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Cubs hire Maddon as manager, fire Renteria

CHICAGO (AP) Right after Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs were mentioned as a possible landing spot for one of baseball's best managers. Flush with prospects and ready to make a splash in free agency, the Cubs already had a manager in Rick Renteria. But they just couldn't resist the lure of Maddon's sudden availability. Looking for a turnaround after five consecutive losing seasons, the Cubs announced Friday that they had hired Maddon to replace Renteria after just one year on the job. The move pairs the respected Maddon with a promising roster and a franchise with far more resources than he ever enjoyed with the small-market Rays. Renteria was fired after leading Chicago to a 73-89 record in his only season as a major league manager. It was a seven-win improvement from 2013, the last of Dale Sveum's two years in charge, but not close to reaching the playoffs or putting the Cubs in position to win their first World Series title since 1908. "Maddon - who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us - had become a free agent," Cubs President Theo Epstein said in a statement. "We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe." Epstein said the Cubs were "transparent" at all times with Renteria once Maddon became available two weeks ago. "Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him," he said. "Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best." Renteria's agent, Ken Solomon, declined comment. He also said Renteria will not comment. With Renteria in the dugout, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro each had a rebound season, and young sluggers Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were among a group of prospects who showed considerable promise in their first major league action. Now it's up to Maddon to help that core group of young players to continue to improve, while paving the way for another wave of heralded prospects that includes third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell. It's a familiar situation for the 60-year-old Hazleton, Pennsylvania native, who deftly guided several young Rays rosters into contention in the rugged AL East. Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay after Andrew Friedman left the Rays' front office to take over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 14. Maddon's free agency created a buzz during the World Series, with the talk centering on where he might go and all the possibilities for his new job. The answer became public just two days after San Francisco's Game 7 win over the Royals, with Maddon becoming Chicago's fifth manager since the start of the 2010 season and the 54th in the history of the woebegone franchise. Maddon had a 754-705 record in nine seasons in Tampa Bay, leading the club to four playoff appearances, two AL East titles and a five-game loss to Philadelphia in the 2008 World Series. The two-time AL Manager of the Year was the bench coach for six seasons under Angels manager Mike Scioscia before he was hired by Tampa Bay in November 2005. While the addition of Maddon is a coup for president of baseball operations Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the quick hook for Renteria could turn into a problem for the front office down the road. Renteria had two years left on the contract he signed with the Cubs last November, and the inevitable turnover on the major league staff could affect Chicago's ability to attract quality coaches. Renteria, who was the bench coach in San Diego before he got his first opportunity to be a big league manager, already was looking at a different staff for his second year. Hitting coach Bill Mueller resigned after Epstein announced that Mike Brumley would not return as assistant hitting coach. John Mallee, a Chicago native, was hired to replace Mueller, Eric Hinske shifted to assistant hitting coach and former Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo was hired as first base and outfield coach. Now their fate is unclear. Same for pitching coach Chris Bosio, who has drawn praise for his work with Jake Arrieta and a couple other pitchers who were traded away by the Cubs after they rebounded until the tutelage of the former major leaguer.

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 03:32:00 +0000
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigns

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Dave Brandon took over Michigan's athletic department four years ago with so many of the right qualifications: success as a businessman, experience as a university regent - and he'd played football for Bo Schembechler, too. That football program is the barometer of sporting success at Michigan, but the Wolverines have fallen on hard times recently. Those struggles - and the handful of other problems they helped magnify - led to the end of Brandon's tenure as athletic director. "Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and the university to continue without daily distractions," school President Mark Schlissel said. "I agree with this decision." Schlissel announced Brandon's resignation at a news conference Friday, and although the tone was respectful and appreciative, the president acknowledged that the athletic department has gone through a rough stretch recently. Brandon's departure comes amid another disappointing football season - and concerns over everything from the school's concussions protocol to student attendance at games. Football coach Brady Hoke's future has been in doubt for a while because of his team's lack of progress, but Brandon also became a target of disgruntled fans and students. Schlissel was asked if he was prepared to fire Brandon if the athletic director hadn't resigned. "I'm not at all prepared to deal in a hypothetical," Schlissel said. "But he and I had been working closely, as you might imagine, through the controversial events of recent weeks. "We discussed iteratively the best way to set the athletic program in a stronger and positive direction, and we've been working closely together on that. It was Dave that mentioned and raised the prospect of his decision to resign." Will Hoke be the next to go? The timing of Brandon's departure gives Michigan a chance to find a replacement athletic director before the end of the football season, when a decision on Hoke's status could come. But Schlissel indicated he would take as long as necessary to find a new AD. Jim Hackett, who graduated from the university in 1977 and like Brandon played football for Michigan, will serve as interim athletic director. Schlissel indicated Hackett could potentially be empowered to make the decision on Hoke's status. "Football, like all of our programs, are evaluated by the athletic department through the season, but particularly at the end of the season, so I would imagine that the interim athletic director will be intimately involved in charge of the evaluation of football," Schlissel said. "The interim AD is the athletic director until we hire a permanent AD. I feel comfortable hiring deans and provosts. I feel a little bit less comfortable - I'm not the guy to make a decision about a particular coach. We have an athletic program that I delegate that authority to." Brandon did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. His resignation becomes official Saturday, and the university has agreed to pay him a total of $3 million through 2018. "I'd like to thank Dave Brandon for his commitment to Michigan," Hackett said. "The athletic department is in great financial condition. We have new varsity sports that will continue to make Michigan a destination for aspiring student-athletes, and Dave worked extremely hard to modernize Michigan's athletic facilities." But those successes have a hard time registering when the football team is playing poorly. Michigan for years was a power both in the Big Ten and nationally, but not anymore. The Wolverines are 3-5 heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Indiana. Brandon, a former university regent, became Michigan's athletic director in 2010, stepping down as CEO of Domino's Pizza Inc. and returning to his alma mater to take over the sports program. He made a major change after less than a year on the job, firing Rich Rodriguez after three tumultuous seasons as football coach. Hoke was hired to replace Rodriguez and took Michigan to the Sugar Bowl in his first season, but the program has declined steadily since then. Hoke and Brandon faced sharp criticism for the coaching staff's handling of quarterback Shane Morris' head injury in a game this September against Minnesota. Morris was allowed to play briefly after a hard hit. He was later diagnosed with a probable concussion. Brandon said communication was a problem - both during the game when Morris was hit, and over the next couple of days. The school announced a change in protocol soon after. The team's lackluster performance has been accompanied by a growing sense of malaise among fans. Empty seats in the area at Michigan Stadium where students sit have become common. Brandon has acknowledged that the decision to replace assigned seating for students with general admission in 2013 did not go over well. That policy was quickly changed, and the school recently announced that it was cutting student ticket prices next year. Brandon was not without his supporters. John Beilein - the school's successful basketball coach who was hired before Brandon took over - called the AD a "great leader" recently. Under Brandon, Michigan began playing night football games at the Big House, a move that proved fairly popular. "I've spoken regularly with Dave over the last few weeks, and we both want what's best for Michigan athletics, which is to be able to pursue the highest levels of excellence in all aspects of our programs," Schlissel said. "I believe Dave has always had the best interests of the University of Michigan in his mind and in his heart."

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 22:08:00 +0000
James leads Cavaliers past Bulls, 114-108 in OT

CHICAGO (AP) LeBron James scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 114-108 in overtime on Friday night. James was at his best after struggling the previous night, scoring eight points in the extra period, and the Cavaliers picked up the win the after opening with a loss at home to New York. Derrick Rose scored 20 points for Chicago, but his first meaningful home game in about a year was spoiled by a sprained left ankle and a dominant performance by the Cavaliers' megastar. Rose, sidelined for most of the past two seasons by knee injuries, came up hobbling in the first half and headed to the locker room in the fourth quarter. Cleveland rallied from five down in the closing minute of regulation after blowing a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter. James took over in OT, flipping in a wild reverse layup and scoring Cleveland's first eight points in the extra period. The Cavaliers were still clinging to a 106-104 lead after Kirk Hinrich hit two free throws with 46.8 seconds left. But Tristan Thompson iced it moments later with a hard dunk after rebounding James' jumper to make it a four-point game with 24 seconds left. Thompson tied franchise record with 12 offensive rebounds.

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 03:10:00 +0000
Warriors, Thompson agree to maximum extension

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Golden State Warriors saw no reason to wait on securing Klay Thompson's future with the franchise. The Warriors signed Thompson to a four-year maximum contract extension worth about $70 million on Friday, a person with knowledge of the deal said. The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not disclose terms, also said there is no opt-out clause for either side. The contract will keep Thompson with the team through the 2018-19 season. The Warriors confirmed a multiyear deal with Thompson. It was the final day for Thompson and the team to get a deal done or the shooting guard could become a restricted free agent next summer, when the Warriors would have had an opportunity to match any offer sheet he signed. Golden State decided not to risk the relationship turning sour in restricted free agency or another team putting a clause in an offer sheet that might've made it difficult to match. And Thompson and his agent, Bill Duffy, got what they wanted all along: a maximum deal and financial security now. "It's hard for me to express how excited and happy I am to know that I will be playing in front of the best fans in the NBA for a long time," Thompson said in a statement. "This team, under this ownership group and with this collection of players, has an incredibly bright future. I could not ask for a better situation and am extremely thankful." Warriors general manager Bob Myers and Thompson will hold a news conference to formally announce the deal before Saturday night's home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. In a statement, Myers also praised ownership's commitment to winning and said the team is "excited to have one of the top young players in the NBA under contract for the next several years." Golden State drafted Thompson out of Washington State with the 11th overall pick in 2011. He has become one of the NBA's top two-way guards and teamed with fellow "Splash Brothers" star Stephen Curry to form one of the league's best backcourts. Thompson averaged 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season, helping the Warriors reach the playoffs for the second straight year. He shot 44.4 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from 3-point range. Curry congratulated Thompson for the extension on Twitter, writing: "Splash bros continue." The Warriors decided to build around the tandem when they refused to include Thompson in any trade talks with Minnesota for Kevin Love this offseason, believing all along that he and Curry could carry them to a title on their streaky shooting strokes. Thompson began to validate the decision over the summer, dazzling during the FIBA World Cup in Spain to help the U.S. win gold. The payday will put more expectations on Thompson, especially with fans still split about losing Love to Cleveland, but he appears ready for the challenge. Thompson led the Warriors with 21.7 points per game in the preseason, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. He also scored 19 points in Golden State's season-opening 95-77 win at Sacramento on Wednesday night. First-year coach Steve Kerr, a former NBA player and general manager with the Phoenix Suns, said before the extension was announced that Thompson never looked affected by the negotiations. "It can definitely affect a player to think about all that stuff, worry about injury, whatever. I'm pretty confident in Klay that he's just going to play," Kerr said. Thompson's contributions go beyond shooting and scoring. At 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, the lengthy Thompson often defends the other team's best guard. That includes covering everybody from the Clippers' Chris Paul to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, taking pressure off teammates on the perimeter, most notably the undersized Curry. Myers made extending Thompson's contract one of his top offseason priorities, and he predicted from the get-go that it could go right up to the deadline. The Warriors were also trying to balance Thompson's needs with their own payroll concerns. After all, the team will be facing similar scenarios with Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli next year and has increasingly less room to wiggle under the salary cap with its current roster. Thompson's deal eclipses the contract Curry signed prior to the 2012-13 season when he was due for an extension. Golden State signed Curry to a $44 million, four-year extension on Oct. 31, 2012. Curry, who started his first All-Star Game for the Western Conference last season, was coming off a second surgery on his right ankle in as many years that summer, and questions persisted about his durability. That risk worked out well for the Warriors. Curry's contract has become one of the league's best bargains, and Golden State is banking on Thompson's talents to evolve in much the same way now, especially with the league's next television deal widely expected to increase player salaries. --- Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 02:44:00 +0000
Wolves give Ricky Rubio 4-year, $56M deal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The clock was ticking down toward the deadline for reaching agreement on an extension of his rookie contract, and just like he does on the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio took charge. "I was talking with my agents and I told them I really wanted to stay here," Rubio told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Friday night. "I told them to make something work. At the end of the day it did happen and I'm happy about it." About two hours before the midnight Eastern deadline, Rubio signed a four-year contract extension worth $55 million that includes another $1 million in incentives, bringing an end to a long and sometimes tense negotiation between the flashy Spanish point guard and the team that drafted him in 2009. Rubio averaged 10.1 points, 8.1 assists and 2.3 steals but shot just 37 percent in his first three seasons. The shooting numbers led some to say the Timberwolves would have been better off waiting to see how Rubio performs this season before extending him an offer given that they would have had the ability to match any offer that he received on the open market next summer. But owner Glen Taylor has long been big on loyalty, and he reached out directly to Rubio earlier this week to make one last push. "I want to call Minnesota home for a long time," Rubio said. "That's why I signed the contract. My mom's going to get mad at me, but I don't leave home when I'm here. This is my second home. I really feel very welcome here." As salaries stand right now, Rubio's $13.75 million average annual salary starting next season will be more than high profile point guards like Tony Parker, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson. Rubio's representatives targeted Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe's five-year, $70 million deal to eclipse, and ended up coming very close despite not having the leverage that Bledsoe had as a restricted free agent. In Rubio, Taylor and Flip Saunders, the team's president of basketball operations, head coach and minority owner, see a dynamic 24-year-old point guard who is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Rubio made an immediate impact as a rookie on a long-suffering team, helping them climb to the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture in early March before he tore two ligaments in his left knee in a game against the Lakers. He played all 82 games last season and said he feels as healthy this year has he has been since the injury. Rather than wade through the potentially tricky waters of restricted free agency next summer, the Wolves engaged agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana of Relativity Sports to get a deal done. "Ricky is only in his fourth season and because of his work ethic and determination, we are confident that he will continue to grow as a player and a team leader," Saunders said in a statement. "We look forward to many great years ahead of Ricky in a Timberwolves uniform." And after trading Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, Rubio also became the player that will lead youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett into the post-Love era. "He came to us with such high expectations and he immediately proved why we were so high on him," Taylor said. "Unfortunately he got hurt at the end of his rookie season, but he has worked so hard to come back and we believe he has a long and successful career ahead of him. He's a great foundation for our franchise and we're very happy to keep Ricky here long term to work and grow with the young nucleus that we have." One of the league's best passers, Rubio got quite an assist from the NBA's new television deal. The league signed new agreements with ESPN and Turner totaling $24 billion earlier this month. It remains unclear just how soon the massive extensions will flood the league with cash and send the salary cap soaring, but the inevitability helped the Timberwolves feel more comfortable writing a bigger check to lock Rubio in. With Kemba Walker signing a four-year, $48 million deal with Charlotte and Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo figuring to cash in next summer, Rubio's deal may not look quite so large when the salary cap starts to rise. "You're getting paid more, you have to earn it," Rubio said. "You have to show why you're getting paid this money. Of course there's going to be extra pressure. I wanted to be more of a leader and take this team to another level." --- Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 04:26:00 +0000
Kentucky earns No. 1 nod in AP preseason poll

The story seems to be the same every season at Kentucky: Lose star players to the NBA, replace them with another group of one-and-doners, compete for a national championship. The Wildcats changed the script this season: This year, the fabulous freshmen will be surrounded by other former McDonald's All-Americans who played for the NCAA title just seven months ago - a team so deep and talented that coach John Calipari is considering a platoon system. Kentucky was the runaway No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 released Friday, becoming the fourth program to earn the honor in consecutive seasons. "It's something for our kids to live up to," Calipari said. "At the end of the day, you've got to play the games and figure it out." Kentucky earned 52 first-place votes from the 65-member panel in landing its fourth preseason No. 1. The Wildcats also were No. 1 in 1995-96, when they won the national championship, and in 1980-81. Kentucky joins UCLA (1966-69, 1971-74), UNLV (1990-91) and North Carolina (2008-09) to be named No. 1 consecutive seasons since the AP preseason poll started in 1961-62. Arizona is ranked No. 2 and received five first-place votes after adding a strong recruiting class to a team that came within seconds of reaching the Final Four last season. Wisconsin, which returns most of last season's Final Four team, has its highest preseason ranking ever at No. 3. The Badgers received eight first-place votes, but are 35 points behind Arizona in the poll. No. 4 Duke added a strong recruiting class headed by Jahlil Okafor and is ranked for the 137th straight week. Reloaded Kansas is No. 5, with North Carolina, Florida, Louisville, Virginia and Texas rounding out the top 10. Virginia is in the preseason top 10 for the first time since Ralph Sampson's senior season in 1982-83, when it was No. 1. "I think there are probably seven teams that all could be No. 1 in the country," Calipari said. Wichita State, a Final Four team two seasons ago, is No. 11, followed by Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Virginia Commonwealth, San Diego State, defending national champion Connecticut, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Ohio State. Rounding out the Top 25 are Nebraska, SMU, Syracuse, Michigan, Harvard and Utah. They'll all be chasing Kentucky, at least at the start. The Wildcats were No. 1 heading into last season after Coach Cal pulled the strings on another best-in-the-nation recruiting class. They lived up to expectations, too, overcoming a midseason slump to reach the national championship game, where they lost 60-54 to UConn. But a funny thing happened during the offseason: Instead of all those freshman packing up for the NBA after one season, most decided to stick around. Kentucky lost forward Julius Randle and guard James Young to the NBA. In a bit of a surprise, twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison decided to return after their freshman seasons and junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein decided to stick around, too. With forwards Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee, along with 7-footer Dakari Johnson also coming back, the Wildcats were going to be in good shape regardless of what the recruiting class looked like. But, of course, this is Kentucky and more star recruits made their way to Lexington: forwards Karl-Anthony Towns and Trey Lyles, guards Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. The Wildcats are 12 deep, talented and confident. "We are far ahead of last year," Andrew Harrison said. But they're far from the only team with a shot at the title. Arizona was a last-second shot away from reaching the Final Four last season, an impressive run considering versatile forward Brandon Ashley sat out the final 16 games with a foot injury. He's healthy and leads a solid core of returning players that includes point guard T.J. McConnell and 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski. Coach Sean Miller also brought in another stellar class, headed by athletic forward Stanley Johnson. "We have the makings of a team that can go on and do some great things," Miller said. So do the third-ranked Badgers. Actually, they already have. Wisconsin made a somewhat-unexpected run to the Final Four last season and will have one of the most experienced teams in the country. Leading them will be no-nonsense coach Bo Ryan and Frank Kaminsky, the 6-foot-10 senior who skipped a shot at the NBA for another chance at an NCAA title. "I don't see our guys talking any differently or acting any differently on the practice floor simply because other people are mentioning that we might be pretty good," Ryan said. The same thing is being said about the Kentucky Wildcats - just like last season. --- AP Sports Writers Genaro Armas and Gary Graves contributed to this story.

Sat, 01 Nov 2014 00:32:00 +0000
Untapable and Napravnik win Breeders' Cup Distaff

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Untapable won the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff by 1 1/4 lengths, making Rosie Napravnik the first female rider to win the race in its 31-year history. The 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.68 on Friday at Santa Anita and paid $5.20, $3.40 and $2.60 as the 8-5 favorite in the field of 11. Don't Tell Sophia returned $4.60 and $3.40, while Iotapa was another nose back in third and paid $4 to show. Napravnik pumped her right hand after crossing the finish line, having secured her second career Breeders' Cup victory. It was the fifth Cup win for trainer Steve Asmussen, and his biggest since winning the $5 million Classic with Curlin in 2007. Untapable lugged in on Iotapa on the rail in the stretch, but the stewards did not post the inquiry sign. It was Untapable's fourth Grade 1 win of the year, including the Kentucky Oaks in May.

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 23:57:00 +0000
NCAA denies Georgia's appeal of Gurley suspension

ATLANTA (AP) The NCAA upheld its four-game suspension of Georgia tailback Todd Gurley on Thursday night, ending the school's final hope of having its biggest star in uniform for Saturday's game against Florida. In a statement released Thursday night, the NCAA's student-athlete reinstatement committee denied Georgia's appeal of Gurley's four-game suspension. The NCAA announced the suspension on Wednesday, when it said Gurley accepted more than $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items over a two-year period. Gurley, who already has been held out of two games, will be eligible to return on Nov. 15 against Auburn. Georgia said Thursday night it was "very disappointed" its appeal for Gurley's immediate reinstatement was denied. "We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd's immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling," Georgia said in a statement. "However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd's return to competition on Nov. 15. The full attention of the Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday's important game against Florida." Gurley will also miss No. 9 Georgia's game at Kentucky on Nov. 8. When announcing the four-game suspension, the NCAA said it "strongly considered" a harsher punishment. Gurley, a junior, was found to have taken cash from multiple individuals, even though the NCAA said he received "extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs." The NCAA said Wednesday Georgia's "due diligence in its investigation" and Gurley's "full disclosure of his involvement in the violations" were factors in not imposing a longer suspension. The NCAA said Wednesday Gurley must repay a portion of the money to a charity of his choice. He also must perform 40 hours of community service. The organization did not specify how much of the money he would have to repay or a deadline to comply with the rest of his sanctions. Gurley was considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate before the suspension. He leads Georgia with 773 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He has returned a kickoff for a 100-yard TD. He even threw a 50-yard pass - Georgia's longest of the season. In two games without Gurley, freshman Nick Chubb has 346 yards rushing and three touchdowns in road wins over Missouri and Arkansas.

Fri, 31 Oct 2014 03:27:00 +0000
New dynasty: Giants capture 3rd title in 5 years

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Bruce Bochy is crazy superstitious. It's a little-known fact about the unflappable San Francisco Giants manager. Mere mention of anything about a dynasty during the World Series made him uncomfortable. He felt equally uneasy when his name got linked to the best skippers of all-time - those Hall of Famers he well could join someday. Bochy doesn't have to worry about a jinx now. After winning its third championship in five seasons, the new label for his team looks as if it will stick. "Dynasty" blared the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. The Giants closed it out with a 3-2 win in Game 7 at Kansas City on Wednesday night, sealed by Series MVP Madison Bumgarner's five shutout innings as a reliever this time. "A lot has to go right. First off, it starts with the talent," Bochy said. "I mean, you need that, which we have. Then you have to deal with a lot of things maybe during the season. Every manager says, `Hey, we're fine, we have a good chance to get there if we stay healthy.' But that doesn't always happen." In a remarkable every-other-year pattern, San Francisco somehow finds its best form in even years. With new faces and old ones, with castoffs and misfits and some key midseason acquisitions. Few clubs have captured three championships in a five-year span. The last National League team to do it was the St. Louis Cardinals with Stan Musial from 1942-46, so the Giants are the first of the free-agency era. The Oakland Athletics won three straight crowns in the early 1970s, and the New York Yankees captured four in five years from 1996-2000. Still, San Francisco was never considered a favorite or the best team in the regular season any of these times. Twice in this stretch, the Giants missed the playoffs altogether. After a runner-up finish in the NL West to the Dodgers at 88-74, they took the wild-card card route this time. On Wednesday night, Tim Hudson became a champion after a 16-year wait and Michael Morse got there following 10 major league seasons. "It's the greatest group of guys I ever played with," Morse said. "It's a group of guys who believe in each other and the outcome was a World Series victory." This city has had a football dynasty. So now the storied baseball franchise is doing its best to catch up with the NFL team in town. The Niners ruled in the late `80s and `90s, winning five Super Bowls. A unique element for Bochy's latest winning roster is the talented crop of homegrown players who made it happen. There are the big names - Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval. And the emerging ones - Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik. "You look at most of our team - like Joe, me, Buster, Pablo, Belt, Bum. It's loaded with a lot of good players and a lot of players who are pretty similar in kind of their approach to the game and they're pretty even-keel," said Crawford, the shortstop. "Pablo's a little bit different but me, Joe, Belt, Bum, Buster, we're all pretty levelheaded at any point in the game whatever part of the season it is, whether it's playoffs or midway through the regular season. We don't really change. That says a lot with how well we've done in the playoffs and the postseason in recent years," he said. "Nothing's really too big for us," he added. Eight players have been on all three winning World Series teams: Bumgarner, slugging third baseman Sandoval, Posey and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain, too, but he was hurt this year. General manager Brian Sabean, longest-tenured in baseball, can't put a finger on why the mix keeps working. He is proud of the core of players who were drafted and came through the system and played such a huge part this time. "It's a testament to player development and scouting. That's what we all hope for, that you can plug your holes from within and build your team from within," Sabean said. "That's a surefire way to kind of keep things moving forward. It prevents you from having to go into the market, whether it's free agency or more so the trade market." The Giants survived skids in June and September before winning the wild-card game at Pittsburgh. They then beat Washington in the Division Series and St. Louis in the NL Championship series. It has started with Bochy and his spot-on decision making, from resting the relievers regularly early in the season so he'd have every one of them for the October run, to going with Bumgarner at every chance. "But you have to play good baseball for six months, whatever, to get there," Bochy said. "Once you get there, you've heard guys say, `Well, it's a crap shoot,' but you have to play your best ball. You have to have the pitching. That's obvious. But you've got to execute." For the Giants, it's about every player doing his part and serving a role, because, as Sabean puts it, "We don't have a star system here." "It's everybody's got to pull on the same chain and everybody's got to be ready to play," he said. "They understand the culture." Dynasty or not, Affeldt has solved a potential problem at home. The lefty reliever and Game 7 winner has three young sons - and, now, three championships. "My three boys now all get to have rings on their finger," he said, "And I'm very happy about that."

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:15:00 +0000
Giants ace Bumgarner wins World Series MVP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Madison Bumgarner was limbering up at Kauffman Stadium this week, getting loose with his San Francisco teammates near the dugout, when Tim Hudson and Michael Morse sneaked up from behind and ruffled the pitcher's long, scraggly locks. That was way too hairy for Bumgarner. He quickly spun and playfully sparred with the mischief makers. They were about the only ones who could touch Bumgarner in this World Series. "Yeah, it was hopeless," Kansas City manager Ned Yost acknowledged. The 25-year-old Bumgarner capped off a most splendid October and earned MVP honors Wednesday night, pitching five scoreless innings of relief in Game 7 as the Giants held off the Kansas City Royals 3-2. Moments after he retired Salvador Perez on a foul pop with a runner on third base for the final out, Bumgarner insisted he wasn't worn down. About a half-hour later, he felt a bit differently. "You know what? I can't lie to you anymore," he said. "I'm a little tired now." Bumgarner earned a sensational save to go along with two sparkling wins as a starter in the Series. That on top of being MVP of the NL Championship Series and pitching a record 52 2-3 innings in this postseason. Put it this way: Bumgarner threw two shutouts in October, starting with a win at Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game. Washington's Jordan Zimmermann was the only other starter to reach the ninth inning this postseason, and he got pulled. All tremendous accomplishments, but hard to tell from observing or listening to the 6-foot-5 Bumgarner. He shows virtually no emotion on the mound, blowing his nose as if no one is watching, and seems to be the only person unimpressed by what he's done. Funny thing, the slow-moving lefty was carrying an energy bar with him when he kidded around with Hudson and Morse before Game 6. "He's such a humble guy, and we rode him pretty good," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's historic what this kid has done," he said. "Really, truly amazing." After winning the opener with seven impressive innings, Bumgarner threw a shutout in Game 5. And when the Royals forced a Game 7, there was little doubt that the guy called MadBum would be called on to pitch again on two days' rest. But five innings? Who would've believed that? "Innings, I wasn't thinking about innings or pitch count. I was just thinking about getting outs, getting outs until I couldn't get them anymore and we needed someone else," Bumgarner said. "Fortunately, was able to get some quick innings and I was able to stay in there." He gave up two hits, retired 14 in a row, and got 15 outs - that matched how many outs opposing starters Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie combined to get. Bumgarner boosted his World Series stats to numbers never seen before: 4-0 with a save and an 0.25 ERA, along with three championship rings. In 36 innings, he's allowed just one run and 14 hits, striking out 31 and walking five. Bumgarner wound up slinging 68 pitches, and finished with 270 innings this season. He went 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in the postseason - . Last weekend, former broadcaster and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver paid tribute to the Giants ace. "It's Gibson-esque, if you will. I know Bob could do that and I saw that from a 60-feet, 6-inch view of him every outing he threw in the World Series. I see the same thing in Bumgarner. I really admire that," McCarver said. Before Game 7, Jack Morris also praised Bumgarner. Morris knows well about Game 7 - always intense on the mound, he threw a 10-inning shutout in 1991 to lift Minnesota over Atlanta. "I want to hug him," Morris said near the backstop, a couple hours before game time. "He's my kind of guy." "He's got the same emotions, he just doesn't show them. He's got a big furnace burning right now," he said. A lot of stamina, too. But in this era when pitch counts are so precious, Bumgarner wasn't worried about his arm in Game 7. And if he was OK, so was Bochy. "In fact, I was staying away from him every inning," Bochy said, "because I was hoping he wouldn't go, `I'm starting to get a little tired,' because there's no way I would have taken him out unless he would have told me that." Giants catcher Buster Posey said there wasn't much conversation on the bench with Bochy, Bumgarner and pitching coach Dave Righetti, either. "Not much of anything. I think everybody could see how good he was," Posey said. "They weren't putting great swings on him." No, they weren't. "We probably would have won if they didn't have him," Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. "But they do have him."

Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:53:00 +0000