Jose Abreu Named MLB’s American League MVP

Jose Abreu is this season’s American League star…

The 33-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, has won the American League MVP award after helping power the team to its first playoff berth in 12 years.

Jose Abreu

Abreu received 21 of 30 first-place votes and 374 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez was second with eight first-place votes and 303 points, and New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who won the AL batting crown, followed with one first-place vote and 230 points. 

Voting by the BBWAA was completed by the start of the playoffs. It has voted for the award since 1931.

Abreu led the majors with 60 RBIs and 148 total bases, and topped the AL with 76 hits and a .617 slugging percentage. He played in all 60 games during the virus-shortened season as Chicago claimed a wild-card spot.

Surrounded by family members, Abreu put his head down for a minute after hearing he’d won and teared up.

“That was a very special moment,” he said through an interpreter.

Abreu batted .317 with 19 home runs, connecting six times in a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in late August. That barrage of long balls at Wrigley Field was part of his 22-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this year.

Abreu gave credit to manager Rick Renteria, who left the team after the season in what was described as a mutual decision. Recently hired Hall of Fame skipper Tony La Russa is now facing charges in a drunken driving arrest; Abreu said he was eager to play for La Russa.

“Keep pushing forward, keep moving forward,” Abreu said.

Abreu was the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and is a three-time MLB All-Star. He became the fourth White Sox player to win the AL MVP, joining Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen (1972) and Nellie Fox (1959).

Abreu was the third Cuban-born player to be an MVP, along with Jose Canseco and Zoilo Versalles.

Boston Red Sox Rehire Alex Cora as the Team’s Manager

Alex Cora is back in Boston…

The Boston Red Sox have rehired the team’s 45-year-old Puerto Rican former manager,.

Alex Cora

Cora led the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title but mutually agreed to part with the club amid the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. He was suspended for one season by Major League Baseball for his role in the scandal.

Boston, which ended the 60-game shortened season with a 24-36 record, decided not to retain manager Ron Roenicke, who replaced Cora in January after serving on his coaching staff.

The Red Sox were not allowed to speak to Cora until after the World Series, which ended October 27. The lack of activity before then was a sign that they were focused on Cora.

Cora agreed to a two-year contract that has a two-year team option for 2023 and ’24, the team said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to manage once again and return to the game I have loved my entire life,” Cora said in a statement released by the team. “This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again. Not being a part of the game of baseball, and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud. …

“Boston is where I have always wanted to be and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October.”

The team he returns to bears little resemblance to the one he last managed.

Chaim Bloom is running the baseball side now, taking over last offseason just in time to part ways with Cora. He welcomed Cora back in a team statement Friday.

“Alex Cora is an outstanding manager, and the right person to lead our club into 2021 and beyond,” Bloom said. “The way he leads, inspires, and connects with everyone around him is almost unmatched, and he has incredible baseball acumen and feel for the game. …

“Because of all that had happened, I knew that I wanted to speak with Alex once his suspension ended, but I didn’t yet know if it made sense to consider him for the job as well. Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional. Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it. … He loves the Red Sox and the game of baseball, and because of that we believe he will make good on this second chance.”

Bloom’s other big move last offseason was to trade 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with David Price as part of an effort to get the Red Sox under the threshold for baseball’s competitive balance tax.

With Betts and Price gone, Chris Sale out with Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez recovering from a COVID-19-related heart problem, the Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East.

But Cora also has hope for improvement in the 2021 season.

Sale is expected to return in the first half. J.D. Martinez, an MLB All-Star his first two years in Boston before struggling in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, is also under contract for at least one more year.

And the Red Sox have plenty of salary flexibility gained in the deal that sent Betts and Price to Los Angeles.

Cora replaced John Farrell as Boston’s manager after the team twice finished last under Farrell, despite winning the 2013 World Series with him. With Cora at the helm in 2018, the Red Sox raced to a 108-54 regular-season record and an easy win in the AL East. They led the majors with a .268 team batting average and 876 runs scored.

Boston then dominated the postseason with an 11-3 mark, posting wins over the Yankees and Astros in the AL division and championship series, respectively, before defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

The Red Sox couldn’t sustain 2018’s success in Cora’s second season, finishing 84-78 and third in the division, 19 games behind the Yankees.

Cora, who worked as an ESPN analyst before leaving for the Astros, played 14 MLB seasons, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox, winning the 2007 World Series with Boston. He also played for the Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets and Texas Rangers before finishing his career with the Washington Nationals in 2011.

Giancarlo Stanton Opts to Stay with the New York Yankees

Giancarlo Stanton is still in a New York state of mind…

The 30-year-old part-Puerto Rican professional baseball player will keep the remaining $218 million and seven guaranteed years in his New York Yankees contract rather than opt out after a pair of injury-decimated seasons.

Giancarlo Stanton,

Stanton, a designated hitter, hit .266 with 38 homers and 100 RBIs in his first season with the Yankees in 2018. He batted .288 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 2019, when he was limited to 18 games by a left biceps strain that sidelined him from April 1 to June 18 and a right knee strain that kept him out from June 26 to September 18. He hit .250 with four homers and 11 RBIs in the coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2020 season, limited to 23 games by a strained left hamstring that sidelined him from August 9 to September 15.

Stanton rebounded to become the Yankees’ best offensive player in the playoffs, hitting .308 (8-for -26) with six homers and 13 RBIs in seven games.

A four-time MLB All-Star with the Miami Marlins, Stanton agreed to a $325 million, 13-year contract with the Marlins in November 2014. He hit .281 in 2017 and led the major leagues with 59 homers and 132 RBIs, then was traded to the Yankees in December 2017 for second baseman Starlin Castro, right-hander Jorge Guzman and minor league infielder Jose Devers.

Stanton is due $29 million in each of the next two seasons, $32 million annually from 2023 to ’25, $29 million in 2026 and $25 million in 2027. The deal includes a $25 million club option for 2028 with a $10 million buyout.

As part of terms of the trade, because Stanton did not opt out, the Marlins will send the Yankees $30 million to offset part of what remains in his contract: $5 million each on July 1 and October 1 in 2026, 2027 and 2028.

Yuli Gurriel Agrees to One-Year Deal with Houston Astros

Yuli Gurriel is ready to slash and stay…

The 36-year-old Cuban professional baseball player nicknamed “La Piña“, the Houston Astros’ first baseman, has agreed to a one-year contract with an option for 2022 that guarantees $7 million, a cut of nearly 20% from his 2020 deal.

Yuli Gurriel

The agreement was announced hours before the defending American League champions started their first-round playoff matchup at the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, an odd time to reach a contract for a future season.

Gurriel’s 2020 contract called for an $8.3 million salary and wound up being worth $3,074,074 prorated.

His new deal includes a $6.5 million salary for 2021 and an $8 million club option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. Gurriel can earn $2 million in performance bonuses each year based on plate appearances: $250,000 each for 300 and 350, $350,000 apiece for 400 and 450, and $400,000 each for 500 and 550.

He also would get $50,000 for becoming an All-Star, $50,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Word Series MVP, $200,000 for league MVP, $100,000 for second and $50,000 for third. There is a $50,000 bonus for Gold Glove and another $50,000 for Silver Slugger.

Gurriel would’ve been eligible for free agency under a provision in his 2020 contract, even though he does not have the six years of major league service usually required.

His new deal includes the same provision.

He hit .232 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 57 games during the pandemic-shortened season, down from a career-best .298 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs in 2019. He helped Houston reach the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

In five seasons in Houston that followed a stellar career in Cuba, Gurriel has hit .287 with 71 homers and 301 RBIs.

Jose Ramirez Homers to Help Cleveland Indians Clinch MLB Playoff Spot

Jose Ramirez is proving he’s an MVP

In one swing, the 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball third baseman batted the Cleveland Indians into the playoffs and strengthened his case for the American League MVP award.

Jose Ramirez

Ramirez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the 10th inning, giving Cleveland a 5-3 win over the Chicago White Sox that clinched a postseason berth Tuesday night.

Ramirez’s drive to right off Jose Ruiz scored Cesar Hernandez and Francisco Lindor, leading to a wild celebration at home plate as the Indians reached the postseason for the fourth time in five years.

“Once I hit it, I knew it was a home run because I got it right on the barrel,” said Ramirez, who is hitting .500 (14 of 28) with six homers and 16 RBIs in his last seven games. “There was a lot less champagne than usual, but it was still a good celebration.”

Lindor had pulled Cleveland within one on a two-out double that plated Roberto Perez, who began the inning on second base. After Matt Foster (5-1) walked Hernandez, Ruiz entered and gave up the game-ending drive.

AL Central-leading Chicago lost for the fourth time in five games, creating a logjam at the top of the division.

The Minnesota Twins is in second and Cleveland is just three games back.

Arizona Diamondbacks Trade Starling Marte to the Miami Marlins

Starling Marte is headed to the Sunshine State…

The 31-year-old Dominican professional baseball player has been traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Miami Marlins, according to ESPN.

Starling Marte

In exchange for Marte, an MLB All-Star in 2016, the Marlins will send Caleb Smith, Humberto Mejia and a player to be named later to the Diamondbacks, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the Marlins sent outfielder Jonathan Villar to the Toronto Blue Jays, reports ESPN.

Marte is hitting .311 with 23 runs scored this season. He has a $12.5 million option on his contract for next year.

It has been a tumultuous and difficult year for Marte. His wife, Noelia, died of a heart attack in May.

That followed his trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Diamondbacks in January, after he had spent his entire eight-year career with the Pirates.

Marte has a career .288 batting average with 110 homers, 434 RBIs and 244 steals. He had career highs last season with 23 homers and 82 RBIs.

Marte won Gold Gloves in 2015 and ’16.

He reached the All-Star Game in 2016 but also served an 80-game suspension in 2017 after testing positive for steroids.

Toronto Blue Jays to Celebrate Tony Fernandez with Special Uniform Patch This Season

Tony Fernandez is being honored in a special way by his old team…

The Toronto Blue Jays will celebrate the late Dominican professional baseball player and Major League Baseball legend, who passed away earlier this year, by wearing a patch with his No. 1 on the left sleeve of uniform jerseys this season.

Tony Fernandez

A member of Toronto’s 1993 World Series champions who had nine RBIs in the six-game win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Fernandez had kidney problems and died on February 16 at age 57.

He is the Blue Jays’ career leader in games (1,450), hits (1,583) and triples (72). He spent 12 seasons with Toronto in four stints and had a .288 batting average and 2,276 hits over 17 big league seasons. Fernandez also played for the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets and New York YankeesCleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. He was a five-time MLB All-Star.

“There are few players in the game who can impact a team and a fan base the way Tony did in Toronto,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in a statement. “Beyond his impressive career numbers, achievements, and accolades, Tony resonated with baseball fans because of how he played the game and conducted himself as a teammate.”

Yasiel Puig to Sign with the Atlanta Braves

It’s a brave new world for Yasiel Puig

The 29-year-old Cuban professional baseball player and free agent is signing with the Atlanta Braves, according to a report by MLB.com.

Yasiel Puig

The agreement comes after Braves outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season earlier this month.

An MLB All-Star in 2014, Puig batted .267 in 149 games last season with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians

He hit .297 with Cleveland after being acquired on July 30 and gave the Indians an infusion of power and energy, helping their ultimately fruitless surge to catch the Minnesota Twins for the AL Central title.

The boisterous right fielder was part of a wild fight between the Reds and Pirates mere hours before he was dealt to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade that sent right-hander Trevor Bauer from Cleveland to Cincinnati. 

Puig was suspended three games for his aggressive actions on what turned out to be his last day with the Reds.

Puig, who joined the Reds in a December 2018 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, has a career batting average of .277. Perhaps his best overall offensive season was in 2017, when he batted .263 with a career-high 28 home runs and 74 RBIs.

The NL East champion Braves were facing a depth problem in their outfield even after they signed Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal in the offseason.

Markakis opted out of the season before summer camp. Ozuna or Adam Duvall could be needed as the designated hitter in the shortened 60-game season.

The team’s shortage of outfielders was highlighted when rookie Cristian Pache jammed his right ankle in Monday night’s intrasquad game and was not available Tuesday.

“We’re thin a little bit,” manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday. “We started this thing feeling really good about the depth, and we’ve used all of it already, as I think a lot of teams have. We’re stretched a little bit.”

If Ozuna is the primary designated hitter, Puig could join Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ender Inciarte in a starting outfield.

Puig, who has a .285 career average against right-handers, will be expected to replace Markakis’ production.

Puig, who defected from Cuba in 2012, was popular with Dodgers fans during his six years in L.A. for his colorful personality, home run trots and ability to throw runners out from right field. He made headlines away from the field when his Los Angeles home was burglarized multiple times.

At the ballpark, he was benched at times, and the team considered trading him long before it did because of his perceived lack of hustle or interest in following orders.

ESPN Films Orders Documentary Series on Keith Hernandez & His 1986 World Series-Winning New York Mets

Keith Hernandez is getting documented…

The 1986 World Series-winning run by the 66-year-old half-Spanish American former professional baseball player’s New York Mets will get the multi-part documentary treatment by ESPN in a project under the 30 for 30 banner, whose executive producers include Jimmy Kimmel.

Keith Hernandez

ESPN Films said the series will chronicle the team’s exploits on and off the field. 

In the World Series, the Boston Red Sox were one strike away from victory before a two-out rally and a ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson slipped through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner

The comeback, ESPN said in a press release, “was merely the climax of an epic tale of ambition and swagger set in a city that was synonymous with excess.”

ESPN promises “hours of never-before-seen footage” of the team, a group of disparate, larger-than-life characters who made a big impression on and off the field. 

Keith Hernandez

Many members of the team went on to generate headlines long after 1986, among them Darryl StrawberryDwight Gooden, Hernandez, a five-time MLB All-Star, and Lenny Dykstra

The team already has been the subject of a dishy non-fiction book,The Bad Guys Won, written by Jeff Pearlman, whose L.A. Lakers book, Showtime, has been turned into a scripted drama on HBO.

Hernandez played the majority of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals and Mets. He shared the 1979 National League MVP awardand won two World Seriestitles, one each with the Cardinals and Mets.

Hernandez retired as an active player after spending one year with the Cleveland Indians in 1990. Since 2006, he has served as a television broadcaster for Mets games on SportsNet New York and WPIX, as well as a studio analyst for MLB on Fox since 2017.

Samy Camacho Rides King Guillermo to Victory at the Tampa Bay Derby

Samy Camacho has a royal weekend…

The Venezuelan jockey raced King Guillermo to victory at the Tampa Bay Derby by 4 3/4 lengths on Saturday for owner Victor Martinez, a five-time All-Star in Major League Baseball. The prize: $351,000.

Samy Camacho

Camacho’s 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. However, King Guillermo isn’t nominated to the Triple Crownseries, so Martinez would need to pay $6,000 by March 30 to get him in the Derby.

Martinez races as Victoria’s Ranch, a 2,400-acre cattle operation he founded in Florida after retiring from a 16-year baseball career in 2018. He paid $150,000 for King Guillermo, who won his first stakes race on Saturday.

Sent off at 49-1 odds, King Guillermo paid $100.40, $38.20 and $17.80. He has two wins in four career starts and earnings of $240,350.

Ridden by Camacho, King Guillermo ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.63.

Sole Volantewas second, and Texas Swingtook third.