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Judge wins AL MVP in runaway; Goldschmidt takes NL prize

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NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge’s record-setting season with the New York Yankees turned that AL MVP debate into a decisive verdict.

Paul Goldschmidt’s steady production for the St. Louis Cardinals made him the clear choice in the National League.

And after coming in second before, both prodigious sluggers powered their way to their first MVP awards Thursday night.

“It’s tough to put in words,” Judge said on MLB Network, surrounded by his beaming wife, parents and agents. “It’s an incredible, incredible moment. A lot of hard work throughout the years to get to this point.”

After hitting 62 home runs to break the American League record, Judge easily beat out Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani in an MVP race some thought might be close.

The 6-foot-7 outfielder received 28 of 30 first-place votes and two seconds for 410 points from a Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel. Ohtani, last year’s winner, was picked first on two ballots and second on the other 28 for 280 points.

Yordan Alvarez of the World Series champion Houston Astros finished third.

Judge acknowledged feeling “extremely nervous” about the announcement, calling Ohtani “by far one of the best players on this planet.”

“You never want to assume anything,” Judge said. “Both those guys had incredible years.”

Goldschmidt won the NL honor for the first time after a couple of close calls earlier in his career. The first baseman garnered 22 of 30 first-place votes and eight seconds for 380 points from a separate BBWAA panel.

“It’s a great honor. But it isn’t just about me,” Goldschmidt said. “I mean, there’s been so many people that have helped me.”

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado finished second with 291 points after getting seven first-place votes and 13 seconds.

Nolan Arenado, teammates with Goldschmidt on the NL Central champion Cardinals, came in third with 232 points. Arenado was picked first on one ballot, second on two and third on 15.

Goldschmidt gave the Cardinals their 18th MVP, second among big league teams to the Yankees (21).

Now a free agent, Judge broke the AL record of 61 homers set by Yankees slugger Roger Maris in 1961.

The tallest MVP in major league history, Judge also led the majors in runs (133), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111), extra-base hits (90) and total bases (391) to help the Yankees win the AL East. He tied for the big league lead with 131 RBIs and was second in the AL with a .311 batting average.

Ohtani put together perhaps the greatest two-way season in baseball history for a third-place Angels team that finished 73-89.

The superstar from Japan went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 28 starts on the mound covering 166 innings. At the plate, he batted .273 with 34 homers, 95 RBIs and an .875 OPS.

Alvarez, the Houston slugger who launched a go-ahead homer in the clinching game of the World Series, hit .306 with 37 home runs, 97 RBIs and a 1.019 OPS.

Judge was AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, when he finished a distant second in MVP balloting to Houston second baseman Jose Altuve.

The 35-year-old Goldschmidt batted .317 with 35 home runs, 115 RBIs and a league-leading .981 OPS this season. He had 41 doubles and scored 106 runs while compiling a .404 on-base percentage and topping the league in slugging percentage (.578).

“I think definitely as you age, you have to adapt, and that’s some of what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried to get ahead of it,” Goldschmidt said. “You can’t just try to do the same thing you did the year before. But yeah, kind of the stigma that as you get older, you’re going to keep getting worse. I mean, nobody likes that. They don’t like being told you can’t do something, so it’s definitely motivation.”

The seven-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner was runner-up for NL MVP in 2013 and 2015, then finished third in 2017 — all with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He came in sixth last year with the Cardinals.

“I never felt like I was missing something,” Goldschmidt said. “I felt like I had some great years throughout my career, and some other guys in those individual years had played better than me and won the MVP.”

Machado batted .298 with 32 homers, 102 RBIs and an .898 OPS. He had 37 doubles and scored 100 runs to lead the Padres into the playoffs with a wild-card berth.

Arenado hit .293 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs, sparkling on defense at third base again to earn a 10th consecutive Gold Glove to begin his career. He had 42 doubles and an .891 OPS.

Powered by Goldschmidt, Arenado and a resurgent Albert Pujols, the Cardinals went 93-69 and won their second division title in the last four years. They were swept at home by the NL champion Philadelphia Phillies in the wild-card round.

Balloting was conducted before the postseason.

“Whether I won this or not, it was going to be a great year,” Goldschmidt said. “This was my best year and the most fun I had, playing with Nolan and Albert and so many guys we had. So, it was just incredible.”

Goldschmidt gets a $1.5 million bonus in his contract for winning the MVP award, while Arenado earns $50,000 for coming in third.

Alvarez nets $75,000 for his third-place finish.

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Source: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-san-diego-st-louis-cardinals-baseball-0cebd2be901e3309f64c8fd05c0e825a

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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