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Leyland: Don't even think it

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Leyland: Don't even think it

Tigers manager Jim Leyland made one thing clear before even touching on the topic of tough postseason moves: ``I'm not going to pinch hit for Cabrera.''

Nope, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera would be batting for the Tigers with the season on the line, all right. Even after Yankees manager Joe Girardi's switch to pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez in place of Alex Rodriguez paid off huge with a stunning two-homer night in Wednesday's 3-2, 12-inning victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

``You have to be prepared for everything. And you try to be prepared for everything,'' Leyland said before Game 5 of the AL division series in Oakland.

Leyland spent the afternoon leading up to Thursday's game watching baseball with his wife at the team hotel. But he still had plenty of thoughts about two thrillers on each coast a night earlier.

Ibanez hit a tying homer in the bottom of the ninth and a game-ending drive in the 12th.

``So far it's been a great postseason,'' Leyland said. ``What happened last night in New York is mind-boggling.''

Detroit led its best-of-five division series 2-0 when it arrived in Oakland, but lost the next two. The A's rallied for a 4-3 victory against closer Jose Valverde on Wednesday in another dramatic finish for the low-budget club.

Leyland has seen it all in 21 years as a manager and knows not to get too high or too low at this stage.

``I don't want to sound casual about this kind of stuff because, don't get me wrong, the game broke our heart,'' Leyland said. ``But at the same time, you learn over the years that, like I always use the expression, you can't chew yesterday's breakfast. The game is over. They beat us. They earned it.''

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TEDDY WINS AGAIN: It's been a big couple of weeks for Teddy Roosevelt.

First the 10-foot-tall foam rendering of the ol' Rough Rider finally got to win the Presidents Race mascot contest at Nationals Park. Now one of his speeches was used to fire up the Washington Nationals before they went out and forced a Game 5 in their NL division series by beating the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 Thursday.

``Our backs were against the wall. I wanted to say something that brought us together, a band of brothers who go out fighting and see what happens,'' said Mark DeRosa, the veteran utility player who was left off Washington's playoff roster but is a key presence in the clubhouse.

He read from Roosevelt's ``Man in the Arena'' speech, delivered in Paris in 1910, which includes the lines: ``The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ... and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.''

DeRosa used the karaoke machine he often speaks through to kid around with teammates before games, sprinkling his speech with swear words as players got dressed Thursday.

He said right fielder Jayson Werth ``heard it and came running.''

Hours later, Werth won Game 4 and kept Washington's season going with a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning.

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REMOTE CHANCE: Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth had no problem avoiding the constant TV replays of Raul Ibanez's two homers that led the Yankees to a 3-2, 12-inning victory in Game 3.

His wife was with him in New York.

When his wife traveled with the team, McLouth has little chance at watching sports recap shows.

``I can promise you we're not watching many highlights after the game, unless they show them on the Food Network,'' McLouth said.

McLouth has a team-high four hits in 13 at-bats in the postseason entering Game 4 but he doesn't get control of the remote in the hotel.

``I think we stuck with `Property Brothers' last night, so I haven't seen the replay yet,'' he said. ``It's not something you want to sit there and watch 10 times in your room afterwards.''

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SHIFTING SPOTS: Oakland's Josh Donaldson looked like a natural third baseman when he dived into foul territory to rob Detroit's Jhonny Peralta of a hit late in Game 4 of their AL division series.

Yet Donaldson, a catcher by trade, had never played third base in the majors until this season but has excelled there for the Athletics since being recalled from the minors in August.

``Josh Donaldson is a great athlete,'' manager Bob Melvin said. ``His position is catcher, but he could probably play anywhere on the diamond. He's a football player, baseball player, truly a guy that could probably play anywhere on the diamond. We're lucky to have those athletes.''

Donaldson is far from alone in learning a new position in Oakland's patchwork infield. Outfielder Brandon Moss became a power-hitting first baseman who looks natural scooping throws in the dirt and shortstop Cliff Pennington moved to second base late in the season.

Only shortstop Stephen Drew is playing his natural position in the playoffs for the A's.

``It's been a little bit of a work-in-progress,'' Melvin said. ``I think our defense is as good as it's been all year now.''

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

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USA Today Sports

Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

Orioles new general manager Mike Elias is a busy man out in Las Vegas. Not only is he looking to add much needed talent to Baltimore's roster but he is also searching for a new manager. Elias interviewed six candidates, including Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, for the vacancy. On Monday, Elias said they were “pretty far along in the process.”

Then the reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Orioles had found their man. 

For a second straight year, Joe Maddon's bench coach has landed a managerial job (Davey Martinez). 

But, in the words of College Gameday's Lee Corso "Not so fast my friend!"

Does that mean Hyde is not the manager? Not necessarily. It likely means Elias wants the news to come out on his terms.

 

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Saved! Baines surprise pick for Hall, Lee Smith also chosen

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Saved! Baines surprise pick for Hall, Lee Smith also chosen

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Harold Baines was given a save as big as any Lee Smith ever posted.

In a vote sure to spark renewed cries of cronyism at Cooperstown, Baines surprisingly was picked for the baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday after never coming close in any previous election.

"Very shocked," the career .289 hitter said on a conference call.

Smith, who held the major league record for saves when he retired, was an easy pick when the Today's Game Era Committee met at the winter meetings.

It took 12 votes for election by the 16-member panel -- Smith was unanimous, Baines got 12 and former outfielder and manager Lou Piniella fell just short with 11.

George Steinbrenner, Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel all received fewer than five votes.

Smith and Baines both debuted in Chicago during the 1980 season. Smith began with the Cubs and went on to record 478 saves while Baines started out with the White Sox and had 2,866 hits.

Baines had 384 home runs and 1,628 RBIs in a 22-year career -- good numbers, but not stacking up against the greats of his day. He never drew more than 6.1 percent in five elections by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, far from the 75 percent required.

"I wasn't expecting this day to come," the six-time All-Star said.

The Hall board-appointed panel included longtime White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

"I'm glad he was on that committee this year to help to get into the Hall of Fame," Baines said.

Reinsdorf praised his former player in a statement. Baines currently serves as a team ambassador in community relations department of the White Sox.

"So happy for Harold. He's a great player and a great human being," Reinsdorf said. "I am so honored that I was a member of the committee. He deserved to be in long ago. I am just so excited."

"Not only was Harold one of my favorite players to watch, but I have nothing but admiration for him as a player and as a human being," he said.

Tony La Russa, Baines' first big league manager, also was on the panel that elected him.

In the past, Phil Rizzuto and Bill Mazeroski were among the players who benefited from friendly faces on Veterans Committees to reach the Hall. That panel has been revamped over the years, and the Today's Game Era group was created as part of changes in 2014.

"The era committees were established as a sort of a court of appeals for an opportunity in the event that over time it was felt that maybe somebody slipped through the cracks," Hall President Jeff Idelson said. "And in the case of someone who received 6 percent of the vote in the BBWAA election, the reason that may have happened could be for many, many reasons."

Baines, now 59, had a smooth, consistent, left-handed stroke. But he never finished higher than ninth in an MVP vote, and never was among the top five AL hitters in the yearly batting race. His single-season high was 29 home runs at a time when lots of players hit more.

Smith's fastball helped him become a seven-time All-Star in an 18-year-old career. Known for his slow trudges from the bullpen to the mound, he owned the saves record when he retired during the 1997 season while with Montreal. Trevor Hoffman and then Mariano Rivera reset the mark.

Smith never reached 51 percent in 15 BBWAA elections. Still, he kept believing his day would come.

"I'm pretty patient, though, and I think I waited long enough. But it's sweeter," he said on a conference call. "You look at those things, well, OK, who's on the ballot this year? Who's on the ballot next year? But I'd never, never, never give up hope.

"And then when they started with the second-chance ballot, I thought my chances got a little better. This probably today was probably the (most) nervous I've been with this Hall of Fame voting thing," he said.

Smith became the seventh pitcher who primarily was a reliever to make the Hall, joining Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Hoyt Wilhelm. The 61-year-old has long worked for the San Francisco Giants as a minor league pitching coach and instructor.

Baines was a designated hitter for much of his career after knee trouble ended his days in the outfield. DHs have struggled to gain backing from Hall voters. Baines joined Frank Thomas as the only players in the Hall who spent more than half his games as a DH.

"Everything I hear or read is DH is really not part of the game, I guess. But I disagree. But maybe this will the open up the doors for some more DHs," Baines said.

Both closers and DHs could see the numbers increase again very shortly.

Rivera is eligible for the first time and big-hitting DH Edgar Martinez will be back on the ballot when results of the next BBWAA election are announced Jan. 22.

Induction ceremonies are scheduled for July 21 at Cooperstown, New York.

Between now and then, there's certain to be more debate about who else should be in the Hall. Drug-tainted Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are on the upcoming BBWAA ballot, influential players' union head Marvin Miller has been denied seven times by various committees, and admitted steroids user Mark McGwire wasn't among Sunday's candidates.