Athletics

Sidney Crosby signs massive new contract

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Sidney Crosby signs massive new contract

From Comcast SportsNet
The Pittsburgh Penguins and superstar center Sidney Crosby agreed to a 12-year contract extension on Thursday that leaves little doubt Crosby has overcome the concussion-like symptoms that sidelined him for most of the last two NHL seasons. The deal keeps the 24-year-old Crosby in Pittsburgh to 2025 and gives the team some room to play in the free-agent market. Crosby, whose previous deal was set to expire next summer, will be paid around 8.7 million a season. Crosby will officially sign the extension on Sunday. "We are grateful for all that Sidney Crosby has done for our franchise since coming to Pittsburgh in 2005, both on and off the ice, and we look forward to having him in a Penguins uniform for the rest of his career," owner Mario Lemieux said in a statement. The 2009 MVP has been limited to just 28 games in the last 18 months after sustaining a concussion in the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals in January 2011. Crosby finished with eight goals and 29 assists last season and added three goals in a first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia. He stressed throughout the playoffs he had every intention of remaining in Pittsburgh, where he broke in after being the top overall pick in the 2005 draft and quickly developed into the best player in the world, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup when he led the Penguins to the title in 2009. General manager Ray Shero said during last week's NHL draft he expected Crosby to work with the team to give them some flexibility. Crosby opted not to take a raise over his current contract despite the prospect of the salary cap rising over the course of the next decade. The deal gives the Penguins leeway when free agency begins on July 1. Pittsburgh is targeting at least one high-profile forward after trading Jordan Staal to Carolina last week. Crosby is good friends with New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise and the cap room cleared by the Staal trade and the trade of defenseman Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix puts Pittsburgh around 15 million under the 70.2 million cap for the 2012-13 season. It also gives Crosby and the Penguins peace of mind heading into the future. The team stuck by Crosby during his lengthy battle with concussions despite rumblings about his commitment as his absence stretched from weeks to months. At one point the players all donned "C"s on their practice jerseys as a sign of solidarity. The new deal means Crosby will be a part of the team's core for the foreseeable future. "In an era when players often move from team to team, it's gratifying to see a young man who is so committed to one city and one franchise," Penguins president and David Morehouse said. "He's meant so much to the Penguins, to the growth of youth hockey in Pittsburgh, and to the NHL and the game of hockey in general. It's a tremendous feeling to know he'll be here through 2025." Crosby took hits to his head in consecutive games in January 2011 that forced him to sit out the rest of the 2010-11 season and an additional 60 games last winter. Russian center Evgeni Malkin blossomed in Crosby's absence, winning the MVP and the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer in 2011-12. While the sublimely talented Malkin gives the Penguins one of the league's best one-two punches, there's no issue over who will have the final say in the dressing room. "He's a very special player and knowing that he will be here long-term is outstanding news for our players, coaches, staff and fans," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. "Sidney also brings those extra dimensions as our captain, with his leadership in the room and on the ice." Crosby has 223 goals and 386 assists in his seven seasons, leading the NHL with 120 points in 2006-07 and 51 goals in 2009-10. He has added 90 points in 68 playoff games, including a league-high 15 goals during Pittsburgh's run to the 2009 Cup.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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USATSI

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.