Other Sports

Sports briefs: Nov. 23

Major League Baseball

Braun edges Kemp for National League MVP award

Ryan Braun won the National League Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday after helping lead the Milwaukee Brewers to their first division title in nearly 30 years. The left fielder received 20 of 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"I'm not going to pretend like I wasn't anxious or nervous because I was," said Braun, who was sitting on the balcony of his home in Malibu, Calif., when he received the call that he had won. "I was obviously thrilled, excited. It's honestly difficult to put into words how much this means to me."

Los Angeles center fielder Matt Kemp, who came close to winning the Triple Crown, received 10 first-place votes and finished second with 332 points. Braun's teammate Prince Fielder finished third with 229 points, and Arizona's Justin Upton finished fourth with 214 points. Fielder and Upton each received one first-place vote.

St. Louis' Albert Pujols finished fifth. It was the 11th straight year the three-time MVP was in the top 10 in balloting.

Braun led the NL with a .597 slugging percentage and had a chance to overtake Jose Reyes for the batting title on the last day of the season but finished second with a .332 average. The four-time All-Star had 33 homers, 111 RBI, 109 runs scored and stole 33 bases as Milwaukee won a franchise-best 96 games. His 77 extra-base hits was tops in the league.

Kemp led the NL in homers with 39 and RBI with 126 and was third in average (.324), but played for the NL West's third-place Dodgers. He also won a Gold Glove.

"Matt's one of the best players in the game. No question about it. The season he had will go down as one of the greatest in Dodgers history," said Braun, who grew up rooting for the Dodgers. "If he had won the MVP I certainly couldn't have argued with him winning. He had a phenomenal year."

While Braun and Kemp had similar statistics, Kemp was hindered by the Dodgers' 82-79 third-place finish in the NL West.

"Without a doubt I think it's a drastically different experience playing meaningful games down the stretch," Braun said.

Players, owners sign labor agreement

Baseball players and owners signed an agreement for a new labor contract Tuesday, a deal that makes baseball the first North American professional major league to start blood testing on human growth hormone and expands the playoffs to 10 teams by 2013.

The five-year collective bargaining agreement announced Tuesday makes changes owners hope will increase competitive balance by pressuring large-market teams to rein in spending on amateur draft picks and international signings.

An initial positive test for HGH would result in a 50-game suspension, the same as a first positive urine test for a performance-enhancing substance.

"This was very important to me," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "This really is in everyone's best interest."

Random testing for HGH will take place during spring training and the off-season, but there is no agreement yet on random testing in-season. There can be testing at any time for cause.

As for the playoffs, there will be an additional two teams starting in 2012 or 2013 that will give baseball 10 of 30 clubs in the postseason. In the NFL, 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 advance. The two wild cards in each league — the non-first place teams with the best records — will meet in a one-game playoff, and the winners will move on to the division series.

Rivera might need vocal cord surgery

Mariano Rivera revealed Tuesday at a charity event at his restaurant in New Rochelle, N.Y., that he might need surgery to repair his vocal cords. Rivera, 41, said he has had trouble with his voice for nearly a month and that he will meet with a doctor next Monday to find out if his vocal cords will have to be scraped. "When you are talking about surgery, nothing is simple," Rivera said.

Rivera said he hasn't been sick and that his voice started bothering him about a month ago. The fact he was having trouble speaking, however, didn't stop him from addressing 42 underserved children and their families who had gathered for a Thanksgiving feast. "I've been blessed with a lot in life," he said, "and I want to give back."

Rangers add Nathan as new closer

Back-to-back AL championships got the Texas Rangers another prize in veteran Joe Nathan. The Rangers' new closer was formally introduced by the team on Tuesday, his 37th birthday, with a $14.5 million deal, two-year deal that includes an option for a third year.

With the acquisition of the four-time All-Star closer who spent the last eight years in Minnesota, the Rangers will move hard-throwing right-hander Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation.

Nathan missed the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery and struggled to find his form with Minnesota this year. He went 2-1 with a 4.84 ERA and 14 saves in 48 appearances.


Kurt Busch loses his cool, then crew chief

Kurt Busch lost his second crew chief in three seasons. Penske Racing confirmed Tuesday that crew chief Steve Addington has left the organization. He joined Penske before the 2010 season after spending two seasons working with Busch's younger brother, Kyle. Addington guided the 2004 NASCAR champion to four victories and spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship the last two years.

News that Addington had left the team came the same day a video shot by a fan emerged on YouTube of Busch verbally abusing ESPN reporter Jerry Punch during Sunday's season finale at Homestead. Busch apologized, blaming his behavior on his poor race.

"Unfortunately, our result in the season-ending race at Homestead on Sunday was not what we had hoped for as a team," he said. "In my frustration with the loss of my transmission early in the race, I let my emotions get the better of me. I regret having done this and apologize to the sponsors of Penske Racing, to NASCAR, its fans, to the media and in particular, Dr. Jerry Punch."

Penske Racing apologized in its own statement and said the incident was being reviewed internally.

■ NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi lured a top engineer away from Hendrick Motorsports to be Juan Pablo Montoya's crew chief next season. Chris Heroy had been in the Hendrick organization since 2004, most recently as the lead engineer for both Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sports in the courts

New charges could change Sandusky's bail

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's status as a free man could change if more accusers surface and police file new charges, as his lawyer fears. Sandusky, now awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused eight boys over 15 years, could then find himself with a high bail he might not be able to pay, criminal defense lawyers said Tuesday.

Sandusky was released after his Nov. 5 arrest on $100,000 unsecured bail, meaning he didn't have to post any collateral to be freed. His attorney, Joe Amendola, told ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday that he was worried there may soon be new criminal allegations against his client.

Also Tuesday, Sandusky's preliminary hearing was rescheduled for Dec. 13 at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. It will be handled by an out-of-county jurist, Westmoreland County Senior District Judge Robert E. Scott.

The last word

National League MVP Ryan Braun said he had no problem with a pitcher, the Tigers' Justin Verlander, winning the AL MVP award:

"I think he was the single most dominant player in baseball this year. As a position player I'm biased to the fact that I think position players should be at the forefront of the award, but if you honestly look at what he accomplished, how much he meant to that team and how dominant he truly was you cannot make any argument against him winning that award."