Randy Arozarena Named the American League’s Rookie of the Year

Randy Arozarena is celebrating a special honor…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder, last year’s breakout postseason star, has been named this year’s American League Rookie of the Year.

Randy ArozarenaThe Tampa Bay Rays outfielder beat out teammate Wander Franco and right-handed starter Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros for the honor.

Arozarena received 124 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, including 22 for first place. Garcia had 63 points and Franco had 30 points.

Arozarena led all rookies with a 4.1 WAR while compiling a .815 OPS. He hit 20 home runs while stealing 20 bases becoming the third rookie (Mike TroutAndrew Benintendi) in the last decade to compile a 20-20 season.

Arozarena made only one error in 119 games played in the outfield. He and first baseman Jose Martinez were acquired in January 2020 from the St. Louis Cardinals for lefty Matthew Liberatore and catcher Edgardo Rodriguez.

Arozarena was the ALCS MVP that season while hitting 11 home runs during the playoffs.

“I know I was favored to be the rookie of the year,” Arozarena said through a translator. “But for me, my mind wasn’t set on the award or winning the award. My mind and my goal was to have another good season and continue what I had done the year before.”

Arozarena is Tampa Bay’s first rookie of the year since outfielder Wil Myers in 2013.

Franco, 20, made a late season run for top rookie honors as he reached base in 43 consecutive games, tied with Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest such streak by a player 20 years old or younger. Franco only played in 70 games after getting called up from the minors in June.

Garcia, 24, was an integral part of the division winning Astros. He appeared in 30 games including making 28 starts while compiling a 3.48 ERA. He gave up just 133 hits in 155.1 innings. He led all AL rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Eduardo Rodriguez Agrees to Five-Year, $77 Million Deal with Detroit Tigers

Eduardo Rodriguez is heading to the Motor City.

The 28-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball pitcher, nicknamed E-Rod, has agreed to a five-year-deal with the Detroit Tigers worth $77 million, according to ESPN.

Eduardo Rodriguez,The former Boston Red Sox left-hander went 13-8 with a 4.74 ERA last season with the Red Sox after missing all of 2020 because of coronavirus-related myocarditis.

Rodriguez was Boston’s best starter in 2019, finishing sixth in the American League Cy Young voting and posting a 19-6 record with a 3.81 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 34 starts.

In seven seasons in Boston, Rodriguez was 64-39 with a 4.16 ERA.

Rodriguez joins a young rotation that includes former top prospects Tarik SkubalCasey Mize, and Matt Manning.

Earlier this month the Tigers acquired veteran Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for infield prospect Nick Quintana.

The Athletic first reported Monday that Rodriguez and the Tigers had finalized a deal.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Becomes MLB’s Youngest Hank Aaron Award Winner

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is making MLB history…

The 22-year-old Dominican-Canadian professional baseball infielder for the Toronto Blue Jays has been named the winner of the 2021 American League Hank Aaron Award.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

He’s the youngest player to win the award, and only the fourth Blue Jay to receive the honor.

Guerrero hit .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs, 111 RBIs, 123 runs scored and 363 total bases. He led MLB in runs and total bases, tied for the Major League Baseball lead in homers and paced the AL in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. Guerrero was also a first-time MLB All-Star in 2021.

“I’m very proud to be able to work hard and have my hard work shine through with an award like this,” Guerrero said on the MLB Network broadcast, via interpreter Alanna Rizzo. “I’m very proud and very happy.”

Bestowed annually since 1999, the Hank Aaron Award honors the best overall offensive performer in each league. Guerrero is the fifth Blue Jays hitter to win the award, and the first since Josh Donaldson in 2015. Bryce Harper received this year’s honor in the National League.

This year’s other AL finalists were Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins, Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, A’s first baseman Matt Olson, Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Cleveland third baseman José Ramírez.

The award is decided by a special panel of Hall of Fame players from a list of seven finalists in each league, which is determined by a panel of MLB.com writers. Each team submits a candidate.

Previously, Aaron helped select the panel of Hall of Famers who voted for the award winner. Aaron died in January at age 86. Aaron’s widow, Billye, spoke of her husband’s legacy on MLB Network’s announcement show.

“He did so much to enhance many causes,” Billye Aaron said. “We sat and talked about trying to help kids, who, like Henry was at the time, were trying to find themselves and follow their dreams.”

Said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred: “While Hank Aaron’s impact on the field was so significant we named an on-field achievement award after him, he was so much more than an all-time great baseball player. He was a successful baseball executive, businessman, social activist, philanthropist, baseball ambassador, role model and a loving husband and father.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Among American League MVP Finalists

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is among the most valuable…

The 22-year-old Dominican-Canadian professional baseball player and Toronto Blue Jays star is a finalist for American League MVP in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.The BBWAA revealed finalists for American League and National League MVPs, Cy Young Awards, Rookies of the Year and Managers of the Year on Monday night.

The winners — decided on ballots sent at the end of the regular season — will be revealed next week.

Guerrero is in the final three of the AL MVP voting along with fellow teammate Marcus Semien and Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. 

Ex-St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Shildt was nominated for NL Manager of the Year less than a month after he was fired. The other finalists are Milwaukee‘s Craig Counsell and San Francisco‘s Gabe Kapler.

The Cardinals won 17 straight games down the stretch and made the postseason for the third time in four years under Shildt, but the 2018 Manager of the Year was cut loose because of what general manager John Mozeliak termed “philosophical differences.” Oliver Marmol was promoted from bench coach to replace Shildt.

The NL MVP race is down to Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper, Washington’s Juan Soto and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. Harper is the only former MVP of that trio, earning the honor in 2015 with the Nationals.

In a sign of how voters’ priorities have changed, none of the six MVP finalists played for teams that made the postseason.

Soto, Tatis and Guerrero were all 22 on the final day of the season, and this is the first time a trio of players younger than 23 was among the finalists. The last time even two players that young were finalists was 1956, when Hank Aaron finished third in NL voting and Al Kaline was third in the AL.

Max Scherzer is a finalist for a fourth Cy Young Award after splitting the season between the Nationals and Dodgers, but all the other finalists would be first-time winners.

Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes and Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler are finalists in the NL, while the AL honor is down to the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, the White Sox’s Lance Lynn and the Blue Jays’ Robbie Ray, who is now a free agent.

Postseason star Randy Arozarena and teammate Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays are finalists for AL Rookie of the Year along with Astros right-hander Luis Garcia. Franco appeared in just 70 games but still got attention after reaching base in 43 consecutive games, matching Frank Robinson’s record from 1956 for longest by a player age 20 or younger.

Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson, Reds second baseman Jonathan India and Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers are finalists for NL Rookie of the Year.

Cardinals Star Nolan Arenado Wins Ninth Career Gold Glove Award

Nolan Arenado is part of MLB history…

A record five St. Louis Cardinals players, including the 30-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American professional baseball player, have won National League Gold Gloves.

Nolan Arenado

Arenado, the team’s third baseman, was joined by fellow teammates Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill in earning the fielding honor.

Arenado won his ninth Gold Glove, his first since he was traded last winter by the Colorado Rockies.

Chicago White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel won his fifth Gold Glove, and San Francisco shortstop Brandon Belt won his fourth.

Atlanta pitcher Max Fried, who got the win last week in the World Series finale, won his second in a row. Adam Duvall, traded to the Braves in July from Miami, won in right.

Pittsburgh’s Jacob Stallings won at catcher.

Houston’s Yuli Gurriel won at first to go along with his American League batting title, and Astros teammate Carlos Correa won at shortstop, his first.

Oakland’s Matt Chapman won at third and Sean Murphy at catcher, and Toronto’s Marcus Semien at second after signing with the Blue Jays and moving from shortstop.

Kansas City center fielder Michael A. Taylor and left fielder Andrew Benintendi won their first Gold Gloves. Right fielder Joey Gallo, traded by Texas to the New York Yankees in July, won his second straight.

Voting is conducted by major league managers and up to six coaches from each team, and they cannot vote for players on their teams.

Houston Astros Slugger Yordan Alvarez Named American League Championship Series MVP

Yordan Alvarez is celebrating his ALCS performance with a special trophy…

The 24-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, a designated hitter and outfielder for the Houston Astros was named the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) after almost single-handedly leading his team to the American League pennant.

Yordan Alvarez

In the final three games of the ALCS — a run that started with the Astros facing a 2-1 series deficit to the Boston Red Sox — Alvarez went 9-for-13.

In Games 5 and 6, he outhit the entire Red Sox roster on his own, 7-5. His ALCS performance peaked at Minute Maid Park in Game 6: 4-for-4 with a single, a double, a triple, a run and an RBI, as Houston finished off the series with a 5-0 victory over Boston.

“It was all about focus,” Alvarez told ESPN‘s Marly Rivera after the game. “That’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to do damage and that’s what happened.”

Alvarez’s showing in the ALCS surprised even himself, especially after a 2020 season when he only played two games and underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, along with arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Yordan Alvarez“I didn’t really imagine myself being able to come out of that surgery on both knees and be able to do this as quickly as I did,” Alvarez said. “So it was really unbelievable for me to be able to come back and do what I did. Just super happy to be here and be able to contribute like that.”

Throughout the series, Astros manager Dusty Baker noted the exceptional impact Alvarez made in the middle of Houston’s lineup — and how his power bat changed the trajectory of the team’s season.

“He is a big boy in the middle,” Baker said.

Alvarez is the second Astros player with 11 hits in a playoff series, behind only Jose Altuve‘s 12 in the 2020 ALCS. He became the fifth player in MLB history with 11 or more hits in a single series against the Red Sox, joining a club with Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams (2004), Lou Brock (1967) and Buck Herzog (1912).

Baker noted Alvarez’s all-fields approach, which has drawn comparisons to the way David Ortiz consistently drove pitches on the outer half of the plate the other way. During the 2021 season, Alvarez pulled baseballs 36.4%, and hit them up the middle and to the opposite field 36.3% and 27.3% of the time, respectively.

His average exit velocity of 93.2 mph ranked ninth in MLB, ahead of Manny MachadoJuan Soto and Bryce Harper, according to Baseball Savant.

“He hits the ball in the opposite field and it stays straight,” Baker said. “It doesn’t have a slice on it, and everybody knows he can pull the ball, but he also has power the other way. He is only going to get better. Like last year at this time, we didn’t have Alvarez, and we came close to going to the series last year without Alvarez. And now we have Alvarez, and we’re very, very grateful and thankful that we have him.”

After the game, Alvarez gave credit to Baker for his support throughout the season.

“He understands how it is to be a ballplayer,” Alvarez said. “He understands what guys go through every day. I got a chance to spend time with him in spring training as well. He has been really helpful to me, and I’m thankful for everything that he has given to me in this time together.”

Alvarez’s three extra-base hits in a potential series-clinching game tie Carlos Correa for the most in Astros history, and he joins Yuli Gurriel and Craig Biggio as the only Astros with consecutive three-hit games in the postseason.

That historic performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Yordan was, like, something else,” said Astros pitcher Luis Garcia. “He was really clutch, everything.”

Alvarez’s successful 2019 campaign for Rookie of the Year — where he hit .313/.412/.655 with 27 homers, 26 doubles and 78 RBIs with 3.7 bWAR in 87 games — served as his introduction to the national stage, but he cemented his place among the best designated hitters with his 2021 season, hitting .277/.346/.531 with 33 homers, 104 RBIs, 35 doubles and a triple with 3.2 bWAR this year.

But none of them meant as much as winning the ALCS MVP trophy.

“It means everything,” Alvarez said. “It means everything. I think there’s a lot of things that I could say that’s behind that trophy, but all I can say is it just means everything.”

As the spotlight got brighter, so did Alvarez’s performance at the plate. The ALCS MVP trophy served as a cherry on top.

Luis Garcia Helps Lead Houston Astros to American League Championship Title

Luis Garcia is celebrating an Astros-nomical feat…

The 24-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball pitcher helped shut out the Boston Red Sox to help lead the Houston Astros to 5-0 victory in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night.

Luis Garcia

As a result, the Astros win the 2021 American League pennant and will advance to their third World Series in five years. The Red Sox, conversely, will head home for the winter, having lost the best-of-seven series by a 4-2 margin.

The Astros received a stellar start from Garcia, a rookie right-hander, who atoned for his poor performance in Game 2.

Garcia threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, holding the Red Sox to a single hit (an Enrique Hernández triple in the sixth) and a walk. He struck out seven batters and showed no ill effects from the knee injury that plagued him earlier in the series.

The Astros were paced offensively by Yordan Alvarez, the ALCS MVP. He delivered a pair of doubles as well as a triple. He drove in one run and scored the other.

Nathan Eovaldi, pitching just two days after his Game 5 relief appearance, permitted five hits and a walk across 4 1/3 innings. He gave up a run and struck out four batters.

The Astros will await the winner of the National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves lead that series by a 3-2 margin heading into Saturday’s Game 6 at Truist Park in Atlanta.

Randy Arozarena Makes MLB Playoff History by Stealing Home & Hitting Homer in Same Game

Randy Arozarena has made MLB playoff history…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays – the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year — made history Thursday by becoming the first player in playoff history to steal home and hit a home run in the same game during Tampa Bay’s 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Randy Arozarena

The swipe marked the first steal of home in a playoff game since 2016, when Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez pulled off the feat in the National League Championship Series, and the first straight steal of home in a playoff game since Jackie Robinson‘s against Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees in 1955.

“I noticed the pitcher kind of wasn’t keeping attention to me. I was able to take a big enough lead and take that base,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “That’s the first time I’ve ever stolen home.”

Arozarena, who is still a rookie despite setting postseason records with 10 home runs and 29 hits in 20 games during the 2020 playoffs, stole home against Boston reliever Josh Taylor to make the score 5-0 in the seventh inning after drawing a walk.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said Arozarena had been asking him about stealing home for weeks. During the 2020 World Series, Rays outfielder Manuel Margot was thrown out when he attempted a similar steal off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, but Arozarena kept insisting.

“He’s asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde’ — green light,” Cash said. “We finally gave it to him.”

Arozarena easily beat the throw home to catcher Christian Vazquez via headfirst slide.

Arozarena ranks second for the most home runs in a 20-game postseason span, tied with Carlos Beltran and Jim Thome with 11 and trailing just Babe Ruth, who leads with 12. His 11 career postseason home runs are five more than any other rookie in MLB history, with Evan Longoria ranking second with six.

Asked about his playoff success, Arozarena said the stakes create a desire to meet the moment.

“I just focus a little bit more,” Arozarena said. “Luckily it’s happening in October, when it means it’s closer to the World Series.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Among the Finalists for the MLB’s Hank Aaron Award

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is in the running for a coveted MLB award…

The 22-year-old Dominican-Canadian professional baseball player and designated hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays has been named a finalist for the Hank Aaron Award, the first since the legend’s death.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Guerrero is a finalist alongside Shohei Ohtani, Bryce HarperJuan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr.

The winners of the award, which was established in 1999 by Major League Baseball to honor the best offensive player in each league, will be announced in November.

Ohtani, the favorite for American League MVP, is the first player who also pitches ever nominated. In addition to Ohtani and Guerrero, New York’s Aaron Judge, Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins, Oakland’s Matt Olson, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez are the American League nominees.

Joining Harper, Soto and Tatis in the National League are Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos, San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt.

In a phone interview, Billye Aaron, who was married to Hank Aaron for 48 years, said her husband “was always very excited about the award itself and, of course, very excited about the World Series because, during that time, before every fourth game, he had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know and shake hands with the winners.”

The voting panel includes eight Hall of Fame players — including new voters Chipper Jones, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — as well as a fan vote.

Aaron, MLB’s longtime home run king and one of the most beloved and respected players in the game’s history, died in his sleep in January.

“I’m still in a state of grief beyond measure,” Billye Aaron said. “I’m doing OK. I have some difficulty many days. But like everybody else, when you come to this stage in your life, you have to learn to cope with it. You can’t change it. You can’t do anything about God’s will. So you learn to accept it and learn to go on.

“I miss him so very, very much. I loved him so very, very much.”

Aaron, she said, would have been particularly excited for the NL Division Series that starts Friday between the two MLB teams for whom he played: the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. Aaron played his first 12 years for the Milwaukee Braves before they moved to Atlanta, where he spent nine seasons. A two-year stint with the Brewers wrapped up his career.

“He loved Milwaukee. He loved the Milwaukee Braves. He loved the Milwaukee Brewers,” Billye Aaron said. “And he loved, of course, the Atlanta Braves. He probably would’ve had some difficulty not rooting for both teams. The team that is your bread and butter — you probably would fall into that category. And being on the staff as well. So he probably would have to pull for Atlanta. But I know he had a strong fondness for the Milwaukee team.”

MLB intended to honor Aaron in Atlanta at July’s All-Star Game. Blowback from Georgia’s new voting-rights laws, however, prompted MLB to shift the game to Denver’s Coors Field, where Freeman and Judge escorted Billye Aaron onto the field for the ceremony that celebrated her husband.

While MLB weathered criticism for the choice, Billye Aaron said “it was the right thing for Major League Baseball to do.”

“In light of the political situation going on then and continuing to go on now,” she said, “the decision to move the All-Star Game out of the city of Atlanta, in spite of the impact that it would have on Atlanta and on the businesses that were preparing for the great game — I still think Major League Baseball did exactly what it needed to do in recognizing that racism can overrule some things.”

Carlos Correa Hits Career-High 25th Home Run to Help Houston Astros Clinch AL West Title

Carlos Correa has blasted his team to another title…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop hit his career-high 25th home run with a three-run shot, as the Houston Astros clinched the AL West title with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.

Carlos Correa

It’s the fourth division title in five seasons and 10th overall for the Astros. They’re in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, extending a franchise record.

“That sounds pretty special,” Correa said.

The Astros will open the AL Division Series on October 7 against the Chicago White Sox — home field for that best-of-five matchup is still to be determined. Houston went 5-2 against the White Sox this year.

Houston was a wild-card team last year in manager Dusty Baker‘s first season with the club. So where did this division-clinching victory rate on his list?

“Every time you win, it ranks higher than the last time. And you never get tired of winning,” he said.

Correa’s huge hit in the fourth inning allowed the Astros to put a recent stretch where they dropped five of six games behind them and let the celebration begin at Minute Maid Park.

“We are where we are because of him,” Astros star second baseman Jose Altuve said.

Astros mascot Orbit dashed onto the field waving a huge orange flag that touted the team’s division title as the players cheered and embraced after the final out.

“I’m proud of my team,” Altuve said. “They went out there every single day this season to make this happen.”

Tampa Bay, which has already clinched the top seed in the American League playoffs, put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth but didn’t score.

Rays rookie Wander Franco went 0-for-4 to snap a 43-game on-base streak, which tied him with Frank Robinson in 1956 for the longest such string in MLB history among players 20 or younger.

 

Yuli Gurriel singled to start Houston’s fourth and Kyle Tucker walked. Correa followed with his towering shot that smashed off the wall in left field to put the Astros up 3-0 against Ryan Yarbrough (9-7).

The charismatic shortstop put a hand to his ear to encourage the crowd as the rounded third base on the home run trot.

Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5) didn’t allow a hit until Ji-Man Choi singled to start the sixth. There were two outs in the inning when Brandon Lowe homered on a ball to right field that sailed just inside the foul pole to cut the lead to 3-2.