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Ryan Braun indirectly addresses positive test during MVP speech

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun never specifically mentioned his positive drug test and possible 50-game suspension when he accepted his National League MVP award at a black-tie dinner Saturday night.

But no doubt everyone in the crowd of around 800 knew exactly what the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder was talking about when he thanked the Major League Baseball Players Assn. “especially for supporting me through everything I've went through over the last couple of months.”

Braun had more to say on the matter ... indirectly, of course.

“You know, sometimes in life, we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure,” he told the crowd Saturday in a New York hotel ballroom. “We have an opportunity to look at those challenges and view them either as obstacles or as opportunities, and I've chosen to view every challenge I've ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I have always believed that a person's character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.”

Braun, who hit .312 with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs in 2011, was found to have an abnormally high level of testosterone during a drug test in October. His grievance appeal to avoid a suspension began Thursday.

He did not take questions from reporters Saturday night.

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Bill Plaschke: Ryan Braun needs to follow his own advice

Matt Kemp's agent reacts to Ryan Braun's positive drug test

Dodgers won't add an MVP, no matter what happens to Ryan Braun

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Ryan Braun. Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press

Steven Tyler hits on Joe Magrane's daughter on 'American Idol'

So I'm watching "American Idol" Wednesday night (because I'm an almost middle-aged married guy and that's how we roll) when a 6-foot-tall girl named Shannon appears on screen to audition. I no sooner think "wonder if she plays sports" when she tells the judges, and America, that she is the daughter of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Magrane.

You could tell from the reaction of the judges, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, that they have no idea who Joe Magrane is. But they smile and say "wonderful" and ask her to go back out and bring her father back with her. Magrane walks in with about seven other women of Amazonian size, apparently his wife and the rest of his daughters. The poor guy must never see the inside of the bathroom in his house.

The three judges all pretend they are excited to meet a guy who has pitched in the World Series. In fact, Randy says "World Series" about a dozen times, as if trying to jog his memory as to what the World Series is.

Then, Magrane asks a fateful question to Steven Tyler. "How are things....?" he says.

Continue reading »

Ryan Braun will accept MVP award Saturday despite positive test

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun plans on accepting his National League MVP award in person at the annual Baseball Writers' Assn. of America awards banquet in New York on Saturday despite facing a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

“He will be there and he will accept his award,” Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Braun, said.

While Braun does not plan to grant interviews Saturday, the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder is expected to give an acceptance speech. It is not known whether he will talk about being found to have abnormally high level of testosterone. He may feel his initial response -- "it's B.S." -- already covered the subject adequately.

Braun, who is appealing the suspension, led the Brewers to the NL Central title with a .332 batting average, 33 home runs and 111 RBI. Second-place Matt Kemp of the Dodgers had a .324 batting average with 39 home runs and 126 RBI.

The test was administered in October, and Braun already knew of the positive result when the MVP award was announced on Nov. 22. Weeks later, the BBWAA announced it had no intention of stripping Braun of the award or holding another vote if the suspension was upheld.

A Times survey of 20 writers who had cast their winning vote for Braun showed Kemp would win if there was to be a revote.

RELATED:

Bill Plaschke: Ryan Braun needs to follow his own advice

Matt Kemp's agent reacts to Ryan Braun's positive drug test

Dodgers won't add an MVP, no matter what happens to Ryan Braun

-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Brewers left fielder and National League MVP Ryan Braun. Credit: Tannen Maury / European Pressphoto Agency

Is Tim Lincecum worth $21.5 million? [Poll]

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum is worth a lot of money to the San Francisco Giants. We can all agree on that.

Just how much is he worth? Well, that's where the disagreement comes in. The Giants have offered the two-time NL Cy Young Award-winner $17 million in arbitration, topping the $14.25 million the New York Yankees proposed for shortstop Derek Jeter in 2001 as most offered in arbitration history.

But Lincecum thinks he's worth a significant amount more. He asked for $21.5 million in salary arbitration Tuesday, which is almost the most ever sought in arbitration. Pitcher Roger Clemens asked for $22 million when he was with the Houston Astros in 2005.

Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans says the team hopes to come to an agreement with the pitcher before an arbitration hearing. They were able to do so in 2010, agreeing to a two-year, $23-million contract when Lincecum was set to ask for a one-year deal of $13 million.

The front office is looking to lock up Lincecum and the Giants'  other star pitcher, Matt Cain, to long-term deals. But Lincecum may be set on keeping his options open with a shorter contract.

No matter how this turns out, Lincecum will earn the highest salary ever paid to an arbitration-eligible pitcher, besting the $15 million the Philadelphia Phillies agreed to pay starter Cole Hamels on Tuesday.

What do you think? Is Lincecum worth the $21.5 million he's seeking? Or is a mere $17 million enough for his services? Vote in the poll, then leave a comment explaining why you voted the way you did.

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Clayton Kershaw asks Dodgers for $10 million

Dodgers sign OF Andre Ethier for $10.95 million

Angels agree to terms with SS Erick Aybar for 2012 season

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Tim Lincecum. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Should Bud Selig accept a two-year extension as MLB commissioner?

Selig_600
Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who reportedly will be offered a contract extension by baseball owners this week. Check back throughout the day for more responses and join the discussion by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.

Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

Here's a better question: If he doesn't, who replaces him?

Selig is 77. He had proclaimed repeatedly that he would retire at the end of this year. No one believed him, not even his wife. No one formed a committee to search for his replacement.

This would be a good time for Selig to go. MLB just reached a new labor agreement, ensuring two decades without a strike or lockout. Revenues are up, to $7.5 billion. He pushed Dodgers owner Frank McCourt out the door.

But MLB runs by consensus, and Selig is the one who spends hours every day building that consensus. More power to him. Yet it might be nice if the new contract were accompanied by an announcement of a succession plan. Selig will be 80 by the time his new deal expires. There is baseball beyond him, and now is the time to prepare.

Phil Rogers, Los Angeles Times

Bud Selig loves his work, and he does it very well. Sooner or later, he’s going to have to walk away -– for his good, not the game’s. But that time is not now. There’s no reason that the 77-year-old Selig shouldn’t accept the owners’ offer of a two-year contract extension, which will mean he’ll run the game through 2014, more than likely spending his 80th birthday in the office.

It would be different, and Selig probably would have long ago resigned, if that office were not in downtown Milwaukee, a short drive from the house where he begins most days on a treadmill and ends them in front of a bank of televisions. Selig is well compensated, but the biggest concession he’s ever gotten from MLB owners is the understanding that in the modern landscape he can oversee 30 franchises as well from Wisconsin as New York.

He has plenty of work to keep him busy -– in particular the stadium issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay and the ownership issues of the Dodgers and Mets -– and he’s a man who likes to be busy. He has a solid corps of longtime second-in-commands, who serve him well, and he can delegate. He’s trusted by owners and the players. He won’t be around forever, but there’s no reason to hasten a succession that seems sure to weaken MLB’s leadership.

Continue reading »

Angels, Kendrys Morales reach contract terms, avoid arbitration

Morales_600
The Angels and still-recovering first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales on Wednesday avoided salary arbitration by striking a $3-million deal for the 2012 season.

Morales broke his left ankle when he jumped on home plate following his game-winning homer over the Seattle Mariners on May 29, 2010. He hasn't played since having surgery and a follow-up operation last May to clean scar tissue and debris in the ankle joint.

Morales, who has also undergone a bone graft, currently is participating in some conditioning and baseball-related drills, General Manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters Tuesday, and will work out for Dipoto and others Friday in Arizona.

Dipoto said he would not set a target date for Morales' return, only whenever "Kendrys mends."

The Angels would obviously love nothing more than to place the switch-hitting Morales in the lineup with newly acquired first baseman slugger Albert Pujols. Morales in 2009 batted .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in.

RELATED:

Dipoto: 'No timeline, no date' on Kendrys Morales' return

Kendrys Morales begins running, can increase baseball activity

Albert Pujols' Angels deal official, could be worth $268.75 million

-- Lance Pugmire

Photo: Kendrys Morales in 2010. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Dipoto: "No timeline, no date" on Kendrys Morales' return

AngelslogoAngels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday that he's planning to inspect a Friday workout in Arizona by first baseman Kendrys Morales, recovering from surgery to his left ankle, which was broken in May 2010.

"He's working out now -- physical therapy, baseball specific drills," Dipoto said during the formal announcement of second baseman Howie Kendrick's four-year contract extension.

The Angels have committed about $3 million to the switch-hitting Morales for 2012, although it's uncertain when he'll return to play after breaking the ankle by jumping on home plate celebrating a game-winning home run.

"There's no timeline, no date on the calendar being saved for him -- whenever Kendrys' body mends," Dipoto said.

Dipoto departed for Arizona on Tuesday to attend organizational meetings.

The signing of slugging MVP first baseman Albert Pujols gives the Angels time to wait, although Dipoto said he was excited by the prospect of placing Morales in the lineup (likely as designated hitter) with Pujols. In 2009, Morales hit .306 with 34 homers and 108 runs batted in.

"We'll start seeing him regularly [at the start of spring training in February]," Dipoto said. "All signs are positive. I wouldn't ponder a guess as to when he'll be back, but we've got Pujols, [Bobby] Abreu and [Mark] Trumbo to help us fill in, with the upside of Kendrys coming back."

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How about USC vs. LSU next year?

Alabama surprises LSU with game plan

Congrats to a half-great Alabama team

--Lance Pugmire

Barry Larkin elected to baseball Hall of Fame

Larkin_600
With Hall of Fame voters confronting the ultimate tests of their standards next year when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, they elected a safe, clean new addition Monday in 12-time All-Star and 1995 Most Valuable Player Barry Larkin.

Larkin, 47, a 19-season veteran (1986-2004) shortstop who played exclusively for his hometown Cincinnati Reds, received 86% of the vote in his third season of eligibility.

“It was absolutely an unbelievable … out of body experience,” Larkin told MLB Network of the induction telephone call. “

Those falling short of the 75% threshold for Hall of Fame induction included pitcher Jack Morris (67%), first baseman Jeff Bagwell (56%), closer Lee Smith (51%) and outfielder Tim Raines (49%).

Former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon received just five votes and will not remain on the ballot next year.

Steroid-stained first baseman Mark McGwire finished 10th, receiving 20% of the vote.

“My feeling is that whenever there’s an instance of definite proof, I’m not going to support the candidacy,” said Hall of Fame writer and voter Ross Newhan, formerly of The Times.

Continue reading »

Carlos Zambrano gamble is one Marlins are willing to take

Carlos-zambrano_600

Carlos Zambrano, who had violated the trust of his teammates and management in Chicago while with the Cubs, will get another chance in Florida when he's reunited with former manager Ozzie Guillen, a friend of his from Venezuela.

While Zambrano, who is 30, burned his bridges in Chicago, the three-time All-Star pitcher with a career record of 125-81 might still have some good years left. He went only 9-7 with a 4.82 earned-run average last season but ran afoul of the organization with a series of spats that culminated on Aug. 12, when he was ejected from a game, cleaned out his locker, talked about retiring and was eventually suspended without pay.

Miami acquired Zambrano by sending veteran right-hander Chris Volstad, who is 32-39 with a 4.59 ERA in 11 seasons, to the Cubs.

“Ozzie has a long and close relationship with Carlos,” said Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations for the Marlins. “We went with Ozzie on this one. The bottom line was Ozzie just really, really felt confident about this deal.

“It would be hard for me to say everything is going to be perfect and incident-free, given the guy's history. It may happen that he has a blowup or two. But Ozzie is very confident he can help him.”

The deal also made sense for the Cubs, who still owed Zambrano $18 million this season but got Miami to agree to pick up $2.55 million of the payments.

“Every player that I talked to articulated to me that Carlos had really violated their trust,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' new president of baseball operations. “When you're talking about physical altercations with teammates repeatedly, when you're talking about physically walking out on the team, it's very hard to then have that player come back into the clubhouse and be trusted.”

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Albert Pujols deal worth up to $268.75 billion

Time Warner 'interested' in bidding on the Dodgers

Signing of Pujols, Wilson make Angels better, but how much?

--Dan Loumena

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Carlos Zambrano works against the Cincinnati Reds during a game with the Chicago Cubs last season. Credit: Paul Beaty / Associated Press

Shannon Stone's mom to Josh Hamilton: Keep tossing foul balls

Stone_250Shannon Stone died in July trying to catch a foul ball tossed toward the stands by Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. The mother of the 39-year-old firefighter later wrote a letter to Hamilton with an interesting request: Don't stop throwing foul balls to fans.

SuZann Stone recently told the New York Times Magazine: "I wrote to Josh Hamilton, and I said: 'Please, don’t stop throwing those balls. Because that’s so important. That’s why daddies bring their little boys to the ballgame is for memories like that. Please don’t stop.' "

The Stone family should know. Shannon Stone's father, Al, once caught a foul ball hit by Stone's childhood hero, Buddy Bell. It became a prized possession that Shannon Stone one day passed on to his own son, Cooper.

"Getting a ball is kind of like the holy grail of baseball," Al Stone said. "It’s one of the reasons you go, is hoping to get a souvenir of the game, a ball."

According to SuZann Stone, Stone and Cooper would always sit in the left-field section to be near the 6-year-old's favorite player, Hamilton.

"That’s why they sat there, hoping they could catch a ball," SuZann Stone said. "And Shannon was always one of these people that thought he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. I’m sure he thought, 'I can reach out there, I can get it, I can just stretch a little bit farther.' "

After the incident, Hamilton said he had been honoring a request for the next foul ball shouted by Stone from the stands. Both of Stones parents say they hope the outfielder continues to honor such requests.

"It was just an accident, you know?" Al Stone said.

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-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Shannon Stone and his son Cooper. Credit: YouTube

Barry Bonds scheduled to be sentenced Friday

Bonds
Baseball great Barry Bonds is scheduled to be sentenced Friday at 11 a.m. in a San Francisco federal courtroom for his felony conviction of obstruction of justice.

In their court filings, federal prosecutors requested that Bonds serve 15 months in prison while defense lawyers recommend that Bonds be sentenced to two years' probation, fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.

Jurors found Bonds guilty in April of misleading a grand jury investigation into sports doping among professional athletes, proclaiming that his rambling responses were "evasive."

“Bonds’ pervasive efforts to testify falsely, to mislead the grand jury, to dodge questions, and to simply refuse to answer questions in the grand jury makes his conduct worthy of a significant jail sentence,” prosecutors wrote the court last week.

Bonds, 47, was a 14-time all-star and an eight-time Golden Glove award winner during his illustrious baseball career that spanned from 1986 to 2007.

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For David Stern, questions about possible conflict of interest

-- Melissa Rohlin

Photo: Barry Bonds. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

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