Boston’s Betts, Milwaukee’s Yelich win MVP Awards
By RONALD BLUM
AP Baseball Writer
Friday, November 16
NEW YORK (AP) — Mookie Betts is ready to become an ambassador for baseball, now that he’s won a batting title, World Series and Most Valuable Player award with Boston.
“I enjoy being kind of a face around the game. I’ve kind of used this pedestal or whatever you want to say to spread knowledge that the game is fun,” he said Thursday after his runaway victory for the AL MVP award.
Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich was close to a unanimous pick for the NL honor. A 26-year-old outfielder just like Betts, Yelich also won a batting championship and led his team to a division title. But while Betts has been with the Red Sox since he signed after the 2011 amateur draft, Yelich didn’t join the Brewers until he was dealt to Milwaukee last January by the payroll-paring Miami Marlins.
“I’m thankful it all worked out because being traded, you never know how it’s going to be,” Yelich said. “Luckily for myself, it all went amazing.”
Yelich is signed through 2021 and his deal includes a team option for the following season. Betts didn’t want to speculate whether he would be a Red Sox lifer, like former Boston MVPs Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. Betts can become a free agent after the 2020 season.
“Right now I’m just focusing on the 2019 season coming up,” he said.
Betts received 28 first-place votes and 410 points from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, a two-time MVP, followed with one first-place vote and 265 points. Trout tied the record of four second-place finishes shared by Stan Musial, Williams and Albert Pujols. Trout won in 2014 and 2016, finished second in ‘12, ‘13 and ‘15, and was fourth in 2017.
Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez was third with 208 points, and Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez was next with one first and 198 points.
Betts hit a major league-leading .346 with 32 homers, 80 RBIs, 42 doubles and 30 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter for the Red Sox, who won a team-record 108 games and their fourth World Series title in 15 seasons. Votes were submitted before the postseason.
Betts, second to Trout in the 2016 vote, raised his profile when he fed homeless people on the steps of Boston’s Public Library after the second game of the World Series. Unlike some baseball players, he doesn’t eschew off-the-field limelight. Commissioner Rob Manfred criticized Trout during the All-Star Game for not making enough of a marketing effort.
“I definitely think it’s pretty cool in some settings,” he said, “and in some setting settings I just kind of want to be with my family.”
Both batting champions won MVP awards for the first time since San Francisco’s Buster Posey and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.
Yelich got 29 first-place votes and 415 points, and the other first-place vote went to New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, the NL Cy Young Award winner, who finished fifth. Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez was second with 250 points, followed by Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado with 203.
Yelich won the first batting title in Brewers history with a .326 average. He set career highs with 36 homers and 110 RBIs and had a 1.000 OPS.
Yelich nearly became the NL’s first Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick in 1937, finishing two homers shy of Arenado and one RBI back of Baez. Yelich was especially impressive in the second half, hitting .367 with 25 homers and 67 RBIs — including 11 homers in August and 10 in September.
Milwaukee reached the playoffs for the first time in seven years, swept Colorado in the Division Series then lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game League Championship Series, falling one win short of its first World Series appearance since 2002.
Yelich gets a $100,000 bonus for winning, and the price of the 2022 team option in his contract increased by $1 million to $16 million.
Yelich celebrated in Southern California with family and friends, including Heisman Trophy winner and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Yelich is from Westlake Village, California, near the site of a recent mass shooting and the Southern California wildfires. He wore a Los Angeles Fire Department cap during TV interviews.
“Almost everyone had to be evacuated, just from the Thousand Oaks, Westlake, Malibu area,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to make it with no damage, A lot of people, unfortunately, were not able to say the same.”
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Baseball owners extend Manfred’s contract, TV deal with Fox
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
Friday, November 16
ATLANTA (AP) — Baseball owners have locked down their commissioner and their main broadcast partner, too.
Any decisions on speeding up the game and perhaps making it more enjoyable to watch will have to wait.
After wrapping up two days of meetings at a hotel next to the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park, the owners announced a new contract for Commissioner Rob Manfred, keeping him on the job at least through the 2024 regular season. The 60-year-old started a five-year term in January 2015.
“It seems like about 15 minutes ago I was spending a really dreadful day in a not-very-nice hotel suite in Baltimore waiting to see if I could get vote number — what was I looking for, 23 right?” quipped Manfred, who won the vote to succeed Bud Selig in August 2014 after beating out two other contenders. “It seems almost impossible that four years have gone by.”
The owners also signed off on a new television deal with Fox, which still has three seasons to go on its current eight-year contract that pays baseball an average of $525 million per season.
The seven-year extension, which runs through 2028, will be worth just over $5 billion to MLB — roughly a 36 percent increase to an average of about $715 million per season.
Manfred was asked whether the owners had any reservations to making such a long-term commitment, especially giving the rapidly changing dynamics of the broadcast and online industries.
“I’m a huge believer in the idea that when you have a good partner, even when you’re looking at an uncertain landscape, that good partners find a way to navigate that uncertain landscape,” the commissioner said.
The relationship with Fox, which began in 1996, will continue to include the World Series and All-Star Game, as well as extensive playoff coverage on both the network and its all-sports cable channel, FS1.
The new agreement also commits Fox to showing more games from the League Championship Series on its main network, beginning in 2019. It was criticized for televising all but Game 2 in this year’s seven-game NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers on FS1, which has a narrower distribution. Starting next year, two of the first four games and Game 7 will be on Fox.
In addition to the extension with Fox, MLB also approved a $300 million, three-year with DAZN, a subscription video streaming service run by former ESPN president John Skipper. Manfred called it a key part of baseball’s strategy to reach a new generation of fans.
DAZN will co-produce a nightly highlight show at the MLB Network in Secaucus, New Jersey, and do live cut-ins to games Monday through Friday, an arrangement that steers clear of national broadcast slots held by Fox and ESPN on the weekend.
“The owners have shown courage, because we are new,” Skipper said. “We will make sure that young fans have a whip-around show (similar to NFL’s Red Zone) that shows every home run, every highlight. We will get them interested in the game.”
While the deals with Manfred, Fox and DAZN were expected , baseball has yet to come to a consensus on the best ways to improve a sport that suffered a 4 percent dip in attendance this season to 69.6 million, plunging to its lowest level since 2003.
Manfred and the owners continue to look at ways to speed play . Nine-inning games averaged 3 hours, 4 minutes in 2018. While that was 4 minutes lower than the previous season, it still matched the third-highest average in baseball history.
Baseball’s style of play is also under scrutiny as teams have increasingly become reliant on a home run-or-bust offensive strategy to beat defensive shifts and reliever-heavy pitching staffs that are able to mix and match for almost any situation.
Tampa Bay , most notably, even began using relievers to start games, only expecting to get an inning or two out of them before beginning a series of changes. While baseball set a record for homers in 2017 and stayed close to a record level this year, it also had more strikeouts than hits for the first time in 2018 as the cumulative batting average dipped to .248 — the lowest since 1972, the year before the designated hitter was introduced in the American League.
Chris Marinak, MLB’s executive vice president for strategy, technology and innovation, provided owners with a report on those issues. Manfred refused to go into details, saying he preferred to reach a consensus with the players’ union. That includes any decision on a pitch clock, which the owners have the right to impose without union approval under the labor agreement.
Manfred and Tony Clark, head of the MLB Players Association, have been exchanging dates to discuss possible improvements, though the commissioner stressed that no major changes are expected.
“The owners are realistic about how the business performed,” Manfred said. “The focus of the conversation, however, was to make sure we do everything we can to get as many fans in the ballpark in 2019 as we possibly can. We do think we have some good ideas we’ll be rolling out in the next few months.”
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner stressed that baseball merely needs some minor tweaking, not a massive overhaul.
“There are reasons the game had changed,” Steinbrenner said. “I don’t see those changes reverting because, quite frankly, I think those are good changes. There’s only so much we’re going to be able to do. But we have to continue to try to do everything we can. It’s not something we can ignore.”
Manfred said MLB is expected to announce a host for the 2021 All-Star Game sometimes early next year. He acknowledged that SunTrust Park is one of the contenders.
The owners got a tour of the 2-year-old stadium, notable for the adjacent mixed-use development that is also controlled by the Braves. It includes restaurants, bars, retail shops, apartments, an office tower as well as the hotel where the meetings were held.
Atlanta has hosted two previous All-Star Games, most recently in 2000 at its previous home, Turner Field.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry
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No. 19 Cincinnati enjoying resurgence under Fickell
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, November 15
CINCINNATI (AP) — Luke Fickell doesn’t listen to sports talk radio while driving to his office at the University of Cincinnati each morning. He’s more a fan of ’80s tunes and country music.
Twitter? He follows recruits, but that’s about it.
The Bearcats’ second-year coach hasn’t kept up with all the chatter about how he’s turned around a program that had bottomed out. After winning only four games each of the last two seasons, the 19th-ranked Bearcats (9-1, 5-1 American Athletic) are back on the football map.
“If there’s something out there, I wouldn’t even know about it,” Fickell said. “That’s the way I’ve always kind of lived, and it helps me focus on what I’m doing.”
He’s got the Bearcats in contention for the league title as they travel to No. 11 UCF (9-0, 6-0) for a prime-time game Saturday on ABC (they lost), the biggest stage yet for Fickell’s young team. There are 35 true freshmen on the roster and 72 percent are underclassmen — one of the reasons their emergence was so unexpected.
Not even Fickell would have predicted something like this when the season began.
“I’m not saying I would have said this team had the potential to win nine or 10 games and play for a championship in January, February, March or April this past year,” Fickell said. “I wouldn’t have said it in September or October, really.”
Instead, Cincinnati is off to its best season since 2009, when it went 12-0 in the regular season under Brian Kelly. He left for Notre Dame before the Bearcats played in the Sugar Bowl and lost to Tim Tebow’s Florida team 51-24.
The Bearcats survived a few close calls early — an end zone interception in the closing seconds saved a win over Ohio — and have grown up faster than expected.
Most of their experience is on the defense, which leads the league in fewest yards and points allowed. Three seniors anchor a line that is the unit’s strength. Sophomore running back Michael Warren II has already set a school record with 18 touchdowns, and redshirt freshman quarterback Desmond Ridder has been solid as the games have gotten more meaningful.
Senior defensive tackle Cortez Broughton remembers the reactions he got preseason when he suggested the Bearcats had the ingredients to be a first-rate team.
“People thought I was in different world, on a different planet,” Broughton said.
They showed their inexperience before a 35-23 win over South Florida on Saturday night at Nippert Stadium. Several players exchanged words with the Bulls, and Fickell thinks that distraction played a role in Cincinnati’s slow start, with South Florida leading 16-14 at halftime.
With the Bearcats headed for their first nationally televised game, Fickell talked to his players about keeping their emotions in check this week.
“I don’t think we did a great job of it last week,” Fickell said.
The most impressive aspect of the Bearcats in Fickell’s second season is how they’ve beaten teams that blew them out last year. They beat Navy 42-0 after a 42-32 defeat last season. South Florida dominated them 33-3 last year.
And now, they face a UCF team that had its way in a 51-23 win last season at Nippert Stadium.
“Somebody said it’s like a redemption tour,” Fickell said. “Our maturity will have to show, how we handle this stuff. We’ve shown it enough so far.”
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The Davis Cup and the Laver Cup are getting a new companion
By SAM JOHNSTON
Thursday, November 15
LONDON (AP) — The Davis Cup and the Laver Cup are getting a new team-competition companion.
The men’s tennis tour said Thursday the debut of the ATP Cup will take place in January 2020, just a week before the start of the Australian Open.
The announcement of the 24-team event comes three months after the International Tennis Federation — backed by a group of investors spearheaded by Barcelona soccer player Gerard Pique — said it would hold a one-week competition for 18 nations in Madrid in November 2019.
The ATP Cup will be played over 10 days in three yet-to-be-confirmed Australian cities.
“You can have multiple team events, that’s not the issue,” ATP president Chris Kermode said. “The issue is that the timing is so close and I get that. I’m really, really confident that down the line we will find a resolution for this.”
The ATP Cup, which will offer $15 million in prize money for players, will be held in partnership with Tennis Australia. The location and timing is intended to provide ideal preparation ahead of the Australian Open, with the first Grand Slam of the season starting in Melbourne a week later.
Tennis Australia is also a partner of the Laver Cup, another annual team competition, which began in 2017 and pits European players against a “World” team in September.
“We’ll make sure that in 2020 we run a great event and we’ll do whatever we can in partnership with the tour and others to ensure that Davis Cup is also a magnificent global event,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.
Roger Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champion who co-founded the Laver Cup, said that he would like to “wait and see,” how the new tournaments go.
“If you make it in a team format, it can be fun,” Federer said. “Players enjoy being with somebody else, than just fighting for yourself. I see it in their eyes.”
Nations will qualify for the ATP Cup by virtue of the ranking of their highest-seeded player and will then be split into six groups of four to compete in a round robin, which will feature one doubles contest and two singles matches.
Unlike the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup will offer ranking points, which will be based on individual results. A player who wins all his matches — and the tournament — could claim 750 points.
The launch took place at the O2 Arena in London, where the men’s tennis tour’s flagship event, the ATP Finals, is currently taking place.
“We have Davis Cup, obviously, that has been the most historical team event,” said top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the president of the ATP Player Council. “And now we have the ATP Cup that is definitely going to be right up there in terms of its value from the players’ perspective.”
The ATP formerly held a World Team Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany, which ran for 35 years but was discontinued in 2012.
“All of us players around the world are unified and united in this event,” American player John Isner said. “It’s the perfect week for it. Everyone wants to be in tip-top shape come the Australian Open and this event is going to allow us to do that.”
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Zverev to face Federer in semifinals of the ATP Finals
By SAM JOHNSTON
Friday, November 16
LONDON (AP) — Alexander Zverev set up a semifinal meeting with Roger Federer at the ATP Finals by defeating John Isner 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Friday.
The 21-year-old German is the youngest player to reach the semifinals at the season-ending tournament since 2009 and the first from his country since 2003.
Both Isner and Marin Cilic, who plays group winner Novak Djokovic in the late match, were eliminated by the result. Djokovic will face Kevin Anderson in Saturday’s other semifinal match.
Isner needed to win in straight sets to have any chance of advancing and almost took the lead when he held a set point in 12th game of the opener. Zverev saved it with an ace and then played a faultless tiebreaker to eliminate the American.
Zverev converted his only break point of the match to take a 5-3 lead in the second set at the O2 Arena.
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ODNR Division of Wildlife Collecting Data on Hunter Harvested White-tailed Deer at Local Processor
November 15, 2018
COLUMBUS, OH- During Ohio’s statewide white-tailed deer gun hunting week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will have biologists stationed at local deer processors to collect age and condition data from harvested animals.
An ODNR Division of Wildlife biologist will be at A’Mays’ing Meats, located 80 E. Coshocton St., Johnstown, 43031, November 26- 27, from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Johnstown is in Licking County.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife uses this annual survey to monitor Ohio’s deer herd. Information collected by wildlife biologists includes the deer’s age, sex, and antler beam diameter. These indicators provide important information about the health and productivity of Ohio’s white-tailed deer population.
To learn more about deer hunting in Ohio, please visit wildohio.gov for additional information about season dates, bag limits and more.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.gov.
T.J. Warren scores 27 points, Suns beat Spurs 116-96
By JOSE M. ROMERO
Thursday, November 15
PHOENIX (AP) — Nights when star Devin Booker is off his game don’t often spell victories for the struggling Phoenix Suns. But Booker was still a factor Wednesday night, and his teammates picked him up.
T.J. Warren scored 16 of his 27 points in the first half and the Suns built a big lead, almost lost it and then pulled away for a 116-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Suns ended a four-game losing streak to improve to 3-11.
“Fifty-point swing since we played them the last time,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said, referring to the Spurs’ 120-90 win Oct. 31. “We have to be pleased with just that fact.”
Deandre Ayton added 17 points and 10 rebounds, including a powerful dunk over Davis Bertans early in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Canaan had 19 points and made all five of his 3-pointers,
Booker had 13 points and a career high 12 assists — though he committed seven turnovers — and the Suns shot a season-high 56 percent.
“I just had to keep making plays for other people,” Booker said. “A lot of laughter and smiles after the game, and that’s the feeling we want around here.”
DeMar DeRozan had 24 points for the Spurs, and Derrick White added 16. They have lost four of five.
“We have been terrible defensively,” DeRozan said. “We didn’t make nothing too uncomfortable for them. They kept their rhythm and pulled away again. We can’t let that happen and it all starts on defense.”
Warren’s short jumper with 6:42 to play gave the Suns a 105-85 lead, and Phoenix was able to close it out comfortably.
The Spurs trailed by one early in the third quarter, but the Suns extended their lead. Warren hit a baseline 3 for a 79-66 lead, and Jamal Crawford knocked one down from the other side of the court with 58 seconds to go, giving the Suns an 82-68 lead. Crawford sank a high-arc 3 with 7.9 seconds left, and the Suns went into the final quarter ahead 87-70.
Crawford scored 10 of his 11 points in the third.
San Antonio’s high-scoring LaMarcus Aldridge made just 3 of 12 shots for six points against frequent double-team defense, though he added 12 rebounds.
“We’re hearing ‘De-fense!’ Love that though. Fans have been waiting for something like that for a while,” Ayton said.
The Suns went ahead by as many as 19 points before the first quarter ended. Warren had 12 points in the period. Canaan’s jumper at the quarter buzzer gave Phoenix a 34-19 lead.
The Spurs rallied in the second quarter but got a scare when DeRozan was fouled hard on a drive and crashed to the floor. He stayed down momentarily but got to his feet, shot free throws and continued to play.
San Antonio cut the Suns’ lead to 43-37 on Patty Mills’ steal and layup with 4:16 left in the first half.
Bryn Forbes’ 3 made it a two-point game before the half, and the Suns’ lead was 52-48 at the intermission. Forbes made 3 of 4 3s in the first half and scored 13 points.
Spurs: F Rudy Gay was rested and did not play. … C Pau Gasol missed the game with left foot soreness. He’s been out four games. … With DeRozan’s 10th made free throw of the game, he passed Crawford for 95th-most in NBA history.
Suns: F Josh Jackson saw extended minutes with Trevor Ariza unavailable, and had an impact with his 14 points and a second-quarter blocked shot his teammates celebrated from the bench. Jackson also threw a lob to Ayton for a dunk just before halftime. … Rookie De’Anthony Melton played in just his third game of the season.
Suns rookie Mikal Bridges made his first career start Thursday, in at forward for Ariza, who was not with the team due to personal reasons.
“Just bringing in a young guy, young energy, young voice and he is our voice,” Kokoskov said of Bridges.
QUICK POP ON BOOKER
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about Booker before the game, and called him a “wonderful player.”
“He’s somebody who has worked so hard and his skills are so evident that his confidence should be there and he should never doubt anything about what he can accomplish,” Popovich said.