Tigers' Cabrera, Giants' Posey win MVP awards
NEW YORK -- Detroit's Miguel Cabrera won the American League's Most Valuable Player award on Thursday after becoming baseball's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, and San Francisco's Buster Posey was voted the National League honor.
Cabrera received 22-of-28 first-place votes and 362 points from the AL panel of Baseball Writers' Association of America to easily beat out Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who had six firsts and 281 points. Trout was voted AL Rookie of the Year earlier in the week.
Posey recovered from a devastating leg injury that cut short his 2011 season, became the first catcher in 70 years to win the NL batting title and helped San Francisco win its second World Series title in three seasons. He got 27 of 32 firsts and 422 points from the NL panel, outdistancing 2011 winner Ryan Braun of Milwaukee, who was second with 285 points.
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI to become the first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The last four Triple Crown winners have been voted MVP, including Mickey Mantle in 1956 and Frank Robinson in 1966.
Cabrera also led the league with a .606 slugging percentage for the AL champion Tigers. He became the second straight Detroit player voted MVP, following Justin Verlander in 2011, and was the first Venezuelan to earn the honor.
The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, Posey set career highs with a .336 average, 24 homers and 103 RBI for the World Series champion Giants. His 2011 season was cut short by a collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on May 25 that resulted in a fractured bone in Posey's lower left leg and three torn ankle ligaments.
Posey, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft, won the NL batting title after teammate Melky Cabrera requested a rules change that disqualified him. Cabrera, who hit .346, missed the final 45 games of the regular-season while serving a suspension for a positive testosterone test and would have won the batting crown if the rule hadn't been changed.
Jets owner declares Sanchez "franchise"
Despite being mired in one of the worst slumps of his four-year career, Mark Sanchez still has a firm hold on the New York Jets' starting quarterback job.
Rex Ryan remains committed to Sanchez as his team's leader -- while popular backup Tim Tebow is still just a part-time contributor who many think should be given a chance at rescuing the Jets' season.
Owner Woody Johnson says Thursday that he doesn't just "view" Sanchez as the franchise quarterback, "he is our franchise quarterback." That support comes even as Sanchez is ranked near the bottom of the league in several passing categories.
Sanchez says the Jets have enough talent, but "now it's a matter of executing." The Jets (3-6) play the Rams (3-5-1) at St. Louis on Sunday.
Goodell says NFL game will evolve, get safer
Professional football can evolve into a safer game without sacrificing the physical play -- or, some would say, violence -- that has made it so popular, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a speech on player safety at the Harvard School of Public Health on Thursday.
"Football has always evolved, and it always will," he told an overflow crowd of a few hundred. "Make no mistake: change does not inhibit the game; it improves it."
In a long-planned appearance that came four days after three starting NFL quarterbacks were knocked out with concussions, Goodell said that the league has already improved the way it handles hits to the head.
San Francisco's Alex Smith, Chicago's Jay Cutler and Philadelphia's Michael Vick were all diagnosed with concussions in Sunday's games. Goodell said that all three were taken out "as soon as they showed symptoms," a claim that was challenged by a member of the audience during the period for questions who noted that Smith and Cutler kept playing for a short time after being injured.
Listing some of the safety measures that have been incorporated into the sport both before and since he became commissioner, Goodell mentioned the elimination of the flying wedge that was first employed by Harvard in the 1800s and the change in kickoffs last season that he credited for a 40 percent reduction in concussions on returns. He said the league is looking into better helmets and sponsoring scientific research that could make the game still safer.
Bears' Cutler remains out after concussion
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler missed practice on Thursday and his playing status remains in question because of a concussion.
Coach Lovie Smith says Cutler continues to improve, but it's not clear if he'll be ready to play at San Francisco on Monday night.
If Cutler can't play, Jason Campbell will likely make the start.
The Bears believe Cutler was injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit from Houston's Tim Dobbins late in the second quarter of Sunday's loss. He finished the half, but missed the second half after showing symptoms in the locker room.
Cutler needs to be cleared by team physicians and independent neurological consultants before he can return.
The same goes for teammate Shea McClellin and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who also suffered concussions last week.
Eagles' Foles looks likely for first start
Nick Foles practiced with the first team this week and stuck around for extra film work.
He's ready to make his first career NFL start for the Philadelphia Eagles.
All he needs now is to officially and publicly be named the starter. The Eagles again practiced another day without injured quarterback Michael Vick. The veteran has sat out since suffering a severe concussion in last week's loss to Dallas, turning playcalling duties over to Foles, a third-round draft pick.
Foles relieved Vick against the Cowboys and is ready to start Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Because Vick had not completed his concussion testing, he has not officially been ruled out of Sunday's game. That could come Friday when coach Andy Reid talks to the media after practice.
Minnesota Governor balks at stadium tax
Gov. Mark Dayton criticized the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday for considering extra fees on season-ticket holders as a way to help cover the team's share of a new $975 million stadium, but the team's owners point out that option was a key part of the deal.
The Democratic governor and Vikings management were allies during the long path to approving a plan for a new, publicly subsidized stadium that was approved by lawmakers this year. But in a letter to team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, Dayton said he strongly opposed "shifting any part of the team's responsibility for those costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans. This Private Contribution is your responsibility, not theirs."
The team quickly responded with a statement saying permission to sell so-called stadium builder's licenses was a "key component" of legislation that was "vetted by the Legislature, testified to by Vikings and state of Minnesota negotiators" and signed by the governor.
Many NFL teams that built new stadiums in recent years have relied on such fees, also called personal seat licenses, that are usually a one-time charge on top of the cost of a season ticket. The Star Tribune reported this week that the Vikings had raised the prospect in a survey recently emailed to season-ticket holders.
The stadium deal struck earlier this year between the state, Minneapolis and the Vikings requires the team to pay slightly more than half of the nearly billion-dollar price tag.