Monday, November 20, 2006

Ryan Howard Wins National League MVP Award. Former Red Sox Roundup.

Today was a busy day in baseball. The National League Most Valuable Player Award winner was announced, and several ex-Red Sox players signed new deals, re-signed old ones, and a key member of their 2004 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP team retired. Stories below. Links at the end of the post.

Ryan Howard Wins National League MVP Award

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player of 2006 in an announcement made this afternoon. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

NEW YORK - Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player on Monday after leading the majors in home runs and RBIs, beating out the St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols for the honor.

Howard received 20 first-place votes and 12 seconds for 388 points in balloting by a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Pujols got 12 firsts, 19 seconds and one third for 347 points.

Howard, the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year, had 58 homers and 149 RBIs while batting .313. He had the most homers in the major leagues since Barry Bonds hit a record 73 in 2001. He set Phillies records for home runs and RBIs, producing the highest totals in those categories in big league history for a second-year player.

Twenty-three of Howard's homers put the Phillies ahead and five tied games. The Phillies went 32-18 in games in which he homered. Howard didn't make it up to the major leagues for good until July 1, 2005, when Jim Thome went on the disabled list.

Howard may have been helped by Philadelphia's surprising second-half push. He hit .355 with 30 homers and 78 RBIs in second half as the Phillies fell three wins short of the NL wild-card berth.

Pujols, who hit .331 with 49 homers and 137 RBIs, defeated Atlanta's Andruw Jones 378-351 in last year's voting after finishing second in 2002 and 2003. Stan Musial and Ted Williams (four times each) are the only players to finish second more often than Pujols, who matched three-time AL MVP Mickey Mantle with three second-place finishes.
Pujols was third in the NL in batting average behind Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez and Florida's Miguel Cabrera, and second to Howard in homers and RBIs.

Stan Musial (four times), Ted Williams (four times) are the only players to finish second more often than Pujols, who matched three-time AL MVP Mickey Mantle with three second-place finishes.

Houston's Lance Berkman was third with 230 points, followed by the New York Mets Carlos Beltran (211), Cabrera (170) and Washington's
Alfonso Soriano (106) — who on Sunday reached a preliminary agreement on an eight-year contract with the Chicago Cubs worth about $136 million.

Pujols gets a $100,000 bonus for finishing second, Berkman $250,000 for placing third and Beltran $200,000 for fourth.

Howard is an imposing presence in the batter's box. He has unbelievable power to all fields. He reminds me a lot of David Ortiz, in that he is a patient hitter who, when he is going well, simply crushes the ball. And, as the excerpt noted, he is building a resume of being able to do so, like Ortiz, in the clutch. Well done Ryan.

Stanton and Gonzalez Sign With Reds

The Alex Gonzalez Era is over in Boston, as last year's Red Sox shortstop signed a three-year deal to play for the Cincinnati Reds. Former Sox lefty setup man, MikeStantonn, who pitched a total of 82 games in 1995-6, and 2005 also signed a two-year deal, with an option for a third year. Yahoo News AP Wire excerpt:

CINCINNATI - Needing a shortstop and a late-innings reliever, the Cincinnati Reds committed roughly $20 million to fill two of their bigger holes. Later, they spent a little more to get rid of their logjam behind home plate.

Shortstop Alex Gonzalez and left-handed reliever Mike Stanton finalized multiyear contracts Monday with the Reds. Cincinnati then traded catcher Jason LaRue to Kansas City for a player to be named, agreeing to pay part of his $5.2 million salary next season.

The light-hitting Gonzalez, 29, committed only seven errors last season with Boston. Stanton, 39, split the season between Washington and San Francisco, where he had eight saves and proved he can still pitch effectively on short rest. Together, they'll fill a couple of big gaps.

Gonzalez is expected to improve a defense that had the second-most errors in the National League last season. He hit .255 with 24 doubles and nine homers for Boston. Gonzalez gets $3.5 million next year, $4,625,000 in 2008 and $5,375,000 in the third year. If he wins the Gold Glove in either of the first two years, the third-year salary increases to $5.5 million. There's a $6 million mutual option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout.

Felipe Lopez started at shortstop last season, but was undependable on routine plays and was part of an eight-player trade with Washington in July to restock the bullpen. Cincinnati got shortstop Royce Clayton as part of the deal, but he hit .258 and started only nine games in September.

Clayton has been an enigma for his entire career. He's a guy who seemingly has all the ability in the world, but somehow never seemed to be able to put it all together. He'll be 37 when the 2007 season starts, and he'll be looking to catch on with his seventh team in six seasons. Jesus, I hope Theo doesn't get any silly ideas...

The Reds also have been trying to upgrade their bullpen since the middle of last season. Left-handed closer Eddie Guardado, acquired from Seattle in one of those midseason trades, had reconstructive elbow surgery in September and won't be ready to pitch at the start of next season.

Stanton gives the Reds a proven option for late in games. He went 3-5 with a 4.47 ERA in 56 games last season for Washington, which traded him to San Francisco on July 28 for a minor league pitcher. Stanton was 4-2 in 26 games for the Giants with eight saves and a 3.09 ERA. Stanton gets salaries of $2 million next year and $3 million in 2008. There's an option for 2009 at $2.5 million, with a buyout of $500,000. If he appears in 140 games over the next two seasons, the option-year salary vests at $2.75 million.

Good luck next season guys. Alex, we hardly knew ye...

Nomar Gets Two-Year Deal From Dodgers

Former two-time AL batting champ Nomar Garciaparra will remain a Dodgers as he was shown the money after his Comeback Player of the Year season. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

LOS ANGELES - Six-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed Monday to an $18.5 million, two-year contract.

The 33-year-old Garciaparra, the NL comeback player of the year, will get a $2.5 million signing bonus, which is deferred until 2009 and 2010, and salaries of $7.5 million next season and $8.5 million in 2008. He would get an additional $250,000 each year for 500 plate appearances.

A two-time AL batting champion, Garciaparra shifted to first base with the Dodgers last season, his first with the team. He hit .303 with 93 RBIs and 20 home runs to tie J.D. Drew for the team lead in homers.

Garciaparra earned $8.5 million last season, including $2.5 million in performance bonuses. He signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers last winter. Injuries limited him to a total of 82 games in the previous two years. He was slowed late in the season by quadriceps and oblique muscle injuries.

Garciaparra had five game-winning hits last season, including his two-run shot in the 10th inning in an 11-10 victory over San Diego on Sept. 18. The Dodgers tied a major league record but hitting four consecutive homers in the bottom of the ninth.

After playing mostly shortstop in his previous 10 big league seasons, Garciaparra made a seamless switch to first in Los Angeles. He made only four errors in 1,124 chances for a .996 fielding percentage, the NL's second-highest for a first baseman last season.

Garciaparra was AL Rookie of the Year in 1997 and won his first batting title in 1999. He was considered one of baseball's best shortstops for several years while playing with the Boston Red Sox. He hit .283 with nine homers and 30 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs two seasons ago, when he earned $8.25 million. With the Cubs, he tore his left groin running out of the batter's box and was out for several months.

Garciaparra, who grew up in nearby Whittier and graduated from St. John Bosco High in suburban Bellflower, had said he was interested in staying with the Dodgers. "I've loved every minute of it," he said last month.

Garciaparra became all the more attractive to the Dodgers after Drew opted out of the final three years of his contract earlier this month, making him eligible to become a free agent.

Ah, sweet vindication! Way to go Nomar! I still remember what you did for this franchise.

Let me sound a cautionary note here. No, not about Nomar and his health, but about JD Drew and HIS health, namely his mental health. This is a guy who, as an amateur, let his agent, Scott Boras, talk him into sitting out a full year rather than sign with the Phillies out of college. He spent that summer playing in the independent Northern League before being re-drafted, and was finally signed by the Cardinals. Since then, he has shown flashes of brilliance, but he plays as if he has no pulse. His boneheaded baserunning (when he tried to score after an already tagged out Jeff Kent was barely picking himself up off the ground near home plate) cost the Dodgers in the NLDS against the Mets. Drew also has a world of talent, but his on-field actions resemble those of a sleepwalker. My cautionary note is to Sox GM Theo Epstein, who is rumored to be interested in obtaining Drew to replace Trot Nixon in right field. Theo, please, DON'T DO IT!!! There is a reason this guy has bounced from the Cardinals to the Braves to the Dodgers from 2003 until now, he is simply more trouble than he is worth.

Bill Mueller Retires. Takes Dodgers Front Office Job.

Former AL batting champ, all-around dirt dog, and the man who, with a hit off of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS, drove home pinch-runner Dave Roberts after his historic steal of second after a Kevin Millar walk, is retiring after yet another year of knee problems to take a job in the Dodgers front office. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

LOS ANGELES - Former AL batting champion Bill Mueller, limited to 32 games with the Dodgers last season before undergoing what turned out to be career-ending knee surgery, retired Friday and will serve as a special assistant to Los Angeles general manager Ned Colletti.

Mueller, who signed a two-year, $9.5 million contract with the Dodgers last winter, hit .252 with three homers and 15 RBIs while striking out just nine times in 127 plate appearances. "He's a very smart guy," Colletti said. "He'll be involved with us in scouting, evaluating players, player development areas, amateur draft areas. He'll be a great sounding board for me."

Mueller finishes his career with a .291 average, 85 home runs and 493 RBIs in 11 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox' and Dodgers. The 35-year-old third baseman hit .326 and had career-high totals of 171 hits, 19 homers and 85 RBIs with the Red Sox in 2003, when he won his batting championship. He was a member of Boston's 2004 World Series championship team.

Mueller said he realized as last season went on that he'd never be able to play again because of the damage to his right knee. "It's something I'm definitely going to need work on in the future, whether it's done with one surgery or two separate surgeries," he said. "It's something I'm basically going to have to live with the rest of my life, without being able to run or jog, without high-impact activity. It's unfortunate, it's crazy. I'm just trying to deal with it now, living day-to-day life."

Mueller and Colletti have known each other for several years. Mueller began his career with the Giants, where Colletti served as assistant GM for nine years before being hired by the Dodgers last November. "He's someone that I trust and know, and really most importantly, respect," Mueller said. "I think that's what created even more interest in staying in the game of baseball. Once I understood there was no chance I would ever be able to play again, I called Ned. When both of our interests were high, I thought this was a great move and a great decision."

Mueller said he has no regrets concerning his playing career. "I'm happy with the next chapter," he said. "My (job) description is a work in progress. As of right now, I'm very interested in learning under Ned. I think it's a wonderful opportunity for myself to be able to listen and really get tutored on the aspects of the front office."

Mueller was a no-nonsense, heads-up, do whatever it took to win type of player. He cared little about personal stats, and his hustle was part of the charm of that 2004 championship team. It's too bad he has to end his playing career this way, but he will have lots of options within the game due to the respect he garnered as a player. Good luck Bill!

Ryan Howard-NL MVP

Gonzalez Signs with Reds

Nomar Re-signs with Dodgers

Bill Mueller Retires

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