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.

Albert Pujols Reportedly Heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Albert Pujols will be heading back to the field sooner than expected…

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter, a future MLB Hall of Famer, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly agreed on a major league contract, according to ESPN.

Albert Pujols

The deal, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, isn’t expected to become official until Monday, a source said.

When it does, the Dodgers will pay Pujols only the prorated portion of the major league minimum salary for the rest of the season, roughly $420,000, a sum that will be subtracted from the $30 million salary that is being paid to him by the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Angels on May 6 and was officially released after clearing waivers on Thursday. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declined to comment on Pujols prior to Saturday’s game because the deal hasn’t been officially announced.

With the defending World Series champion Dodgers, Pujols is expected to be mostly used as a late-game pinch hitter. But he could also get some playing time at first base with everyday first baseman Max Muncy capable of playing second and third base.

Only 41 of Pujols’ 12,486 career regular-season plate appearances have come as a pinch hitter, but the Dodgers expect him to help a young, inexperienced bench.

His right-handed bat might also help a team that entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against left-handed pitchers, 136 points fewer than its OPS against righties. Pujols is batting only .198/.250/.372 in 92 plate appearances this season and has been a below-average hitter by park-adjusted OPS since 2017. But he owns an .878 OPS against lefties in 2021, and his .513 expected slugging percentage suggests he has also been running into some bad luck.

In 18 plate appearances under what Baseball-Reference identifies as late-and-close situations, Pujols owns a .313/.389/.500 slash line.

Pujols, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing beyond 2021, ranks fifth in career homers (667), second in RBIs since they became an official stat in 1920 (2,112) and 14th in hits (3,253). He has won three National League MVP awards, two Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers and has been invited to 10 All-Star Games.

His first decade with the St. Louis Cardinals — consisting of a .331/.426/.624 slash line, 408 home runs and 1,230 RBIs — stands as arguably the greatest 10-year run in baseball history. In Year 11, he finished fifth in NL MVP voting and won his second World Series ring.

He becomes the fourth former MVP on the current Dodgers roster, joining Cody BellingerMookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Dodgers are the fourth team in MLB history to feature four former MVP winners, joining the 1978 Reds, 1982 Angels and most recently the 1996 Red Sox.

Nelson Cruz Reportedly Agrees to One-Year, $13 Million Contract with Minnesota Twins

Nelson Cruz is twinning again…

The 40-year-old professional baseball player, a designated hitter and right fielder, and the Minnesota Twins are reportedly in agreement on a one-year, $13 million contract, according to ESPN.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz has been a linchpin of the Bomba Squad Twins‘ lineup. And he’ll be back right in the middle of it in 2021.

The slugger, who hit .303 with 16 home runs, 33 RBIs and a career-high OPS+ (169) in the pandemic-shortened season, finished sixth in the American League MVP voting and was selected as the Marvin Miller Man of Year in the annual Players Choice Awards.

The award goes to the player whom his peers “most respect based on his leadership on the field and in the community.” Cruz donated a fire engine and an ambulance and helped build a police station in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic, and his Boomstick 23 Foundation has contributed wheelchairs and crutches, and he set up a clinic to provide medical and dental care.

His mission to help his hometown and other towns in the Dominican Republic led to him receiving the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the 2020 ESPYS.

Cruz played last season on a $12 million deal after swatting a team-high 41 home runs while reaching 108 RBIs in 2019, despite two stints on the injured list for a wrist problem. He has reached the 40-homer mark four times in his career; Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth hold the all-time mark with five seasons. Cruz also was the 57th player in major league history to reach 400 career home runs.

His .992 OPS in 2020 ranked fourth in the AL and was the fifth-best mark in MLB history by a player in his age-39 season or older, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. And he led all major leaguers with a 1.182 OPS on pitches in the strike zone over the past two seasons.

From 2014 to 2018, no player in the majors hit more home runs than Cruz (203). In 16 major league seasons, Cruz, a six-time MLB All-Star who has three Silver Slugger Awards, has hit 417 home runs with 1,152 RBIs and a .278 batting average for the Twins, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers.

Kansas City Royals Star Salvador Perez Named the MLB’s AL Comeback Player of the Year

Salvador Perez is a comeback king…

The 30-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player, and longtime catcher for the Kansas City Royals, is this year’s American League Comeback Player of the Year.

Salvador Perez

Perez missed the 2019 season after having Tommy John surgery, but returned with a bang in the shortened ’20 campaign.

The 2015 World Series MVP hit a career-best .333 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 37 games.

His career-high .633 slugging percentage was the second-highest in Royals history, trailing only George Brett (.664 in 1980).

And he became just the third catcher since 1900 to record multihit games, including an extra-base hit, in six consecutive contests (September 11-18).

This year’s National League Comeback Player of the Year: Colorado Rockies reliever Daniel Bard.

Manny Machado Named National League MVP Finalist

Manny Machado has proven his most valuable status…

The 28-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball player and San Diego Padres third baseman and shortstop has been named a finalist in the MLB’s National League MVP race.

Manny Machado

Machado, who hit .304 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs for the Padres this season, is nominated alongside Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman, after balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Meanwhile, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is going for his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award. He’s facing off Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish for the honor.

The top three finishers for each BBWAA award were revealed Monday. The winners will be announced next week.

Balloting for the BBWAA awards was completed before the start of the postseason.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez and New York Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu are the top three finishers in voting for the American League MVP award.

LeMahieu, who hit a big league-best .364, and Bauer are free agents after starring during the pandemic-shortened season.

Indian’ pitcher Shane Bieber joined Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda and Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu as finalists for the American League Cy Young Award.

The top finishers in voting for American League Manager of the Year are Tampa Bay RaysKevin Cash, Toronto OriolesCharlie Montoyo and Rick Renteria, who was let go by the Chicago White Sox after the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Miami’s Don Mattingly, San Diego’s Jayce Tingler and the Cubs’ David Ross are the finalists for NL Manager of the Year. Tingler and Ross just completed their first seasons as big league skippers.

The finalists for AL Rookie of the Year are Houston Astros right-hander Cristian Javier and center fielders Kyle Lewis of the Seattle Mariners and Luis Robert of the White Sox. Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm, Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams are the top finishers for the National League rookie award.

Wonderfilm Media Developing Biopic About Tampa Bay Rays’ Breakout Star Randy Arozarena

Randy Arozarena’s life story is headed to the big screen…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder and Tampa Bay Rays rookie, who broke the MLB record for most home runs and hits in a single postseason, will be the focus of a biopic from Wonderfilm Media.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena, the Rays’ breakout star, came from Cuba and fueled his team’s run to the World Series, which eventually went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Brad Gann, the screenwriter of the Mark Wahlberg-led Invincible and a co-writer of pro surfer Bethany Hamilton biopic Soul Surfer, will write the screenplay.

Arozarena’s story is inspiring. He escaped Cuba on a makeshift boat, landed in Mexico, and started a new life there before making his way to the U.S. and eventually, his Major League Baseball debut in 2017.

Arozarena currently holds the MLB record for most home runs in a single postseason with 10. In his rookie postseason, Arozarena broke Barry Bonds’ record for most home runs as well as Derek Jeter’s record for most hits by a rookie. He was also named MVP of the ALCS.

Randy Arozarena Named American League Championship Series MVP After Hitting Four Homers vs. Houston Astros

Randy Arozarena is the man of  the hour…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder continued his historic postseason run on Saturday with his seventh homer, a two-run shot in the first inning that gave theTampa Bay Rays a lead it never relinquished against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena was named MVP of the ALCS, becoming the fourth rookie — and first rookie position player — to be named MVP of a league championship series.

He has homered seven times during this year’s playoffs, just one shy of the Major League Baseball record, and now has 47 total bases since the regular season ended.

Tampa Baywill now head to the World Series after holding off baseball’s most infamous team. The Rays beat the Astros 4-2 in Game 7, ending Houston’s bid to become the second team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

“It goes without saying this has been a weird year,” Rays Game 7 starter — and winner — Charlie Morton said. “It was pretty apparent early on the guys had bought into each other during this time.

“It was very challenging, because at first everything was about the protocols and trying to keep guys safe. Just guys come onto the field every day, knowing they could get sick, and staff coming in, and just a ton of work by people behind the scenes. I am so proud of these guys.”

The formula for the Rays is consistency, and it was very much evident in Game 7. They stifle the opposition. They catch the ball on defense. And they ride just enough home runs on offense to bring home the win.

The Rays now head to their second World Series in franchise history. The last time they played in the Fall Classic was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa Bay entered the first 16-team playoff format in baseball history with a 40-20 record, tops in the AL, and thus earned the Junior Circuit’s No. 1 seed. That top seed held up, even though the Rays had to recover from losing three straight to Houston after winning the first three contests.

“Pretty special feeling,” Cash said. “I don’t know if I’ve had many better [moments] other than getting married and having three kids. This is right there below that. It can’t get much better than that. This is a special group to be a part of.”

For Houston, it was an emotional loss after a tumultuous season for the organization. The Astros were embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal last winter that tainted their 2017 World Series title and cost manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs.

“The legacy of this group is that these guys are ballplayers,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “These guys are men; they have been through a whole bunch other than on the ballfield. [Now] these guys can forget the problems they had that is out there and come together as a group and be forever friends.”

Hinch’s replacement, the 71-year-old Baker, helped restore some of the goodwill the Astros squandered. But with the Game 7 loss, Baker is still looking for the first championship of a managerial career that began in 1993. Yet, in 2020, there was much more that was brought into perspective.

“You go home and you regroup,” Baker said. “Personally, when I think of [former MLB executive Jimmie Lee Solomon, whose] funeral was today, and you think about the many friends I have lost over the last month, six months. That is the reality of life. Those are far greater losses than losing a ballgame.”

Pablo Sandoval Added to Atlanta Braves’ Roster for NL Wildcard Series Against the Cincinnati Reds

Pablo Sandoval is heading back to the field…

The 34-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball third baseman and former World Series MVP has been added to the Atlanta Braves‘ 28-player roster for the National League wildcard series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pablo Sandoval

Sandoval joined the Braves after being released by the San Francisco Giants a couple of weeks ago.

 

He started at third base in the final game of the regular season, going 0 for 2 with two walks in a 9-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Sandoval played 33 games for the Giants, hitting .220 with one homer and six RBI.

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.

Pablo Sandoval Signs Minor League Contract with the San Francisco Giants

Pablo Sandovalis back with the San Francisco Giants.

The 33-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball third baseman, commonly known as Kung Fu Panda has agreed to a minor league contract with the Giants and would get a one-year, $2 million deal if he’s added to the 40-man roster.

Pablo Sandoval

The 2012 World Series MVP, who thought last summer that his time with San Francisco could be over, would have the chance to earn $750,000 in performance bonuses.

Sandoval is working back from season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in early September. Dr. Neal ElAttrachein Los Angeles determined Sandoval needed the procedure on his ulnar collateral ligament, and the third baseman has said he is determined to come back even stronger in 2020.

The progress and health status of the switch-hitter will be more clear come spring training. Pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona on February 11.

New manager Gabe Kapler is counting on Sandoval’s veteran presence.

“Pablo brings a wealth of experience, a lot of energy and consistent positivity,” Kapler said. “That mentality from a veteran player really helps set the tone for a clubhouse. I’m excited for the impact he’ll have. On the field, he’s a dangerous bat, and he was always one we planned carefully around when I was with Philly.”

Sandoval made a comeback with the Giants in 2017 after his release by the Boston Red Sox, and he was used in various roles by now-retired manager Bruce Bochy. In 2019, Sandoval batted .268 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs in 108 games.