New York Boston little man Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP award Tuesday, becoming the first second baseman to earn the honor in nearly a half-century.
Pedroia easily beat out Minnesota slugger Justin Morneau and added to his ever-expanding trophy case. Generously listed at 5-foot-9, the Red Sox standout was the top AL rookie in 2007 while winning a World Series ring.
Nellie Fox was the previous second baseman to become AL MVP, in 1959 with the White Sox. No position has produced fewer MVPs overall — just 10 overall since the AL and NL awards were first presented in 1931.
Pedroia drew 16 of the 28 first-place votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and finished with 317 points.
It was a scattered ballot, with five players receiving first-place votes. Pedroia was even left off one ballot, while Morneau and Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis were listed on every one.
Morneau received seven first-place votes and had 257 points, and Youkilis and Twins catcher Joe Mauer each had a pair of first-place votes. Record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels drew the other first-place nod and came in sixth.
Pedroia led the AL in hits, runs and doubles in helping the Red Sox win the AL wild-card berth. He batted .326 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs and also stole 20 bases. Earlier this month, he also won his first Gold Glove. Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP winner, hit .300 with 23 home runs and 129 RBIs in helping the Twins reach a one-game playoff for the AL Central, which they lost to Chicago.
Dempster, Cubs agree
Chicago — Pitcher Ryan Dempster and the Chicago Cubs agreed Tuesday on a $52 million, four-year contract that includes a player option for 2012. He gets a $4 million signing bonus, $8 million next year, $12.5 million in 2010 and $13.5 million in 2011. Dempster has a 2012 option for $14 million. Dempster was 17-6 with a 2.96 earned-run average for the Cubs last season.
Mariners pick A’s coach
Seattle — The Seattle Mariners picked Don Wakamatsu as their new manager, giving the job to the Oakland Athletics bench coach and filling the only opening in the majors.
Mariners spokesman Tim Hevly said the team expects to make an announcement today, but he would not confirm or deny the choice of Wakamatsu. He interviewed last week with six other candidates: Boston bench coach Brad Mills and third base coach DeMarlo Hale; Arizona third base coach Chip Hale; Chicago White Sox bench coach and former Mariners infielder Joey Cora; St. Louis third base coach Jose Oquendo; and San Diego Triple-A manager Randy Ready.
Ripken clinic cut short
Managua, Nicaragua — Cal Ripken Jr.’s baseball clinic for Nicaraguan youth was canceled by its sponsors Tuesday because protests surrounding local election results were hindering travel.
Ripken and his former Baltimore Orioles teammate Dennis Martinez, a Nicaraguan native, provided instruction to 300 children and 60 youth coaches in Managua and Granada since last week. They were scheduled to give their final clinic in Leon.
Ex-official Reader dies
New York — Jack Reader, who spent nearly 50 years in NFL officiating and worked two Super Bowls, has died. He was 82. He died of cancer in Hingham, Mass., on Nov. 10, a day before his birthday, the NFL said Tuesday. Reader was the back judge in the first and third Super Bowls. He was a referee and back judge in the AFL and NFL from 1960-74 before joining the officiating department as a supervisor.
McKinnie’s trial date set
Minneapolis — Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie has a trial date in Miami set for March 16. He faces four charges stemming from his alleged involvement in a fight outside a nightclub in February.
Texas taps Muschamp
Austin, Texas — Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has been designated as the head-coach-in-waiting by the university, expected to take over the Longhorns when Mack Brown retires.
Muschamp is in his first year with Texas, but athletic director DeLoss Dodds said Tuesday he and Brown know they want to keep him at Texas. To do that, they will more than double his salary from $425,000 to $900,000 in January. He will remain defensive coordinator.
Dodds said he wants the 57-year-old Brown to coach for a long time, but said he wanted to line up Muschamp now to avoid the “trauma” of a coaching search when the day comes that Brown steps down.
At a news conference attended by all three, Brown insisted he’s not planning to retire anytime soon. He has eight years left on his current contract.
“I don’t want someone to think this is the twilight for me. It’s not,” Brown said. “I have had absolutely no thought of quitting, at all.”
Federer defeats Blake
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Roger Federer overcame an ailing back to beat James Blake in a one-set exhibition Tuesday. Federer rallied from 3-1 down to win, 7-6, taking the tiebreaker, 10-7. His victory came days after a sore back contributed to his struggles at the Masters Cup, where he failed to reach the semifinals.
John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg also played at the “Showdown of Champions.” McEnroe beat Borg, 7-6 (13-11). Federer and Borg then teamed to play McEnroe and Blake in doubles, and McEnroe and Blake won, 7-5.
Madrid, Spain — Golf great Seve Ballesteros was released from intensive care Tuesday following brain surgery on a malignant tumor. The 51-year-old Spaniard will remain in the hospital to continue rehabilitation following three operations in 18 days.