Patriots

Cabrera easily wins A.L. MVP Award; Posey wins in N.L.

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Cabrera easily wins A.L. MVP Award; Posey wins in N.L.

NEW YORK -- Miguel Cabrera has a Most Valuable Player award to go with his Triple Crown. And Buster Posey has an MVP prize to put alongside his second World Series ring.

The pair of batting champions won baseball's top individual honors Thursday by large margins.

Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, won the AL MVP by receiving 22 of 28 first-place votes and 362 points from a panel of Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The Detroit third baseman easily beat Los Angeles Angels rookie center fielder Mike Trout, who had six firsts and 281 points.

Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI to become the first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Cabrera also led the league with a .606 slugging percentage for the A.L. champion Tigers.

Some of the more sabermetric-focused fans supported Trout, who hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI, and he led the majors with 129 runs and 49 steals and topped all players in WAR - Wins Above Replacement. Trout won A.L. Rookie of the Year earlier in the week.

"I was a little concerned. I thought the new thing about computer stuff, I thought Trout's going to win because they put his numbers over me," Cabrera said. "I was like, relax . . . if he wins, it's going to be fair because he had a great season."

His victory is a win for the traditional statistics.

"At the end of the game, it's going to be the same baseball played back in the day," Cabrera said.

Posey, at a charity event at his mother's school in Leesburg, Va., followed the A.L. debate and Googled to find out the winner.

"I think it intrigued everybody," he said. "As a fan of the game, it was a fun race to watch."

With three fewer hits or two less homers, Cabrera would have fallen short of the Triple Crown. The last four Triple Crown winners have been voted MVP, including Mickey Mantle in 1956 and Frank Robinson in 1966.

"I think winning the Triple Crown had a lot to do with me winning this honor," he said.

Cabrera became the second straight Detroit player voted MVP, following pitcher Justin Verlander in 2011, and was the first Venezuelan to earn the honor. Countryman Pablo Sandoval took home World Series MVP honors last month.

Before the season, Cabrera switched from first base to third to make way for Prince Fielder, who signed with Detroit as a free agent.

"I focused too much in spring training about defense, defense, defense," Cabrera said. "I forgot a little bit about hitting, about getting in the cage like I normally do."

In spring training, Posey's focus was just to get back on the field. His 2011 season was cut short by a collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on May 25 that resulted in a fractured bone in Posey's lower left leg and three torn ankle ligaments.

Posey not only returned, he became the first catcher in 70 years to win the N.L. batting title and helped San Francisco win its second World Series championship in three seasons.

"I definitely have a deeper appreciation for being able to play baseball," he said. "I've seen that it can be taken away quick."

The first catcher in four decades to win the NL award, Posey got 27 of 32 firsts and 422 points to outdistance 2011 winner Ryan Braun of Milwaukee, who was second with 285 points.

Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen (245) was third, followed by St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina (241).

Posey, a boyish-looking 25, was the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year as the Giants won their first World Series since 1954. This year he set career highs with a .336 average, 24 homers and 103 RBI as San Francisco won again.

Posey took the N.L. batting title after teammate Melky Cabrera requested a rules change that disqualified him. Cabrera, who hit .346, missed the final 45 games of the regular-season while serving a suspension for a positive testosterone test and would have won the batting crown if the rule hadn't been changed.

Ernie Lombardi had been the previous catcher to capture the NL batting championship, in 1942.

"I think anybody that has caught before understands the grind of catching, not only the physical, the nicks, the wear and tear of squatting for nine innings night in, day out, but just the mental grind of working a pitching staff," Posey said. "It's demanding."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”

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