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Veteran skippers Francona, Showalter voted Managers of Year

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Terry Francona of the Cleveland Guardians and Buck Showalter of the New York Mets trace their beginnings as major league managers to a time when starting pitchers still threw complete games, defensive shifts were rare and stats like WAR, WHIP, OPS and FIP weren’t part of baseball’s everyday lingo.

Times have changed, but the veteran skippers keep winning games.

Francona and Showalter were voted Managers of the Year on Tuesday night, improving their already sparkling resumes.

Showalter — who narrowly won the National League award in a wide-open race — is just the third person to take the prize four times and the first to do it with four different franchises. He won in the AL with the New York Yankees in 1994, Texas Rangers in 2004 and Baltimore Orioles in 2014.

The other four-time winners are Hall of Famers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.

“Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Showalter said. “You still have to do the same things to be successful in our game. We’ve just got a lot of different ways to verify some of the guts that you have. There’s a lot more stuff analytically that you can use to verify what your eyes and your experience may tell you. There’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat.”

Showalter received eight of 30 first-place votes, 10 second-place votes and 77 total points, edging Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts, who finished second. Roberts also earned eight-first-place votes but had just four second-place votes for 57 points.

Brian Snitker, who won in 2018, finished third with 55 points after his Atlanta Braves erased a big deficit and chased down the Mets to win the NL East. He received seven first-place votes in balloting by a Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel.

Showalter guided New York to the second-best regular season in franchise history, finishing 101-61 for a 24-win improvement over 2021. He’s the first Mets manager to win the award, which has been presented since 1983.

The 66-year-old skipper brought stability and gravitas to a franchise that had been saddled with on- and off-the-field issues over the past several seasons.

Showalter credited general manager Billy Eppler and the rest of the organization with hiring the right people.

“That’s why you’re so picky about who you surround yourself with,” Showalter said. “Realizing you don’t have all the answers, but as a group you can be really strong if you have an open mind and open ears. Sometimes your actions speak so loudly you can’t hear a word somebody says.

“You can sit around and pop your gums a lot, or you can listen and understand the end game you’re all trying to get to.”

After leading their division nearly all season, the Mets settled for the top NL wild card and lost to San Diego at home in the opening round of the playoffs.

Francona won the AL award for the third time in 10 seasons. He received 17 of 30 first-place votes and nine second-place votes for 112 points from the BBWAA panel.

Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde finished second — earning nine first-place votes and 79 points — after leading the Orioles to a 31-win turnaround. Seattle’s Scott Servais was third with one first-place vote, eight second-place votes and 14 third-place votes. He led the Mariners back to the postseason this year, breaking a playoff drought that lasted two decades.

A two-time World Series winner with Boston, Francona’s 10th season in Cleveland may have been his best managing job. He’s the ninth person to win the award three times.

“It should be considered an organizational award, because that’s how I feel,” Francona said. “You start hearing people talk about you personally, it makes you a little uneasy, but for the things that it allows me to brag about our organization, that makes me really happy.”

Baseball’s youngest team, the Guardians unexpectedly won the AL Central, overtaking the Chicago White Sox in September and running away with the division. Cleveland then swept Tampa Bay in the wild-card round before losing in five games to the Yankees in the AL Division Series.

Voting was conducted before the postseason.

Francona made it through the season after major health issues forced him to leave the team in 2020 and 2021. The 63-year-old said he was re-energized by his young team, which had 17 players make their big league debuts this season.

He intends to return in 2023, but Francona and the Guardians have an open agreement that would allow him to step aside if he needed.

Cy Young Award winners will be announced on Wednesday, and the league MVPs on Thursday.

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

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Source: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-sports-dusty-baker-scott-servais-baseball-cd2641b566de33229e4b2e0c2a822cdd

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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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