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The Wright stuff: Mets keep their man with eight-year deal

WrightWhile most of New York was sleeping, the Mets and representatives of David Wright apparently were not. And neither was veteran beat writer Ed Coleman of flagship radio station WFAN Radio. Shortly before 3 a.m., Coleman broke the story that the Mets and star third baseman David Wright have come to an agreement on a long-term extension.

In the last few hours, the story has been confirmed by Mets beat writers with more details revealed. The Mets and Wright have ripped up his 2013 option and put next season into the new deal, making it worth eight years and $138 million (Wright apparently wanting to slot just above Johan Santana's $137.5M deal).

It's the largest deal in Mets history, points out Adam Rubin on ESPNNY.com.

The Mets had to keep Wright to have any shred of credibility with their fans. And with the All-Star Game coming to Citi Field next July, it would have been a huge embarrassment to have Wright -- the face of the franchise -- in another team's uniform.

Next up for the Mets: A new deal with Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey or, perhaps, a trade of the 38-year-old at next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 
Photo: Associated Press 

Ex-Bisons star Manto a good bet to get the call to IL Hall

MantoI spoke here yesterday about the unveiling of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot -- be sure to double back to our post to cast your votes -- and here's an update on another Hall.

I sent in my ballot today for the 2013 class of the International League Hall of Fame (I am one of 61 voters), and it had a decidedly Buffalo feel to it. There were 10 nominees to choose from and they included Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Jeff Manto (right), former Bisons executive Don Labbruzzo and ex-Buffalo manager Marc Bombard.

I voted for those three, along with former Columbus standout Marshall Brant, ex-Rochester Red Wings/Baltimore Orioles star Dennis Martinez and former Durham/Toledo closer Lee Gardner.

Manto, of course, is the most celebrated player in the Bisons' modern era. He still holds the franchise mark for home runs with 79 from 1997-2000 and is the only post-1985 Bison to have his number retired. Manto just completed his first year as hitting coach of the Chicago White Sox and was excited to learn this week the Sox have added veteran Harold Baines, Manto's former teammate in Baltimore, as an assistant hitting coach for next year.

In addition to his time in Buffalo, Manto had an 88-RBI season for Scranton in 1993 and an MVP season in 1994 with Norfolk and Rochester, combining for 31 homers and 100 RBIs. You have to think he's a lock for induction.

Bombard led the Bisons to an 87-57 record and American Association East Division championship in 1992, but he's on the IL Hall ballot for his franchise-record 607 wins and four playoff berths with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from 1997-2004.

Labbruzzo, who died in 1999, was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He was the Bisons' GM from 1958-60 and again in 1970, when he took heavy personal losses trying to save the team before it was moved to Winnipeg. He also worked in the IL for Columbus (1955-57), Syracuse (1961-69) and Rochester (1977-78).

I liked Brant because he's the only player in Columbus history to have his number retired and still ranks first in Clippers history in RBIs (302) and second in home runs (86) among a bevy of Yankees greats. Martinez won the IL pitching triple crown for Rochester in 1978 (leading the league with 14 wins, a 2.50 ERA and 140 strikeouts for a first-place team) while Gardner led the IL with 107 saves in the decade of the 2000s and won three titles with Durham and Toledo

The new class will be announced in late January and inductees are honored at games around the league all summer. You can read more about the IL Hall at its main Web page and there are plenty of links there to take you through the years.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington
(Buffalo News file photo/Harry Scull: Manto accepts an award from the Bisons Booster Club in 1999)

Crowded, controversial Hall of Fame ballot released

The Baseball Writers Association of America released the annual ballot for the Hall of Fame election today and let the debates begin because there are going to be some doozies this time. There are interesting candidates who haven't gotten in yet on the ballot again as well as some whopper-size new names that will be sparking all kids of debate.

(Housekeeping/disclaimers: There are over 600 eligible voters and you have to get 75 percent of the vote to be inducted, or 5 percent to stay on the ballot for future years. The voters are BBWAA members for 10 consecutive years; I am a BBWAA member but do not yet have a vote. I will be eligible to vote for the Hall in the winter of 2016.)

So here's my quick rundown:

---Big new names coming on the ballot for the first time: Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa.

---Returnees who got votes last year: Jack Morris (66.7 percent), Jeff Bagwell (56), Lee Smith (50.6), Tim Raines (48.7), Alan Trammell (36.8), Edgar Martinez (36.5), Fred McGriff (23.9), Larry Walker (22.9), Mark McGwire (19.5), Don Mattingly (17.8), Dale Murphy (14.5), Rafael Palmeiro (12.6), Bernie Williams (9.6).

---New names who are no-chancers: Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finely, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White, Woody Williams.

You can vote for up to 10 players, so you would think there might be some big classes coming up but history shows there has not been many. We have not had three players inducted since 1999 (Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount) and it's been all the way since 1955 (Joe DiMaggio, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance and Gabby Hartnett) that we had four inducted.

The issue of course, this year, deals with steroids. What will voters do with Bonds, Clemens and Sosa? By brute numbers, they all should get in but they're likely to get treated the same way as McGwire and Palmeiro. What about Piazza, who has a lot of circumstantial steroid talk but no real allegations? Will he suffer a similar fate as Bagwell, who should be in but suffers from being linked to known user Ken Caminiti?

Do the steroid guys' open the door wider for someone like Schilling, a postseason icon whose regular-season numbers are not normally considered HOF caliber? Or what about the door finally getting kicked in for Morris or Raines, or perhaps an underappreciated SS (Trammell) or the first DH (Martinez)?

And the logjam only gets worse with 2014 eligibles including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina getting into the fray.

What do I say? Sorry, you'll have to wait for Sunday's Inside Baseball column for what my ballot would look like. In the meantime, have your vote here on the six new candidates and the best of the returnees:

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

Rowe, pitching coach of '04 champion Bisons, dead at 78

Rowe
Ken Rowe was the pitching coach when the Bisons won the Governors' Cup in 2004. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News file photo)

The Cleveland Indians have announced the death of Ken Rowe, a longtime minor-league pitching instructor who was the pitching coach of the Bisons for parts of four seasons that included the team's 2004 Governors' Cup championship run.

Rowe, 78, died on Thanksgiving in his hometown of Dallas, Ga., after a bout with pneumonia.

Rowe had spent the last two years as the Tribe's advisor in player development after working for 20 years in the Cleveland chain as an on-field instructor.

Rowe was the pitching coach for the Bisons in 1999 and 2000, and again in 2004-2005. The Bisons won IL North Division titles in 2000 and '05 and won the Governors' Cup in '04, a season that saw Rowe take over in  early June after the firing of Terry Clark.

Tweeted Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski:  "Saddened by the loss of former Bisons pitching coach Ken Rowe. One of the nicest men I've ever met in baseball."

Rowe was a baseball lifer who had been a pitching, minor-league manager, coach or instructor for 52 of the last 56 years. He pitched professionally from 15 seasons from 1953-68 (taking time to serve in the US Army in 1957). He made 26 relief appearances for the Dodgers and Baltimore from 1963-65,  posting a 2-1 record and 3.57 ERA in those games and earning a World Series ring with the Dodgers in 1963. He was the major-league pitching coach for Baltimore in 1985-86.

The '99 Bisons finished second in the IL in team ERA under Rowe (4.34) while the 2000 team improved its win total from 72 to 86 and improved the ERA to 4.29 although it finished eighth.

In 2004, the Bisons won the title despite finishing last in the league in ERA at 4.71 but Rowe had a huge impact: Buffalo's ERA before he came on board on June 2 of that season was a bloated 5.62 but for the rest of the season, it was just 4.23. The '05 Herd, which went 82-62 and stands as Buffalo's last playoff team, had an ERA of 4.48 that was eighth in the IL.

Rowe was a quiet, unassuming guy. He had that folksy Southern drawl and he loved to talk pitching. And the players loved him. Along with the acquisition of Raul Gonzalez and the return of Russell Branyan, the return of Rowe was one of the main keys to the Herd's second-half success in '04.

Rowe is survived by two daughters (Kimberly and Kristina) and three grandchildren (Jeremy, Jake, and Zachary).  The Indians said the family will be holding a private service at a later date.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

A few words on Bisons ticket prices for 2013

Diagram

 

It's all in the presentation, really. The Buffalo Bisons are still going to charge you $1 more per ticket for walkup sales next season but that's going to be the advertised price at the box office, so that should stem a lot of the complaints I got from fans last year.

I wish the Herd didn't charge more on gameday but I get it, too. The hope is that fans will decide to go to a game even if the weather is iffy at, say, 4 p.m. if they have tickets in hand. And there certainly figures to be more impulse buying this year from Blue Jays fans in Southern Ontario.

All seats are going up 50 cents from last year's gameday price. So individual special reserved seats (dugout to dugout, red in the diagram above) are $13 for all games. Reserved seats (grey) will be $12 for all days except Friday ($13). General admission seats (yellow) will be $10 for adults and $7 for youths/seniors ($11/$8 on Fridays).

Remember, all tickets for all games are discounted by $1 when purchased in advance at either the Coca-Cola Field box office or online at Bisons.com. The problem last year was that the team used the discount price at the box office -- but people could never get that when they walked up on game day. You walk up now, you pay what you see and that should mitigate issues.

The team is also putting holiday packs on sale (info at this link) and there is no increase in season ticket costs ($530 and $490). Individual tickets go on sale in March. The opener is Thursday, April 4 against Rochester at 2:05.

My annual advice: If you're a downtown worker, walk over the day before and buy (you also get the discount on Bisons.com but pay service charges). And my real annual advice: Other than Friday night, there's a ton of promotional opportunities for discounted tickets and packages. If you're paying the full price Saturday-Thursday, you're probably not looking hard enough at Bisons.com

The Bisons want you in the park rooting on the team -- and spending money on concessions and merchandise. They're not trying to soak you on tickets.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

Blue Jays rate an A in early PR grades in Buffalo

Alex
Alex Anthopoulos (right) and John Gibbons were all smiles in Toronto Tuesday morning and then made the quick trip to Coca-Cola Field. (AP)

I've been to dozens of press conferences at Coca-Cola Field since it opened in 1988. The day the Mets came in 2008 was particularly memorable for all the politicos in the house, all the way up to former Gov. David Paterson (it was mostly downhill from there, of course).

But in their two trips downtown since becoming the Bisons' new parent, the Toronto Blue Jays are blowing the Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates and, yes, even the Cleveland Indians completely out of the water on the PR end. And the Indians were darn good in that area too.

Now, the Blue Jays have to put a winning team on the field come April to keep the good feelings going. But there's no question they're already far more invested in the Bisons than the Mets ever were.

On the day the teams' new affiliation was announced, Toronto president/CEO Paul Beeston was on hand along with general manager Alex Anthopoulos and minor-league officials. But they also brought ambassadors and franchise legends Roberto Alomar, Pat Hentgen and Cito Gaston. Impressive show.

Then came Tuesday. Marty Brown is back as manager, just as the Bisons hoped from day one. St. Francis product Jim Negrych has been signed to a minor-league deal but has an invite to major-league spring training. So he gets a chance to make the big club or plays Triple-A for his hometown team. The minor-league officials were again here.

But Anthopoulos and new manager John Gibbons show up unannounced -- after stopping for lunch at Chef's -- a scant three hours after their presser in Toronto to disclose Gibbons' return. Yes, a short drive but it was a big effort with plenty of symbolism.

"This is an important affiliation to us, very important," Anthopoulos told Inside Pitch. "I'm not saying any of the others aren't but we want to stay for a long time. We wanted them and this is one of the model franchises at this level. If we lose this affiliation, it's on us because these guys have been the best operators in the minor leagues. They've already established themselves as the best. It's on us to keep it going."

For this trip, the Blue Jays made sure assistant GM Andrew Tinnish was in the house (he was not here in September). Tinnish is signing minor-league free agents for the Bisons and made the first contact with Negrych.

"I wanted him to come up and see this," Anthopoulos said. "I told him, 'See this? We've got to win, we've got to win.' I probably put the heat on him a little too much but I reminded him. I wanted him to see the magnitude of it for himself, the ballpark, the scope of attention, focus, the interest level of this team and the impact he can have on it. I wanted him to feel it to see how this affiliation is."

ContractCharlie Wilson, the director of minor-league operations, echoed those comments after co-signing Negrych's contract for all to see inside Pettibones Grille (left).

"Buffalo and their front office here and all their people are a part of this. We can't do what we want to do without them," Wilson said. "They're a big part of what we want to do here. I am huge on the relationship and so is everybody else in our organization. [Anthopoulos and Gibbons] want to be here today and want to be here for a long time to come.

"Our first trip, we were so excited that it was almost like the people who were back in the office in Toronto felt left out they didn't come. It's a sincere feeling we have, heartfelt. We believe in this relationship and want to make it work."

There are more minor-league free agents to sign, although the Jays have already worked hard on pitching. Another trade or two could shake up the Herd's roster more. But there's no other way to say it: The Blue Jays are off to a great start.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 
(Wilson and Negrych photo: Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

The Herd's new look and other news from a wild day in Bisonland

BISONS 2013 LOGO

Here it is, unveiled today at Coca-Cola Field. The Bisons are going with this look for the 2013 season, their first with the Toronto Blue Jays. It's a throwback to their logo from 1988-1997, the red-white-blue with a swinging Buster. The red, however, is a little darker and the blue a shade lighter than that arrangment. Uniforms and caps will be revealed in mid-January.

As part of a wild press conference at the ballpark, the Herd re-introduced manager Marty Brown -- their skipper from 2003-2005 -- as their 2013 manager, and the Blue Jays also announced that infielder Jim Negrych has signed a minor-league with an invitation to major league spring training. Negrych, who played for Syracuse last year in the Washington chain, appeared in the Triple-A All-Star Game here last summer.

On top of those items, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and new manager John Gibbons made a surprise appearance in town less than four hours after wrapping up their introductory press conference in the Rogers Centre.  Anthopoulos' big trade with the Miami Marlins was made official Monday and his free-agent signing of Melky Cabrera was announced as final Tuesday.

Some quick comments from the principals:

Brown: "I've missed Buffalo very much. ... [Going to the Blue Jays] was a lot like the Cleveland organization when I got in with them. A lot of really good talented young players due to the scouting staff and some of the trades the organization did. We're all going to benefit here in Buffalo."

Anthopoulos on the stunning choice of Gibbons: "Players would run through a wall for him. They loved playing for him. The only thing that made me pause was what would the perception be, what are the optics going to be? How would it look? Is it a bit of a downer because he's already been here? But the decisions I've regretted are where I didn't go with my instincts and was more concerned with optics. I haven't done it very often, very few times. This is one that I find the best decisions I've made I did what I felt was right."

Gibbons: "I never expected this to happen. This is so far-fetched. The reality of it. I had to pinch myself to be honest with you. So I'm going to run with it and see what happens. How many times do you get a second chance, especially in a place you've been working with some good people that I know?"

Negrych: "It's always nice to know that you're wanted. They said they were interested, we told them what we wanted and it was important to me to find out it wasn't just to be in Buffalo. It was for my baseball ability, not for my hometown. They said if they were still in Las Vegas, they would be calling me. They had good reports from their scouts, positive things to say. When I heard all that news, their offer was more than fair for me."

--Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

Another shocker out of LF from Jays: Gibbons returns as manager

Gibby
John Gibbons gets his old jersey back from Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. (Associated Press).

So the Blue Jays schedule a 9:30 a.m. press conference with GM Alex Anthopoulos to discuss the big trade with the Marlins and the Melky Cabrera signing. But there's an added guest from news that broke overnight courtesy of Toronto Sun Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott: John Gibbons is coming back as Blue Jays manager.

One one hand, Gibbons was just a .500 manager in his stint from 2004-2008. But the Jays wanted someone with experience and Anthopoulos was the assistant back then and was close with Gibbons.

And Gibbons will be the anti-John Farrell: He will demand accountability from players on and off the field (no Yunel Escobar eye-black under eyes, no Brett Lawrie running hither and yon on the bases). And he's not looking to use Toronto as a stepping stone like Farrell obviously was.

The Jays are going to have an experienced team and didn't want a rookie manager. You can say  Gibbons didn't win enough but he won far more and is far more respected than deposed Indians skipper Manny Acta, who had a bizarre level of support on my Twitter feed the last couple days (because he was a Mets coach with Jose Reyes perhaps?).

I've dealt with Gibbons a lot. He's a straight-shooter. He's great with a bullpen. The players loved playing for him and the two noted malcontents (Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly) were loathed by most people, especially Hillenbrand. I like the call.

One key note from the presser: Anthopoulos said he expects mega-prospect catcher Travis D'Arnaud to open with the Bisons on the way back from his knee injury. That's barring another trade of course. But that would be great news for the Herd; one of the top prospects to ever open a season in Buffalo.

Stay tuned later today for the unveiling of the new Bisons' logo and the re-introduction of Marty Brown (like parent, like child I guess) as the Bisons' manager. That presser starts at 2.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

 

Selig approves trade, warns Marlins about future moves

This just in from MLB: Bud Selig has approved the blockbuster Blue Jays-Marlins trade by issuing the three-paragraph statement below. I added the underlines for emphasis:

---Mike Harrington

"Since Tuesday, I have carefully reviewed the proposed transaction between the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays.  I asked our Baseball Operations Department and our Labor Relations Department to compare this proposed transaction with similar deals.  I also consulted with experienced baseball operations executives to get their input regarding the talent involved in this transaction.

"After a thorough examination of this information, it is my conclusion that this transaction, involving established Major Leaguers and highly regarded young players and prospects, represents the exercise of plausible baseball judgment on the part of both Clubs, does not violate any express rule of Major League Baseball and does not otherwise warrant the exercise of any of my powers to prevent its completion.  It is, of course, up to the Clubs involved to make the case to their respective fans that this transaction makes sense and enhances the competitive position of each, now or in the future.

"I am sensitive to the concerns of the fans of Miami regarding this trade, and I understand the reactions I have heard since Tuesday. Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities and I fully understand that the Miami community has done its part to put the Marlins into a position to succeed with beautiful new Marlins Park.  Going forward, I will continue to monitor this situation with the expectation that the Marlins will take into account the sentiments of their fans, who deserve the best efforts and considered judgment of their Club.  I have received assurances from the ownership of the Marlins that they share these beliefs and are fully committed to build a long-term winning team that their fans can be proud of."

Bisons, Blue Jays make it official: Marty Brown returning to the head of the Herd in 2013

Marty-Vegas
It was like old home days in Buffalo for then-Las Vegas manager Marty Brown during Triple-A All-Star Week at Coca-Cola Field in July. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

If you were paying attention to our coverage of the Triple-A All-Star Game in July, we told you this one would happen months before it actually did: The Bisons and Toronto Blue Jays officially announced today that Marty Brown -- who led the Bisons to the 2004 International League championship -- is returning to Buffalo to manage the Herd in 2013.

Brown, 49, managed the Bisons from 2003-2005 before spending the next five seasons in Japan. He has been the manager for the Blue Jays' Las Vegas club the last two years. The 51s went 79-64 this season, the best record for a Toronto Triple-A team since 1998.

In my column on Brown during All-Star week, it was plainly clear to me he was happy in Las Vegas but would be excited to return to Buffalo in what would be a much more baseball-friendly setting and one that would only be 90 minutes from the parent club.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Marty Brown back to Buffalo to lead the Bisons into this exciting new era as the Triple-A Affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays,” Bisons vice president/general manager Mike Buczkowski said in a statement today. “Marty is a proven winner, having already brought home a championship to the fans of Buffalo, and his passion for the game really resonates with Bisons fans.”

“Marty Brown is a veteran baseball man who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the dugout," said Charlie Wilson, director of minor league operations for the Blue Jays. "He has the ability to teach the game and to get the most out of his players.  Marty has enjoyed great success as a minor league manager and we are delighted that he will be managing the Bisons in 2013."

Brown has a 783-719 record in 16 years of managing in the United States. He went 238-193 in his three years with the Bisons and needs just 16 wins to pass Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham as the franchise' modern-era victory leader.

Brown fansAfter a 73-70 campaign in 2003, Brown was named International League Manager of the Year and Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year for guiding the Herd to an 83-61 record in 2004.

That Buffalo club, the highest-scoring team in the IL since 1950, had a lineup featuring the likes of Brandon Phillips, Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore.

The Bisons overcame a 2-0 deficit against Durham in the IL semifinals and beat the Richmond Braves in four games to take the franchise's third title of the modern era. After the clinching 6-1 victory in Game Four, the most vivid image of the celebration was Brown parading the Governors' Cup down the right-field line for fans to see it (above-Mark Mulville file photo)

In 2005, Brown won his second consecutive IL North Division title with an 82-62 record and the Bisons had a 2-0 lead in the IL semifinals over Indianapolis but lost the last three games of the series at home. The Herd has not been in the playoffs since.

The Blue Jays have not settled on the rest of the Buffalo coaching staff. Brown will be officially introduced during a 2 p.m. press conference Tuesday in Pettibones Grille, at which time the Bisons will also unveil their new logo. Brown will then greet fans during a Meet the Manager event in Pettibones Tuesday night from 5:30-8.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

It's MVP Day: We finally get the Trout-Cabrera answer

Trout or Cabera? Cabrera or Trout? It's been a hot-button topic of conversation among baseball fans and media for weeks and we finally get our answer tonight.

In the final installment of the Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards, the Most Valuable Player Awards will be announced tonight at 6 p.m. on MLB Network and on BBWAA.com. And this is the mostly hotly contested race, the one that pits fan against fan and stat-geek against old schooler.

Seriously now, how can you NOT give an MVP award to a Triple Crown winner like Detroit's Miguel Cabrera? Pretty easy, actually, when you look at the incredible all-around numbers put up by Angels rookie Mike Trout. 

Bucky Gleason made a pretty compelling argument for Trout in his column on the subject last month. Trout is the youngest 30/30 player in history and the youngest to steal 40 bases since Ty Cobb in 1907. And if you're into advanced stats, his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) figure of 10.7 led the majors this year -- and is equal to Ted Williams' career best (1946). It's the highest for anyone since Barry Bonds in 2002.

Call me old school but as I wrote Sunday, I think Cabrera is getting the award on the basis of his Triple Crown and the fact the Tigers won their division while the Angels sat home.

Oh yeah, the National League MVP is getting handed out tonight too. My choice is Buster Posey but there should be a good deal of sentiment too for Andrew McCutchen and defending winner Ryan Braun.

Here's MLB.com's video preview on the MVPs. Make your choices below.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

 

Call him 'Cy Dickey': Ex-Bison takes National League honor

Mets RA
Dickey with the classic knuckleball grip. (Associated Press)

In an historic victory for knuckleballers, R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets was a runaway winner Wednesday night in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Dickey took 27 of the 32 first-place votes in the balloting and finished with 209 points, well in front of 2011 winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (96 points).

Dickey graduated to New York at age 35 in 2010 after pitching eight games for the Buffalo Bisons. He was 4-2 with a 2.23 earned-run average for the Herd after being signed as a minor-league free agent the previous winter.

He's the third former Buffalo regular in the modern era to win a Cy, joining Cliff Lee (Cleveland 2008) and Bartolo Colon (Anaheim, 2005). (CC Sabathia and Dwight Gooden also pitched here and won Cys in their careers but were only in Buffalo on injury rehab). No knuckleballer had ever taken pitching's top honor.

"It's a compliment to the vision and the imagination of the writers who voted," Dickey said tonight on a national conference call. "They didn't see the knuckleball as a trick pitch or see it as some kind of illegitimate weapon. They saw it as a legitmate weapon with one purpose: And that's to get big-league pitchers out consistently. They respected that and had the imagination to see beyond some of the old-school mentalities of what the knuckleball used to be. ... It brings a degree of legitimacy to the knuckleball fraternity. This is a victory to all of us. It brings a real legitimacy to the pitch."

Dickey went 20-6 this season with a 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 233 2/3 innings. And it was an incredible year for him off the field as well as he published his autobiography, revealing he was sexually abused as a child, and climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, blogging about it for the New York Times.

Here's some quotes on Dickey's Cy Young provided Wednesday night by the Mets:

Tom Seaver: "My hat’s off to Mr. Dickey.  I watched one of his outings when I was in town and I was amazed by his control.  I was always looking for new ammunition to bring to the mound so I attempted the knuckleball.  It’s a very difficult pitch to throw and needless to say, I never mastered it.  I congratulate him on his tenacity not only to succeed against all odds but to excel and achieve this very high honor.  I look forward to congratulating him personally.”

Dwight Gooden: “I saw R.A. pitch at least 10 times this year. I’m really amazed how he was able to remake his career. I never even thought about throwing a knuckleball. To win the Cy Young Award at his age is more incredible than when I won at age 20.”

Mets manager and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Collins: “It was an honor to work with R.A. throughout the year and have a front-row seat to his historic season. R.A. is a great teammate, fierce competitor and even a better human being.  No one deserves this award more than him.”

R.A HerdDickey was the first cut out of spring training by the Mets in 2010 and was assigned to Buffalo. On April 29, 2010, he threw a sensational one-hit shutout for the Bisons in a 4-0 win over the Durham Bulls in a contest at Coca-Cola Field widely referred to as the "Imperfect Perfect Game."

Pitching on a frigid night in front of a sparse crowd, Dickey gave up a leadoff single in that game and then retired the final 27 Durham batters, narrowly missing Buffalo's first perfect game since 1952. Other than Colon's 1997 no-hitter against New Orleans, it's the most dominant pitching performance I've seen in the ballpark's 25 seasons. 

Courtesy of the Bisons, here's video from that game and as well as video of Dickey's postgame chat that night with me and Dave Ricci from the Metro Community News.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington
(Dickey in Buffalo by Mark Mulville/Buffalo News) 

Cy Youngs tonight: Is it R.A.'s day?

It was just 2 1/2 years ago that R.A. Dickey was a journeyman on a minor-league contract pitching for the Bisons. Tonight, the Mets' knuckleballer could become a Cy Young Award winner. 

The Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards continue at 6 p.m. on MLB Network, with both the National League and American League Cy winners revealed during the program and on BBWAA.com, where each voter's ballot will also be listed. Both races are fascinating.

In the NL, the finalists are 20-game winners Dickey and Gio Gonzalez of Washington along with defending winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. The AL race is also a close call, with Justin Verlander trying to make it two straight in the face of stiff challenges from David Price of the Rays and Jared Weaver of the Angels. 

I went with Dickey and Verlander in Sunday's Inside Baseball column and already heard from several readers making reasonable arguments for Price in the AL. Here's MLB.com's video preview and take our polls below.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

With one giant trade, Blue Jays become instant contenders

TorSun
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is the toast of the town in today's Toronto Sun. (Newseum)

It's pretty amazing to think about this one. The Toronto Blue Jays, coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in their history, suddenly became relevant again in the AL East last night. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, among others, are coming to Toronto as part of a 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins -- who can't possibly have any fans left.

With two wild-cards, the Jays are instant playoff contenders (they haven't qualified, remember, since Joe Carter's home run cleared the wall in 1993). They'll certainly challenge the Rays in the division as well with the Yankees aging, the Red Sox a mess and the Orioles not possibly living on pixie dust for another season again. Hope John Farrell enjoys life in Boston.

Plenty of doubters in Toronto of GM Alex Anthopoulos have to keep quiet this morning. The Toronto Sun saluted him on its cover this morning (above) and as the cover indicates, veteran Sun columnist Steve Simmons is happy too. As Simmons wrote this morning, "with one stroke of the brush and many phone calls and texts, Anthopoulos has painted a new Blue Jays picture, changed the course of the waffling franchise, brought some optimism to this local land of sporting pessimism."

Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott has all the details in today's Sun mainbar.  Richard Griffin gives his rundown in the Toronto Star.

Also in the Star, Cathal Kelly says this is Anthopoulos' career right here right now (apologies to Marv Levy. I threw that in). But Damien Cox says it's time to temper the early celebration.

In the Globe and Mail, Jeff Blair says GM AA (what everyone calls him on Twitter) has all kinds of reasons to gloat.

In the National Post, this page has links to stories by both John Lott and Bruce Arthur that say the Blue Jays are now instantly in contention.

You build your farm system to create prospects -- and create prospects to trade. The Blue Jays have done that well here, with four young players going to the Marlins. That's a downer for the Bisons, who certainly would have had two of them in their lineup in 2013. Be sure to double back to my post from last night for the impact on the Herd in this one.

As for the Marlins ... they should just go out of business. The most disgraceful fire sale yet, which says a lot considering what happened in 1998. But you take more than $600 million in public money for a new ballpark and dismantle the team in one year? ONE YEAR? Wow. 

In the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Dave Hyde says it's time to ship Jeffrey Loria out too. 

In the Miami Herald, David Neal says "the joke is on us."

And through all this, the trade isn't even official yet until MLB signs off on the money and the teams sign off on physicals. Stay tuned.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

Blue Jays' big deal has big impact on Bisons in 2013 and beyond

Adeiny
Adeiny Hechavarria fields a ball during a workout for the Triple-A All-Star Game here in July. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

The details came pouring in Tuesday night and although nothing was made official, the Toronto Blue Jays apparently pulled off a stunning trade with the Fire-sale Fish, aka the Miami Marlins. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck are all going from Miami to Toronto, instantly making the Blue Jays a 2013 playoff contender and turning the Fish into chum meat in the NL East. Wow!

Incredible stuff. Nothing like this for the Blue Jays other than the 1990 deal with San Diego that brought them Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter and turned into two World Series titles. And now they have plenty of attractiveness to potential managerial candidates.

On this side of the Peace Bridge, however, there are practical concerns for the Buffalo Bisons. Remember, they just signed a two-year deal with Toronto in September -- and they have now lost two of their top prospect starters from their 2013 lineup and two starting pitchers who could have been here later in the year or certainly by 2014.

Adeiny Hechavarria, who played in the Triple-A All-Star Game here in July, was likely to be the Bisons' starting shortstop to open the '13 season. Jake Marsinick, Toronto's No. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, was likely to move up from Double-A and open the season in the Buffalo outfield. Among others reportedly going to Florida were likely future Bison starting pitchers Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani.

Hechavarria, 23, batted .312 last season at Las Vegas with six homers and 63 RBIs. The Cuban was signed as a free agent in 2009. Marisnick, 21, was Toronto's third-round pick in 2009. He hit .320 with 14 homers and 77 RBIs in 2001 for Class A Lansing but struggled last year after moving up to Class A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, combining to post totals of .249-8-50 at the two levels.

Nicolino, 20, was Toronto's second-round pick in 2010 and one of a trio of young prospects who pitched last year at Class A Lansing (Mich.) of the Midwest League. He went 10-4 with a 2.46 earned-run average in 22 starts there, striking out 119 batters and 124 1/3 innings. DeScalfani, 22, went 11-3, 3.37

The Lansing rotation that included Nicolino, DeSclafani and 19-year-olds Aaron Sanchez (8-5, 2.49) and Noah Syndergaard (8-5, 2.60) was considered perhaps the best in the entire minor leagues. On the plus side, Sanchez and Syndergaard are generally thought to be the top two and Toronto did not part with them.

If the Bisons are pondering the March 31 Blue Jays exhibition here that was talked about the day they signed, they should really go for it now. You'd have no problem filling Coca-Cola Field with fans from both sides of the border. As for 2013, the Blue Jays need to get a couple minor-league free agents signed to fill out the Buffalo lineup. Might be easy, given the short distance to Toronto and the fact a lot of guys wouldn't mind being depth options for a contending big-league team.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington

Manager of the Year winners announced tonight

The Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards continue tonight at 6 on the MLB Network with the announcement of the AL and NL Manager of the Year. 

The AL finalists are Baltimore's Buck Showalter, Chicago's Robin Ventura and Oakland's Bob Melvin while the NL finalists are Washington's Davey Johnson, Cincinnati's Dusty Baker and San Francisco's Bruce Bochy. (All voting is done prior to the postseason, so Bochy won't get any bump from the Giants' World Series run.).

The winners are announced live on the air at 6:17 and 6:47 p.m. and concurrently on the writers' official site at BBWAA.com. That site will also list the voter-by-voter ballots, which proved to be pretty interesting in the tight NL Rookie of the Year voting that Bryce Harper won Monday over Wade Miley and Todd Frazier.

I made my picks in Sunday's Inside Baseball column and I think we're going to have a double-Beltway sweep tonight with Showalter and Johnson getting the awards. 

On Wednesday, it will be the Cy Young Awards and on Thursday, we finally get the answer to the Trout-Cabrera question when the MVPs are announced.

Here's MLBNet's look at the Manager candidates. And be sure to vote in our polls below.

---Mike Harrington
Twitter: @BNHarrington 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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