biggest hit in an MVP-caliber season, a two-out single off Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke that broke a scoreless tie in the sixth. Delmon Young added a three-run double later in the inning for a 4-0 lead.

    After the Twins bullpen let the Royals tie it, Cuddyer hit his 31st homer of the season off Dusty Hughes (0-2).

    “What we’ve done and the run we’ve had up to this point has been pretty special,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose Twins have won 15 of 19 to surge back into contention. “These guys really have just huge hearts out there.”

    Former AL MVP Justin Morneau was shelved for the season by the Twins on Sept. 12 because of a back injury. Cuddyer moved from right field to first base to fill in and has responded by hitting .352 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 19 games since.

    Greinke has been on an even more impressive tear, entering the game with a 0.43 ERA over his previous six starts.

    He didn’t allow a hit through three innings, but was outpitched by Nick Blackburn, who was perfect through four innings and allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings.

    Jon Rauch (5-1) went one inning for the win and Joe Nathan got a brilliant diving catch from Denard Span in right field to help him pick up his 47th save.

    “Nothing amazes me anymore,” Gardenhire said. “I take that back, this team amazes me because of the courage they’re showing.”

    Greinke definitely sensed the gravity of the game. He took plenty of time between each pitch, making sure he was comfortable and ready to deliver, as if a playoff berth was hanging on every delivery.

    For the Twins, it was.

    Mauer came to the plate in the sixth inning with Punto on third base and two outs – the AL’s best hitter against the league’s best pitcher with so much on the line.

    “It was Cy Young against MVP,” Cuddyer said. “That makes for great drama.”

    Just as he did in the previous two at-bats, Greinke went right after Mauer with two straight 95 mph heaters to get ahead 0-2. Mauer fouled off a slider and then took another one low before ripping a 94 mph fastball into right field for a 1-0 lead.

    “That’s what everyone wanted to see,” Mauer said. “I was glad. That’s the position you want to be in as a player, even if it is a tough spot. That’s what you play the game for.”

    Greinke came a little unglued after the showdown with Mauer, giving up a double to Jason Kubel and hitting Cuddyer before Young’s opposite-field double cleared the bases for a 4-0 lead.

    “I think what happened was, they did such a bad job of hitting my fastball the first five innings, that I started to think that they weren’t going to hit it,” Greinke said. “And then that last inning, Mauer hit a fastball. Kubel hit a fastball. Delmon Young hit a fastball. Just maybe got a little overconfident with it.”

    Greinke’s ERA rose from 2.06 to 2.44, the first time in seven starts that number has increased. But the Royals offense finally gave him some run support to avoid his first loss since Aug. 19.

    Mike Jacobs responded with a homer and Alex Gordon added a two-run shot off Jose Mijares in Kansas City’s three-run eighth to tie the game.

    But Cuddyer came through in the eighth, ensuring that the final regular-season game in the Metrodome on Sunday will be a memorable one.

    If both teams win or lose on Sunday, a one-game playoff will be held here on Tuesday. The same thing happened to the Twins last season when they lost at Chicago in game No. 163 to miss out on the playoffs.

    “It’s like deja vu,” Punto said.

    The Twins will move outdoors to Target Field next season, but they’re not ready to leave quite yet.

    “They’re the only team I’ve faced over the years that can actually, they elevate their game when the pressure is on the line,” Greinke said. “Most teams either stay the same or get tight and try to do more than they can do.”

    NOTES: If the Tigers and Twins are tied after Sunday, the playoff game would be held at 4 p.m. Central time on Tuesday and broadcast on TBS. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said veteran Carl Pavano will pitch on three days’ rest Sunday against Luke Hochevar. … Royals SS Yuniesky Betancourt got the day off with a bruised quad muscle. Luis Hernandez filled in.

    And the Tigers take on the White Sox.

    Ricciardi canned by Jays

    TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays fired general manager J.P. Ricciardi on Saturday, ending an eight-year tenure marked by an inability to get past the Yankees and Red Sox and into the playoffs.

    “This was a tough decision and a difficult one for me personally as I have enjoyed J.P.’s friendship and his perspective on the game,” said Paul Beeston, Toronto’s acting president and CEO.

    “J.P. has put an incredible amount of effort into improving the team and he has brought along a number of great young players,” Beeston said. “However, I feel that it is time for a change and accordingly we have decided to move on.”

    The Blue Jays failed to make the playoffs in J.P. Ricciardi’s eight years as GM.

    Ricciardi, who joined the Jays in 2001, had one year left on his contract. The Blue Jays (75-85) are finishing off a mediocre season in Baltimore, with the team embroiled in locker-room unrest with manager Cito Gaston.

    The Blue Jays said assistant general manager Alexander Anthopoulos will assume Ricciardi’s duties until a permanent replacement is found.

    Calls seeking comment from Anthopoulos and Ricciardi were not immediately returned.
    Ricciardi’s firing was widely expected. He had been criticized for poor free agent signings and off-field missteps.

    The team posted four winning seasons and four losing ones under Ricciardi, never making the playoffs in an AL East dominated by New York and Boston. Toronto last made the playoffs in 1993, when the team won its second straight World Series.

    The best finish by one of Ricciardi’s clubs came in 2006, when the Blue Jays went 87-75 to finish second in the AL East.

    The 2009 campaign was a microcosm of Ricciardi’s tenure as GM. There was a hopeful start, a sudden collapse, a lack of resources to turn things around, a spate of injuries, some painful decisions related to bad contracts and ultimately, pessimism for the future.

    Adding to the Blue Jays woes this season were the clumsily handled Roy Halladay trade talks. Ricciardi essentially took every media call he could for a month in a bid to create pressure on other teams to overpay for the ace, but in the end he couldn’t get a deal done.

    Other missteps included allowing A.J. Burnett an opt-out clause in his contract, giving Frank Thomas an $18 million, two-year deal with a vesting option, and signing B.J. Ryan to a $47 million, five-year deal.

    Burnett left to become a free agent last fall, Thomas had to be cut in the second season at a cost of around $8 million, and Ryan was released in July with $15 million left on his contract.
    Other bad contracts he signed included a $17 million, three-year deal for Canadian Corey Koskie and the monster deals for Vernon Wells and Alex Rios.

    Wells has five years remaining on his $127 million, seven-year deal, a contract that will handcuff the club for seasons to come. The team managed to escape the $60 million remaining on Rios’ deal when he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, but the team got nothing in return.

    The Blue Jays also had a spotty record in the draft under Ricciardi, who produced several decent major leaguers but very few elite players.

    From Geoff Baker’s Seattle Times Mariner’s baseball blog:

    Mike Blowers gets one really right in Sunday’s game

    Wow, you just don’t see on-air predictions going this well. Not for specific at-bats and specific counts involving specific players.

    But Mike Blowers sure made the right call on Matt Tuiasosopo prior to his first big-league homer yesterday.

    I’ve linked here to Shannon Drayer’s blog because it’s well worth the listen to the on-air calls before and then during the home run.

    Click right here to listen.

Comments
One Response to “MLB Offseason”
  1. Darius says:

    Great link the the article. Love Ichiro Suzuki
    to death!

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