Julio Rodriguez Named American League Rookie of the Year

Julio Rodriguez’s banner year is ending with an exclamation point…

The 21-year-old Dominican professional baseball player, an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, has been named the American League Rookie of the Year in near-unanimous fashion.

Julio RodriguezIt was a fitting cap to a stirring campaign that saw J-Rod dazzle at the Home Run Derby, perform among the sport’s best players and propel the Mariners to a long-awaited trip to the playoffs.

Rodriguez received 29 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, with Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman receiving the other. Cleveland Guardians left fielder Steven KwanKansas City Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr. and Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the voting.

Rodriguez electrified the city of Seattle and captivated an entire nation of baseball fans with his youthful exuberance, pronounced swagger and wide-ranging talent. He slashed .284/.345/.509, leading all rookies in homers (28), OPS (.855) and total bases (260) while helping the Mariners clinch their first postseason berth since 2001, snapping the longest active drought among the four major North American professional sports.

Along the way, Rodriguez consistently came through in big spots, dazzling with his defense, power and speed. His 5.3 FanGraphs wins above replacement tied that of Rutschman for the rookie lead and was topped by only 21 position players throughout the sport.

Rodriguez, who added 25 stolen bases and 25 doubles, is now the fifth Mariners player to win rookie of the year, after Alvin Davis (1984), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000), Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and Kyle Lewis (2020).

Only two other players since 1900 have accumulated at least 28 home runs, 25 stolen bases and 25 doubles in their age-21-or-younger seasons — Mike Trout and Andruw Jones.

Rodriguez is the first player ever to combine 25 home runs with 25 stolen bases in his first season in the big leagues and the third to do so while still rookie eligible, along with Trout and Chris Young, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Mariners envisioned Rodriguez as a potential star when they signed him out of the Dominican Republic for $1.75 million in the summer of 2017, but he profiled more as a power-hitting corner outfielder. Rodriguez worked to become a five-tool center fielder, zooming through the Mariners’ minor league system — despite losing an entire season to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 — and cracking the team’s Opening Day roster this spring.

Before the end of August, the Mariners rewarded Rodriguez with a long-term extension that will pay him anywhere between $210 million and $470 million over the life of his career, an unprecedented — and highly incentivized — contract for someone with less than a full year of major league service time.

But before all that came struggle. Rodriguez went homerless with a .544 OPS during his first month in the big leagues. But he recovered well enough to become the only rookie to make the MLB All-Star team.

“I feel like that’s when I learned the most — on the down parts,” Rodriguez said during a video conference with the media after winning the award. “That rough start to the beginning, whenever I maybe was not doing so good, all those things that happened that first year that kind of opened my eyes — I’m gonna take all that. And I know it’s gonna serve me well along my career.”

J.D. Martinez Added to MLB All-Star Game Roster

J.D. Martinez is getting his all-star moment after all…

The 34-year-old Cuban American professional baseball player, a designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox, has been added to the MLB All-Star Game rosters, according to the league.

J.D. Martinez Martinez is part of a roster of new additions that includes Garrett Cooper, and an Francisco Giants ace Carlos Rodon.

Martinez replaces Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez and becomes the third Boston Red Sox player to land on the American League roster along with Xander Bogaerts and have been added to the All-Star rosters, MLB announced Tuesday.

Cooper steps in for reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper. The Philadelphia Phillies‘ star has a fractured thumb. Cooper gives the Miami Marlins three All-Stars as he joins teammates Sandy Alcantara and Jazz Chisholm Jr. 

Rodon was one of the more notable snubs when rosters were announced, but he ends up making his second All-Star appearance by replacing Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader, who has family responsibilities.

Rodon (8-5, 2.70 ERA) was selected by the league to fill in for Hader, while Martinez and Cooper were next up in voting at their positions. This is the fifth time Martinez has been an All-Star, but the first time for Cooper.

Dodger Stadium will host the MLB All-Star Game next Tuesday night at 7:30 pm ET.

Bad Bunny to Compete in This Year’s MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game

Bad Bunny’s getting in the game…

The 28-year-old Puerto Rican superstar has been added to the 2022 MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game roster, which is set to take place on Saturday, July 16, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Bad Bunny

The “Me Porto Bonito” singer was announced on Monday (July 11) along with a batch of new artists added to the roster that are set to play ball.

Other new celebrities confirmed include actors Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons; rapper and chef Action Bronson; four-time all-star and two-time World Series Champion Hunter Pence; and two-time All-Star Shawn Green.

They join a lineup that already includes Quavo, JoJo Siwa, Anthony Ramos, Rob Lowe, Chloe Kim, CC Sabathia and Simu Liu, among others. The first 10,000 fans to enter the ballpark — gates open at 2 p.m. local time — will receive a special All-Star Player Replica Ring presented by FTX, according to a press release.

Game night will culminate with a special performance from chart-topping artist and California-native Becky G for the All-Star Saturday Extra Innings concert presented by MGM Rewards. Tickets are now available here.

The All-Star Celebrity Softball Game, which will be produced by MLB Network, will stream live on YouTube, Peacock, Pluto TV, Bleacher Report and across MLB’s social platforms. MLB Network will air the game on Monday, July 18, at 10:30 p.m. ET, marking the first time MLB Network has televised it.

News of Bad Bunny taking the field comes as his latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti, captures a fourth nonconsecutive week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart (dated July 16).

The set holds at No. 1, notching its first set of back-to-back weeks in the lead. The effort earned 111,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in the week ending July 7 (down 4%), according to Luminate.

Later this month, the hitmaker will kick off his summer tour with three back-to-back concerts at El Coliseo de Puerto Rico.

Albert Pujols to Participate in This Year’s MLB All-Star Game

Albert Pujols is getting another All-Star moment…

The 42-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals will take part in the 2022 MLB All-Star Game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has announced.

Albert PujolsBut he isn’t the only living baseball legend getting called up…

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers will also participate.

Pujols, Cabrera and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron are the only players in MLB history to register 3,000 hits, 500 home runs and 600 doubles.

“I am delighted that Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera have agreed to participate in the All-Star Game,” Manfred said in a statement. “Albert and Miguel are two of the most accomplished players of their generation. They have also represented the baseball traditions of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela with excellence for the last two decades. Albert and Miguel are two all-time greats whose achievements warrant this special recognition.”

It’s the 11th MLB All-Star selection for Pujols, who is in his 22nd MLB season. He ranks fifth in MLB history with 683 home runs and ninth with 3,326 career hits.

“If there is one game for the fans to celebrate the history and longevity, it’s the All-Star Game,” said Chicago White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, who was Pujols’ manager in St. Louis for seven years. “Anything like that [being selected to participate in the All-Star Game], I’m all in favor of.”

Cabrera, 39, reached 3,000 career hits earlier this season. He’ll be appearing in his 12th All-Star Game.

The slugger called Pujols “one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“To be part of this together is going to be great,” he said Friday.

The All-Star Game will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 19.

Albert Pujols Returning to St. Louis Cardinals for Final Season of Career

It’s the last hurrah for Albert Pujols

The 42-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and future Baseballl Hall of Famer has signed a one-year deal, reportedly worth $2.5 million, with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Albert PujolsPujols is returning to the city where he launched his Major League Baseball career back in April 2001. His goal: to help St. Louis make a run for another World Series championship.

Pujols is hoping to summon the same magic he had during his previous run with the Cardinals from 2001-11, when he produced two championships, three MVP awards and a 10-year streak of hitting at least .300 and smashing 30 or more home runs.

“For me, I think I’m here for a reason,” said Pujols, who earlier in the day emerged from beyond the right-field fence at Roger Dean Stadium and walked down the foul line to join his Cardinals teammates in the dugout in their 2-1 loss to the Astros. “They believe I can still play this game and they believe I can help this organization win a championship. And myself, I believe in that, too.”

Pujols — considered one of the greatest players in the rich history of the Cardinals, right alongside of Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith — rejoins the franchise at a time when catcher Yadier Molina is entering his 19th and final season, and pitcher Adam Wainwright could be about to exit as well.

Wainwright, who allowed two runs on four hits in five innings on Monday, believes Pujols will be on a mission to show he has plenty left in the tank as a hitter.

“He seems like he’s in good shape, and he’s motivated,” said Wainwright, who noted that Pujols woke him up from his pregame nap on Monday with a “bear hug.”

“Any time Albert is motivated, it’s a very, very dangerous thing,” Wainwright said. “He’s motivated to show people that he’s not too old or over the hill. I don’t think he wants this to be nostalgic; he wants to go out and prove something. That chip is a good one to put on your shoulder. It’s cool to be loved, that’s a nice thing, and nobody is more beloved than he is. But he wants to prove himself.”

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. saw an immediate response from the addition of Pujols — he spotted a fan wearing a No. 5 jersey when he pulled into the team’s headquarters Monday morning. DeWitt Jr. called the signing “the highlight of the spring.”Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Pujols enters the season 21 home runs shy of 700 — with much of that damage coming from his historic run with the Cardinals for 11 seasons. He hit .328 and clubbed 445 home runs with the Redbirds, was named an MLB All-Star nine times and won the Gold Glove Award twice.

Pujols, who left St. Louis in 2011 to sign a 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels, had emotional returns to St. Louis in recent years while playing for Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He said the numerous standing ovations he received from Cardinals fans — both before and after homering off current Cardinal Dakota Hudson in 2019 and J.A. Happ last season — allowed him to dream again about possibly returning to St. Louis to cap his career.

“There was always hope, so you never close the door,” Pujols said. “The organization never closed the door on me, and I never closed the door, either. It’s a great opportunity. Everything always happens on God’s time, and it’s the perfect time right now. I’m back here and I’m really excited.”

Carlos Rodon Signs Two-Year, $44 Million Deal with San Francisco Giants 

Carlos Rodon is headed out west…

The 29-year-old Latino professional baseball play, an MLB All-Star left-hander, and the San Francisco Giants have agreed on a two-year, $44 million contract that includes an opt-out after the first season, according to ESPN sources.

Carlos RodonRodon set a career high for wins with the Chicago White Sox in 2021 in going 13-5 with a 2.37 ERA and made his first All-Star team. His 24 starts and 132⅔ innings are the most for him since 2016, well beyond his totals in the previous two years combined.

Rodon has a history of arm and shoulder injuries and threw just 28 innings over the final two months of the 2021 regular season. But he also played a big role as the White Sox ran away with the American League Central title at 93-69. They beat Cleveland by 13 games and finished with their highest win total since the 2005 World Series championship team went 99-63.

Rodon will help fill out a rotation alongside ace Logan Webb and lefty Alex Wood. The Giants lost right-hander Kevin Gausman to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this offseason on a $110 million, five-year deal and declined righty Johnny Cueto‘s $22 million contract option.

Wood received a $25 million, two-year contract to stay with San Francisco, which won a franchise-record 107 games last season before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series.

Rodon, who was the third overall selection in the 2014 first-year player draft out of North Carolina State, has a career record of 42-38 with a 3.79 ERA and 710 strikeouts in 121 games.

David Ortiz is This Year’s Sole Inductee into Baseball Hall of Fame

David Ortiz is a lone wolf…

The 46-year-old Dominican-American former professional baseball designated hitter and first baseman who played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball, nicknamed “Big Papi,” is the sole player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, while others like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were shut out.

David OrtizOrtiz was the only player to clear the required 75% threshold, according to results of this year’s voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Ortiz finished with 77.9% in becoming the 58th player elected in his first year of eligibility. At 46, he will also be the youngest of the 75 living members of the Hall.

“I learned not too long ago how difficult it is to get in on the first ballot,” Ortiz said. “Man, it’s a wonderful honor to be able to get in on my first rodeo. It’s something that is very special to me.”

Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run leader; 354-game winner Clemens; 600-homer-club member Sammy Sosa; and longtime ace pitcher Curt Schilling were in their 10th and final year of eligibility in the annual BBWAA balloting.

Bonds, Sosa and Clemens posted numbers that marked them as surefire, first-ballot Hall of Famers, but they became avatars for the era of performance-enhancing drugs. While Bonds and Clemens in particular have long denied using PEDs, accusations have dogged them in the media and in books, and have been the subject of court dramas and testimony in front of Congress. In the end, about a third of the voters decided the allegations were too egregious to overlook, enough to bar their entry to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, at least via the writers’ vote.

Ortiz is a different story, despite his own PED suspicions. A 2009 story in The New York Times reported that Ortiz was among 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing substances during a round of tests conducted in 2003. Those results were supposed to remain confidential, and the tests were done to see if the league had reached a threshold to conduct regular testing.

Ortiz has long denied that he used banned substances, and in 2016, commissioner Rob Manfred said the tests in question were inconclusive because “it was hard to distinguish between certain substances that were legal, available over the counter and not banned under our program.”

Manfred added that during subsequent testing Ortiz “has never been a positive at any point under our program.”

When asked about those suspicions Tuesday, Ortiz said, “We had someone coming out with this one list, where you don’t know what anybody tested positive for. All of a sudden people are pointing fingers at me. But then we started being drug tested and I never tested positive. What does that tell you?”

As for the last-chance candidates, Sosa’s support never approached the threshold for election, but the cases of Bonds and Clemens were more divisive among the selectors. Both climbed over the 50% mark in 2017 only to see their support plateau in recent seasons. The tallies for their last go-arounds were 66% for Bonds and 65.2% for Clemens.

Among first-time eligibles on this year’s ballot were MLB All-Star infielder Alex Rodriguez, who finished with 696 home runs and 2,086 RBIs, totals that both rank fourth all-time in their respective categories. Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating baseball’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was the only other first-time eligible beyond Ortiz and Rodriguez to draw enough support to remain on the ballot.

Ortiz, widely known for his gregarious personality and endearing nickname, became the second career designated hitter to be selected via the writers’ balloting. Seattle Mariners great Edgar Martinez was the first when he was elected in 2019. A member of three World Series-winning teams in Boston, Ortiz hit 541 career home runs and added 17 more while putting together a celebrated postseason résumé.

 

“David Ortiz is the most important player to ever wear a Red Sox uniform,” Red Sox president & CEO Sam Kennedy said in a statement put out by the team. “He came to Boston in relative anonymity and with his captivating personality and his formidable bat he shattered expectations and paved the franchise’s future in championships.”

Ortiz will become the second Hall of Famer from the 2004 Red Sox, who famously broke Boston’s 86-year championship drought by winning that season’s World Series, joining pitcher Pedro Martinez. He also cements his place in the pantheon of Boston sports stars like Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and Bill Russell, something he said he never thought could happen.

“When I first got to Boston, I used to look up at those guys like, ‘Wow, I don’t think you can be part of that pack at all,'” Ortiz said. “You’re talking about real legendary, real OG. But they began their career just like I did. Not with the thought that they were going to end up where they are.”

Martinez was with Ortiz on Tuesday at a gathering in the Dominican Republic, where Ortiz received news of his election. Ortiz is the fourth Dominican-born player to be elected to the Hall, joining Martinez, Juan Marichal and Vladimir Guerrero.

“I can imagine how New England feels about one of its babies getting into the Hall of Fame today,” Ortiz said. “I don’t even have to tell you about the Dominican Republic. It’s a country that breathes baseball. And people are very excited right here. Everything is going crazy right now.”

Ortiz will enter the Hall during the July 24 induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. He will join six players selected by a pair of era committees last month: Brooklyn Dodgers great Gil Hodges, Twins slugger Tony Oliva, longtime White Sox star Minnie Minoso, pitcher Jim Kaat, Black baseball pioneer Bud Fowler and Negro League legend and ambassador Buck O’Neil. All but Ortiz, Kaat and Olivo will be inducted posthumously.

In addition, late broadcaster Jack Graney will be honored as the Ford C. Frick award winner for excellence in broadcasting, while ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian will be recognized as this year’s winner of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

With Ortiz standing as the lone winner from this year’s BBWAA balloting, the writers have now elected just one player total over the past two cycles. The sudden drought comes on the heels of a fertile period for inductees, which saw the writers select 22 players during the period from 2014 to 2020.

Jonathan dos Santos Joins Liga MX Side Club America

Jonathan dos Santos is headed back to his home country…

The 31-year-old Mexican professional footballer and former LA Galaxy captain has joined Club America, the Liga MX side announced on Thursday.

Jonathan dos Santos

The deal would be for two years, according to ESPN reports, with the Mexico City side announcing on Thursday that the El Tri star had officially joined the team.

The Liga MX Clausura season kicks off on January 7. Las Aguilas finished atop the regular season table of the recently completed Apetura campaign but were ousted in the playoffs, with Atlas winning the title.

Dos Santos was a free agent after the Galaxy stated in late November that it had parted ways with the former designated player.

“I feel I’m in pretty good shape. I am 31 years old. People say that I am coming to retire here; that’s not true. I still have a lot to give in my career and to this club. I am hungry. I want to win titles with América and make the fans happy,” Dos Santos said.

During his time with the Galaxy that started in 2017, Dos Santos made 103 appearances for the club and was selected as an MLS All-Star in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In his last two years, injuries took a toll on regular appearances.

The move to Liga MX is a first for Dos Santos, who has previously also played in LaLiga for Barcelona and Villarreal. Jonathan’s older brother Giovani, currently a free agent, previously played for Club America before being dropped over the summer.

“Since I was a kid, I dreamed that one day I would play in America. My father played here, Gio too, the Dos Santos’ already made history in this club,” Dos Santos said. “My dad always told us, you have to play for America, you have to fulfill that dream. It’s the best team in Mexico. I left the country 20 years ago, so having the opportunity to return and play for the best team is a big honor for me.”

Dos Santos’ move to Club America comes two days after fellow El Tri teammate Sebastian Cordova left Las Aguilas for Tigres UANL.

Minnie Miñoso Named to Baseball Hall of Fame

Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso is headed to the Hall

The late Cuban professional baseball player, nicknamed “The Cuban Comet” and “Mr. White Sox,” has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Minnie MiñosoMiñoso was widely considered baseball’s first Latino star in a career that started in the Negro leagues and continued over several decades with him excelling mostly for the Chicago White Sox. The was the first Black Cuban in the major leagues and the first black player in White Sox history, as a 1951 rookie he was the one of the first Latin Americans to play in an MLB All-Star Game.

Minnie MiñosoMiñoso was an American League (AL) All-Star for seven seasons and a Gold Glove winner for three seasons when he was in his 30s.

Miñoso joins Gil Hodges, former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, a longtime television analyst after his playing days, Bud Fowler, and Buck O’Neil, a champion of Black ballplayers during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field.

Oliva, an 83-year-old Cuban former professional baseball right fielder, designated hitter, and coach, played his entire 15-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career for the Twins, from 1962 to 1976.

Oliva and Kaat are the only living new members. Dick Allen, who died last December, fell one vote shy of election.

Kaat pitched 25 seasons with a host of teams, including the Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, winning 283 games. He served as an analyst for the Yankees before moving on to the MLB Network.

The 16-member Early Days and Golden Days committees met separately in Orlando, Florida. The election announcement was originally scheduled to coincide with the big league winter meetings, which were nixed because of the MLB lockout.

The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, along with any new members elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

First-time candidates David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez join Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the ballot, with voting results on January 25.

Javier Baez Agrees to Six-Year, $140 Million Deal with Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have found what they’ve been searching for in Javier Baez

The Major League Baseball team has agreed to a six-year, $140 million deal with the 29-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball player and free-agent shortstop, according to ESPN sources.

Javier BaezThe deal also includes an opt-out, according to the source.

It would be the second-largest free-agent deal in Tigers franchise history, behind Prince Fielder, who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal with Detroit in January 2012.

While he struck out a league-high 184 times last season, Baez hit .265 with 31 homers, 87 RBIs and 18 steals. He also brings Gold Glove defense to Detroit with his signature no-look tags.

The Tigers had been looking for a shortstop since it went 77-85 last season, finishing third in the AL Central behind the Cleveland Guardians and the Chicago White Sox.

Baez was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. The two-time National League All-Star had been close to signing a long-term extension with the Chicago Cubs before the 2020 season, but the COVID-19 pandemic put negotiations on hold.

Those contract talks never resumed, and the Cubs traded Baez to the New York Mets this past July.