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Yanks, Cano still battling the Rays for best in A.L.

Yanks, Cano still battling the Rays for best in A.L.

By BOB DUTTON

Athlon Sports Contributor

Is it now or never this autumn for the Rays?

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg isn’t backing away from plans to slash the club’s $72 million payroll before next season.

“No question,” Sternberg confirmed. “Nothing can change that. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can happen between now and April that can change that unless (manager) Joe Maddon hits the lottery and wants to donate it or I hit the lottery.”

The cuts are likely to total more than $20 million and suggest the Rays will do little to retain pending free agents such as Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Carlos Peña.

Sternberg said the Rays “can’t come close” to turning a profit this season, even if they win the World Series, and he is “not optimistic” that even a title will produce a significant increase in season-ticket sales.

The grim conclusion, from Sternberg’s words, is the Tampa Bay area hasn’t sufficiently supported what might be the game’s best young collection of talent.

“We put everything in place to have it happen,” Sternberg said, “to put us in a position so we’d be able to keep adding, keep signing, (doing) more long-term deals, stuff like that.

“It wasn’t meant to be.”

 

Curtain falls on Southside circus

It appears general manager Kenny Williams won his Southside staredown with manager Ozzie Guillen now that Guillen is declaring his desire to remain with the White Sox “for the rest of my life.”

Guillen made his announcement Monday after brief meetings with Williams and club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

So ends what seemed a power play by Guillen to get Williams to fire him (but still have to pay him) or wrangle a contract extension on a deal that already runs through next season and contains a club option for 2012.

Guillen stirred the pot by saying he wouldn’t mind being fired because lots of managing jobs figure to come open this winter. He even hinted he might be interested in the cross-town Cubs if he found himself seeking work.

Williams returned each volley.

“I am not planning on making a managerial change before next season,” he declared. “That said, with one more year left on his contract and another with the team option, if those are terms he’s no longer happy with, I understand and respect him enough to let him out of the deal.’’

In short, Guillen could leave but only by quitting and forfeiting the remainder of his contract. Also, Williams made it clear that no extension is forthcoming any time soon.

“It’s just not the right time,’’ he said. “There is a year left on his contract, two years from the team’s perspective, unless he would like to decide otherwise. If he does, I’ve talked to Jerry, and we agree if this is something he doesn’t want, we’re not going to stop him.’’

Message received.

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Big Papi’s future in Boston

Let’s face it, whatever his early-season struggles, designated hitter David Ortiz’s final numbers are going to be pretty solid with 31 homers and 100 RBIs (through Monday) even if his average has slipped some from his peak years.

There seems no way now the Red Sox won’t exercise their $12.5 million option to retain him for another year – although club officials continue to float that idea that Big Papi needs to accept a pay cut, perhaps to $6-8 million, to remain in Boston.

That figures to be a tough sell.

“I took a pay cut already,” he said. “Five years ago. Think about it.”

Ortiz’s expiring four-year, $52 million deal, which includes the 2011 option, made him the game’s highest-paid DH but was still considered a below-market deal when signed in April 2006.

While Ortiz has long expressed a desire to conclude his career with the Red Sox, he seems unlikely to swallow a major cut.

“If I'm not here,” he warned, “I’ll be somewhere. I’ll guarantee you that.”

 

Quick hits

• The Mariners have scored 14 runs in Felix Hernandez’s 12 losses. That’s 14 runs total; not 14 while he was in the game.

• Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera leads the league with 126 RBIs despite also leading the league with 32 intentional walks. The last player to lead the AL in RBIs and intentional walks was Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997.

• Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista leads the majors with 52 homers and is the first player to set a franchise homer mark since Prince Fielder (50) and Carlos Pena (46) in 2007 for the Brewers and Rays. 

• Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton hasn’t played since Sept. 4 but has sufficient plate appearances to win the batting title with his .361 average.

• Detroit’s Jim Leyland, at 1,492-1,513, recently became only the fourth manager in history to reach 3,000 games with a losing record. The others are Connie Mack (3,731-3,948), Bucky Harris (2,158-2,219) and Gene Mauch (1,902-2,037).

• Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis has 44 doubles and is just the third player in history to have 43 or more in four straight seasons. The other two are Joe Medwick (1935-39) and Tris Speaker (1920-23). Both are in the Hall of Fame.

• Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu is on pace for career-lows in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. But he will finish with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases for the ninth time. Only Barry Bonds (10) and Bobby Bonds (11) have done it more.

• Michael Brantley’s recent 19-game hitting streak was the longest by an Indians rookie since Larry Doby posted a 21-game run in 1948. Brantley would have had a 27-game streak if not for going zero for one as a defensive replacement on Aug. 29.

• It seems fitting that Mariano Rivera was the last player to leave the dedication ceremony for the new George Steinbrenner monument at Yankee Stadium. The game’s premier closer lingered to say a prayer.

• Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has 200-plus hits for a 10th straight season. Ty Cobb was the only other American League player to have nine 200-hit seasons in a career.

• The Twins’ top two minor-league affiliates – Class AAA Rochester (49-95) and Class New Britain (44-98) – posted the two worst two records in the minors leagues.

• B.J. Upton and Carlos Peña of the Rays are the first set of teammates in history to reach 150 strikeouts in consecutive seasons.

• Credit Angels DH Hideki Matsui for knowing how to put on a contract drive. He is batting .366 (37 for 101) since Aug. 14 with 16 extra-base hits (nine doubles, one triple and six home runs).

• Manny Ramirez has two extra-base hits and two RBIs in 66 at-bats since joining the White Sox.

• Blue Jays rookie Kyle Drabek is the first pitcher to wear No. 4 since Mike Fornieles of the 1952 Washington Senators.

• The Tigers don’t believe second baseman Carlos Guillen will be ready for the 2011 season opener after undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his left knee.

• The Orioles need just one victory in their final six games to avoid a 100-loss season, which doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment until remembering they were 32-73 when Buck Showalter became manager on Aug. 2.

• Jon Lester needs to beat the White Sox on Thursday to become the first Red Sox lefty to post 20 victories since Mel Parnell won 21 in 1953.

Bob Dutton