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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Irving named NBA's top rookie - Penguins Big 3 - Top MLB Rookies

Irving named NBA's top rookie INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) -- Once Kyrie Irving finished cracking jokes, thanking Cleveland's fans, his teammates and coaches, he looked down from the podium at the person who promised this would happen. He was the NBA's Rookie of the Year. "This award is for us," Irving said to his father, Dred, who raised his son after his wife, Elizabeth, died 15 years ago. "We're bringing it back home and we're going to put it right on the mantle and we're going to put some flashing lights on it so it shines throughout the whole entire house." This season, Irving shined brightest. The 20-year-old ran away in voting by a nationwide media panel that could have handed in ballots with two months left in the season. There was really no other choice. Irving received 117 of 120 possible first-place votes from writers and broadcasters and finished with 592 points, more than three times as many as Minnesota's Ricky Rubio (170), who finished second despite missing most of the season with a knee injury. Denver's Kenneth Faried (129) was a distant third. Faried, San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and New York's Iman Shumpert received the other first-place votes, stopping Irving from joining Blake Griffin (2011), David Robinson (1990) and Ralph Sampson (1984) as the only players to win the award unanimously. Irving played beyond his years and above everyone's expectations - including his own - this season when he routinely took over games in the fourth quarter and renewed the hopes of a Cleveland franchise still putting together the pieces after LeBron James left as a free agent two summers ago. Irving always felt the award was within his reach. "It was a goal of mine," Irving said. "I kept it on the back burner. I knew as long as we won games and we beat great teams that it was going to come." The first pick in last year's draft, Irving led all rookies - and the Cavs - in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He also led first-year players in field-goal percentage (46.8), was second in assists (5.4) and became one of just six rookies in league history to average at least 18 points and five assists. However, it was the other elements of his game - a nasty crossover dribble, a fearless desire to get to the basket, and a clutch, cold-blooded instinct in the fourth quarter - that separated him from the others. Cavs coach Byron Scott knew Irving was special long before he made his pro debut. "The day we brought him in for his individual workout before the draft, I thought he was definitely the best player that we had," Scott said. Still, Irving's first season, delayed because of the league's labor lockout, began with some doubting whether he was deserving of the top pick or if Cleveland had made a mistake. Irving had played in just 11 games at Duke because of a toe injury. It didn't take him long for him to show the Cavs made a perfect choice. "When they drafted me, there were a lot of questions about my toe and everything, would he live up to the hype or whatever," he said. "I didn't pay any attention to all that, just being in these closed doors helped me have a vision and be focused every single day. I wasn't the most heralded No. 1 pick. I had my own goals and I had my own team goals." Irving made spectacular moves and game-winning shots and earned MVP honors at the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend in Orlando. But when asked what moment stood above all the others in a magical first season, Irving had a surprise answer. It came, of all places, in a huddle during a timeout at Indianapolis. With 4.4 seconds left and the Cavaliers tied 84-84 with the Pacers, Scott, who has formed a tight bond with his young star point guard, drew up a play for Irving to take the last shot even though he was playing just his third game as a pro. "I was surprised," Irving said. "We kind of knew each other. I didn't really know the bald-headed man. I just knew that when he told me it was a high screen and roll, I was like, `I'm going to do my best to get to the basket."' Irving's left-handed layup rolled out, and the Cavs lost in overtime. But Irving knew that from that moment on that the Cavaliers were his team and that Scott expected him to lead them. "Just him having that confidence in me was a stepping stone for me," he said. "It was a learning experience, and I needed it." A month later in Boston, with his father sitting courtside, Irving made up for the miss at Indiana. With the Cavs down by one, Irving, ignoring his failure in the previous situation, drove to the basket, split two defenders and flipped in a left-handed layup to beat the Celtics. Irving arrived with none of the superstar trappings. There was no entourage or multimillion dollar shoe contract, no cameras chronicling his every move. He often tossed the praise on others and minimized his role in victories. "One of his biggest attributes - you can ask all of his teammates - he's willing to give up a little bit of himself for the greater good of the team," said general manager Chris Grant. "That's truly what makes great leaders. That's what makes great people and great players." Irving appears to be the major piece the Cavs can build around, and they plan to get him some help next month with three of the top 34 picks in the draft. "He's great and the way he carries himself is really remarkable," said Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who opened his downtown casino Monday night. "He's 20 years old. He can't have a drink legally or come into our casino but he can do everything else." Irving, too, is excited about the future in Cleveland. "I know what we're building here is something special," he said, "and I'm here for the long haul." Room for Crosby, Staal and Malkin? Ray Shero, with his team long since bounced from the playoffs, has lots of work to do. Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal have one year left on their contracts, and Evgeni Malkin has two. Negotiations with Crosby and Staal can't begin until July 1, so there's no way of knowing precisely what they'll be asking for, but Shero reiterated that his goal is to retain all three. "I'd like to do that, if possible," he said. "We're looking at hopefully getting extensions with [Crosby and Staal]." While it is conceivable that Staal, the team's No. 3 center, might want to play elsewhere so he can fill a more offense-oriented role, he apparently has not said anything of the sort to the Penguins.
MLB Rookie Player Rankings si.com Batters 1. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF - New York Mets Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 10 Nieuwenhuis, whose last name will forevermore be a copy-and-paste job, is putting up strong offensive numbers in 2012 (.302/.379/.422), and he's also seen time at all three outfield positions. That's a highly useful body of work so far. Key Stats: 116 AB, 2 HR, .302 AVG, 12 RBI, 19 R, 2 SB 2. Yonder Alonso, 1B - San Diego Padres Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 15 Despite playing his home games in a park that's very much working against him, Alonso boasts an OBP of .370, and he's also on pace for a whopping 54 doubles. Key Stats: 120 AB, 1 HR, .300 AVG, 10 RBI, 7 R, 1 SB 3. Zack Cozart, SS - Cincinnati Reds Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 11 Cozart, Cincy's rookie shortstop, is batting .254/.307/.423 on the season, which makes for solid production by the standards of the position. As well, his advanced defensive numbers are quite strong so far, although the sample size is of course small. Key Stats: 130 AB, 3 HR, .254 AVG, 8 RBI, 19 R, 1 SB 4. Matt Carpenter, 1B - St. Louis Cardinals Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 13 Carpenter's strong minor-league dossier has carried over to the majors. He's slugging .500 on the year, and he's seen action at four different positions. In a related matter, Carpenter's been one of the more valuable super-subs around. Key Stats: 84 AB, 2 HR, .274 AVG, 17 RBI, 12 R, 0 SB 5. Yoenis Cespedes, CF - Oakland Athletics Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 17 Ballyhooed import Cespedes has shown light-tower power on occasion and flashed speed on the bases. Thus far, he looks stretched defensively in center, but the home run stroke is for real. He's presently on the DL with a hand injury. Key Stats: 106 AB, 5 HR, .245 AVG, 21 RBI, 10 R, 4 SB 6. Jesus Montero, DH - Seattle Mariners Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 8 Montero, like Alonso, calls home a park that's pretty hostile toward his skills as a hitter, but he's holding his own thus far. Montero has a 101 OPS+, and he's logged 125.0 innings behind the plate. For as long as you've heard about the former Yankee prospect, it's easy to forget that he's still just 22 years of age. Key Stats: 126 AB, 5 HR, .262 AVG, 17 RBI, 12 R, 0 SB 7. Mike Trout, CF - Los Angeles Angels Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 33 Trout isn't short on press clippings, and thus far in 2012 the performance is justifying them. His batting line of .283/.344/.491 is praiseworthy, particularly in today's depressed run-scoring environment, and his once-in-a-generation speed provides value in a number of ways. If Trout had been called up earlier and thus logged more playing time, then he'd be higher on this list. Key Stats: 53 AB, 2 HR, .283 AVG, 7 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB 8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B - Boston Red Sox Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 23 Sample size? Very small. Productivity to date? Very good. Presently, Middlebrooks is hitting .304/.347/.674 with four homers in just 49 plate appearances. Like Trout, it's playing time that's holding him down in the rankings. Unfortunately for Middlebrooks, he's likely to be optioned once Kevin Youkilis returns. Key Stats: 46 AB, 4 HR, .304 AVG, 13 RBI, 9 R, 1 SB 9. Bryce Harper, LF - Washington Nationals Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 39 It's hard to recall a player this hyped in advance of his big-league debut. While Harper's overall numbers aren't superficially impressive, they are impressive for a 19-year-old. Actually, the mere presence of a 19-year-old on a major league roster is an indicator of future stardom. He's provided plenty of moments that hint at his limitless potential. Key Stats: 56 AB, 1 HR, .232 AVG, 4 RBI, 8 R, 1 SB 10. Tyler Pastornicky, SS - Atlanta Braves Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 17 The offensive numbers leave something to be desired, as do the early defensive indicators. But Pastornicky has played regularly and stabilized a position that's pretty key to the Braves, what with his being stuck in the infield between the 40-year-old Chipper Jones and the lumbering Dan Uggla. Key Stats: 104 AB, 1 HR, .269 AVG, 11 RBI, 14 R, 1 SB Pitchers 1. Drew Smyly, SP - Detroit Tigers Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 55 Not only is the ERA an impressive 2.31, but Smyly is also whiffing almost a batter per inning (while issuing just 10 unintentional walks) and generating a high percentage of swinging strikes. The young lefty changes speeds well with his fastball and effectively works in his slider. He's been one of the pleasant surprises to date in 2012. Key Stats: 39.0 IP, 1-0 W-L, 0 SV, 2.31 ERA, 38 Ks, 11 BB 2. Yu Darvish, SP - Texas Rangers Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 16 Cope with it: he's a rookie. Darvish has struggled with his command and control at times, but the ERA is under 3.00, and the K rate is second in the AL. He's looking like the ace-in-making he was billed as. Key Stats: 44.1 IP, 5-1 W-L, 0 SV, 2.84 ERA, 51 Ks, 24 BB 3. Wei-Yin Chen, SP - Baltimore Orioles Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 38 While Darvish is hogging the attention as import hurlers from the Pacific Rim go, Chen also merits a mention. In six starts, Chen has yet to allow more than three earned in any outing, and his 2012 ERA stands at 2.43. Chen has a full repertoire and good sink on just about every pitch he throws. He's still just 26, so there's more of the same to come. Key Stats: 37.0 IP, 3-0 W-L, 0 SV, 2.43 ERA, 28 Ks, 12 BB 4. Wade Miley, SP - Arizona Diamondbacks Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 74 Not much has gone right for the Snakes in 2012, but Miley's early success is an exception. The ERA stands at 2.76, and he's given up only one home run in 32.2 innings pitched. Miley also boasts a groundball rate north of 50 percent. He almost certainly won't keep it up, but he's helped stabilize the Arizona rotation thus far. Key Stats: 32.2 IP, 3-1 W-L, 0 SV, 2.76 ERA, 22 Ks, 11 BB 5. David Phelps, RP - New York Yankees Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 114 If not for the return of Andy Pettitte, the 25-year-old Phelps would still be part of the Yankee rotation. He's given up just nine runs in 27.1 innings, and he's positioned himself as a valuable swing man. Every staff could use a David Phelps. Key Stats: 27.1 IP, 1-1 W-L, 0 SV, 2.96 ERA, 23 Ks, 11 BB 6. Jarrod Parker, SP - Oakland Athletics Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 78 Parker's peripherals aren't terribly impressive so far, and his velocity is down from advertised levels. However, he's keeping runs off the board (2.10 ERA after four starts). While there's certainly some luck and good defense supporting that ERA, it's still made him valuable to the Oakland cause. Key Stats: 25.2 IP, 1-1 W-L, 0 SV, 2.1 ERA, 17 Ks, 12 BB 7. Ryan Cook, RP - Oakland Athletics Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 11 Cook, who came to Oakland as a supporting actor in the Trevor Cahill-Jarrod Parker swap, has yet to allow a run in 17.2 innings this season. The right-handed reliever has a nifty power arsenal (mid-90s fastball, mid-80s slider, with good lateral movement on both) that should serve him well moving forward. But most of all, yeah, no runs allowed in 2012. Key Stats: 17.2 IP, 0-0 W-L, 0 SV, 0.0 ERA, 17 Ks, 8 BB 8. Scott Diamond, SP - Minnesota Twins Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 57 In two major league starts, Diamond has yet to allow a run and has struck out 10 against only one walk. His minor-league record suggests he's over his head at the moment, and the sample size is miniscule. Still, so far, so good. Key Stats: 14.0 IP, 2-0 W-L, 0 SV, 0.0 ERA, 10 Ks, 1 BB 9. Randall Delgado, SP - Atlanta Braves Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 80 Delgado has managed a sub-4.00 ERA so far in 2012, and while the control hasn't been there, the K rate is solid, and he's getting ground balls. Long-term, he should continue to be a serviceable major league starter but not much more than that. Key Stats: 40.1 IP, 2-3 W-L, 0 SV, 3.79 ERA, 35 Ks, 18 BB 10. Tommy Milone, SP - Oakland Athletics Previous Rank: NR | By Position: 33 Milone hasn't been terribly consistent this season, but his overall numbers are solid enough. Given his limited ceiling, an average-ish ERA is about the best you can expect. But that's fine at the back of a rotation. Key Stats: 43.2 IP, 5-2 W-L, 0 SV, 3.92 ERA, 25 Ks, 12 BB

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