Tagged in: history

Everson Griffen signs with Minnesota Vikings, says he regrets leaving to sign elsewhere in 2020

Veteran free-agent pass-rusher Everson Griffen signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the team revealed Monday.

The terms of Griffen’s contract were not disclosed.

Griffen, 33, was selected by Minnesota in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft and spent a decade with the Vikings. From 2010 to ’19, Griffen totaled 74.5 sacks, which ranks seventh in franchise history. He was named a Pro Bowler four times in Minnesota, including three consecutive seasons from 2015 to ’17.

In February 2020, Griffen opted out of his contract and became a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys in August 2020 and was traded to the Detroit Lions two months later. In 14 matches last season, Griffen registered six sacks, 33 tackles (seven for loss) and 14 quarterback hits.

Griffen said he was waiting for the “right fit” as a free agent and noted how difficult last year was having to move his family from Minnesota to Dallas to Detroit in the middle of a pandemic. His familiarity with the Vikings’ scheme and close relationship with players like Danielle Hunter and defensive line coach Andre Patterson drew him back to Minnesota.

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“Honestly, I wanted to be here,” Griffen said. “I really wanted to be here. I felt like this was the best fit for me throughout the whole league. I really wanted to be here and I’m excited to be back. I’m just happy that things worked out the way they did and they welcomed me back with open arms.”

As Griffen reflected on why he left Minnesota instead of taking a pay cut after opting out of his previous deal, the defensive end expressed regret with his decision.

“I left because I thought the grass was greener on the other side, to be honest, and it wasn’t,” Griffen said. “Going to Dallas, going to Detroit, the grass wasn’t greener. I didn’t get the love that I got here with the fans, with the coaches, with the players and the grass wasn’t greener. I learned I’m back home and I’m happy to be home. “

One of Minnesota’s top position questions in training camp is determining who will start opposite Hunter at defensive end. 

Stephen Weatherly and D.J. Wonnum have been the front-runners throughout the preseason, but the team left the door open for more competition at that spot when it brought in Griffen for a workout last week.

Wearing an unfamiliar No. 58, which he noted was a “little bit” weird, Griffen was at practice Monday and participated in light individual work. Coach Mike Zimmer said Monday that the Vikings plan to use Griffen as a “situational” pass-rusher. Griffen said he’ll play “wherever they want me.”

Griffen met with Vikings brass last week following his workout to confirm, “that my head was in it. That I’m in a good place.” The defensive end took a month-long hiatus during the 2018 season to focus on his health and wellbeing after the Vikings ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation and two separate incidents involving police authorities led to him being hospitalized.

Griffen opened up about his struggles last year and told NFL Network that he lived in a sober house for three months starting in Oct. 2018.

Earlier this offseason, Griffen composed a handful of insulting tweets where he called Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins “ass” and claimed that Zimmer never wanted to sign the QB. The defensive end said he planned to speak to Cousins and apologize.

“I haven’t really talked to him yet but I’m going to get around to doing that,” Griffen said. “Apologize to him, apologize to Coach Zimmer, [general manager] Rick [Spielman] about what I said. I take full ownership in that. I’ve still got to talk to Kirk and apologize to him about that.”

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Luka Doncic signs five-year, $207 million supermax rookie extension with Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has signed a landmark five-year, $207 million supermax rookie extension, the team revealed Tuesday.

Doncic, one of the most accomplished players in NBA history at 22 years old and rapidly evolving into the future face of the league, becomes the first player eligible for the designated rookie max extension upon signing because he has twice been voted first-team All-NBA.

The deal contains a player option in the final year, agent Bill Duffy of BDA Sports told ESPN on Monday.

A contingent of the franchise’s leaders landed in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Monday to formally present Doncic and Duffy with the contract, including Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, general manager Nico Harrison, coach Jason Kidd, assistant general manager Michael Finley, special adviser Dirk Nowitzki and director of player health and performance Casey Smith.

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“Today is a dream come true,” Doncic told ESPN in a statement. “The game of basketball has given me so much and has taken me to so many amazing places. I am humbled and excited to remain in Dallas as part of the Mavericks.

Doncic became the youngest MVP in EuroLeague history in 2017-18, when he led Real Madrid to a title before being selected with the third overall pick in the NBA draft, immediately getting traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Mavericks for Trae Young and a future first-round pick.

Doncic won Rookie of the Year in 2018-19 and has been a first-team All-NBA selection the past two seasons.

Only four players in NBA history have made All-NBA first team multiple times before their 23rd birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Doncic and Kevin Durant are the only players to accomplish the feat since the ABA-NBA merger.

Doncic, who led the Slovenian national team to its first Olympic berth and a fourth-place finish in Tokyo, has NBA career averages of 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. His playoff production has been even more impressive, as he has averaged 33.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists in 13 postseason games.

Despite Doncic’s individual brilliance, the Mavericks are still trying to advance past the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Although Dallas has lost to the LA Clippers in each of the past two playoffs, Doncic dominated with five 40-point playoff performances, highlighted by a 43-point, 17-rebound, 13-assist outing that ended with the winning buzzer-beater in the Mavs’ Game 4 victory in 2020. He had a 46-point, 14-assist effort in last season’s Game 7 loss.

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Indianapolis Colts, Darius Leonard agree to 5-year, $98.5M extension that makes him top-paid ILB

The Indianapolis Colts and linebacker Darius Leonard have agreed to an extension, the team revealed Sunday.

Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter it is a five-year, $98.5 million extension that will make Leonard the highest-paid inside linebacker in NFL history.

Leonard passes San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner, who signed his new deal at the outset of training camp that made him the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker at the time.

“I’m a competitor. If you’re not first, you’re last,” Leonard said of besting Warner’s deal. “To have my name at the top, that’s something I don’t take for granted. I have to continue to go out and prove that. You’ve seen the [linebacker] rankings; I think I was sixth, I was No. 8 on Madden.”

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Leonard joins offensive tackle Braden Smith as the two players the Colts have locked up to long-term extensions during training camp.

Leonard stated he hopes to make his training camp debut this week after offseason ankle surgery.

The 26-year-old Leonard was a first-team All-Pro for the second time in 2020, when he had 132 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while helping the Colts return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, when he led the NFL with 163 tackles and also recorded seven sacks.

A second-round draft selection in 2018, Leonard has 416 tackles in three seasons and also has 15 career sacks and seven interceptions. “We all know Darius, that chip has served him well,” coach Frank Reich said.

“Whatever level of disrespect he felt from all that, he’s used that as a motivator in [his] own way, but what I’ve learned to appreciate about Darius is he’s going to be motivated no matter what to be the very best. He’s going to hold himself to those standards.”

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Dustin Poirier wins trilogy rematch by TKO after Conor McGregor injures leg in Round 1

Dustin Poirier now owns two triumphs over the biggest star in the history of mixed martial arts. This one, though, didn’t end in the cleanest way.

Poirier hit Conor McGregor with a combination at the end of the first round of Saturday night’s highly anticipated UFC 264 main event. McGregor went to plant his left foot and his leg buckled, sending him to the mat. Poirier followed up with punches on the ground as time expired in the round.

With McGregor clearly hurt, referee Herb Dean called the lightweight fight. The official result was Poirier by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 5:00 of the first round. A stretcher was brought in to transport McGregor to the hospital. The video replay showed McGregor’s lower leg bent gruesomely as his foot hit the canvas. UFC president Dana White later stated the injury was to McGregor’s lower tibia and that he will have surgery Sunday morning.

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The finish left the sold-out crowd disappointed. There was a mixture of boos and cheers when Poirier was declared as the winner. This was one of the most anticipated trilogy fights in UFC history.

“I beat the guy,” Poirier said in his postfight interview.

Poirier explained that he hurt McGregor’s ankle on a checked kick and then the ankle buckled at the end of the first round. McGregor denied that it was a checked kick that did it. Poirier picked up his 15th career first-round finish.

“This is not over,” McGregor said.

White said Poirier will fight for the UFC lightweight title next versus champion Charles Oliveira and that when McGregor is healthy he will probably get a fourth fight against Poirier.

“When Conor is healed and ready to go, we’ll do the rematch, I guess,” White said. “Poirier will do his thing until Conor is ready.”

Oliveira told ESPN’s Mike Coppinger he expects the fight with Poirier to possibly be in December.

“It’s really sad what happened [to McGregor], but if you look at Poirier’s game, he’s been improving a lot, he’s been putting a lot of pressure, so he deserves the win,” Oliveira said of Saturday night’s result.

White said he believes that had McGregor not been injured, he would have gotten out of the first round.

“His ankle snapped from throwing punches. He was fighting back,” White said. “It wasn’t like he was up against the cage with Dustin unloading punches on him. If his ankle doesn’t break, I think we get to the end of the round.”

Poirier, for his part, said he and McGregor “are going to fight again, whether it’s in the Octagon or on the sidewalk. … He was saying that he was going to kill me. You don’t say stuff like that.”

Poirier said he wasn’t sure he felt a sense of closure following the trilogy.

“I need to digest it all, because right now, it kind of feels weird,” he said. “It’s not a good feeling.”

Poirier stopped McGregor at UFC 257 in January via second-round TKO. In 2014, at UFC 178, McGregor knocked out Poirier in less than two minutes.

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New York Yankees turn game-ending triple play vs. Oakland Athletics, tie MLB record

Yankees manager Aaron Boone knew it off the bat.

“Usually, a triple play sneaks up on you,” he said. “Right away, I’m thinking, ‘That’s a triple play.'”

New York turned its record-tying third triple play of the season to strand the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, bailing out closer Aroldis Chapman from a shaky outing and closing down a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Gary Sanchez spoiled Sean Manaea’s gem with a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth inning, and relievers Jonathan Loaisiga (7-2) and Lucas Luetge turned a 2-1 lead over to Chapman in the ninth.

A day after reaching 103.4 mph during his 15th save — his fastest pitch on a strikeout since the 2017 AL wild-card game — Chapman walked Jed Lowrie and Chad Pinder on nine pitches, topping out at 98 mph.

He was visited by an athletic trainer because the nail in his left middle finger broke, but he stayed in the game to face Sean Murphy, who drilled the second pitch of the at-bat right at third baseman Gio Urshela.

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Urshela stepped on third and whizzed the ball to DJ LeMahieu, and the second baseman relayed to first baseman Chris Gittens to get Murphy by a step.

“You’re around long enough, you see everything,” longtime A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I’ve never seen a game end like that before.”

New York also turned the first 1-3-6-2-5-6 triple play in major league history on Thursday at Buffalo, New York, versus the Toronto Blue Jays and also had an around-the-horn triple play on May 21 against the Chicago White Sox involving Urshela, second baseman Rougned Odor and first baseman Luke Voit.

The storied franchise had never turned more than one triple play in a season and tied a major league record for most in a season, a record shared by 11 other teams and last accomplished by the 2016 White Sox.

It’s the first game-ending triple play since 2009, when the Philadelphia Phillies turned one versus the New York Mets in an Aug. 23 contest, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Yankees’ triple plays have happened over 31 days, the shortest span ever for three by a big league team.

Chapman’s 16th save in 18 tries sent Oakland to its first road series loss this season after eight victories and a split. The A’s had just four hits.

Loaisiga cleaned up Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery’s jam in the sixth and covered 1⅔ scoreless innings, helping New York lock up its fifth win in six games — all when trailing after the fifth inning.

“It felt like a big series, coming off some really quality wins in Buffalo,” Boone said.

Manaea (6-3) struck out a career-high 11 and Matt Olson homered for Oakland, but the A’s dropped their second straight after ending a seven-game winning streak Saturday.

A two-time All-Star, Sanchez lost his starting job during last year’s postseason due to an extended slump, one that stretched into the start of 2021. He’s surged back to top form in June, entering Sunday hitting .294 with a 1.012 OPS this month. He has five homers in his past 10 games, and 11 of his past 17 hits have gone for extra bases.

“He’s on time,” Boone said. “He’s making really good decisions. Doesn’t mean you’re always going to get results, but it’s not an accident now that he’s getting really good results.”

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Matsuyama makes history with Masters triumph

Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to collect a major championship.

Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama claimed the ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele‘s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth consecutive birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

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The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced of the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

That’s what he did, a final bogey for a one-shot victory over 24-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who closed with a 70 and stayed on the practice range just in case of a playoff.

Matsuyama ended at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He was far from a sure thing, closing at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 prior to the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.

He was not a popular choice for bettors either. As of Thursday, he accounted for only 1% of the money that had been wagered on the odds to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.

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Man City’s Aguero has Barcelona, PSG, Juventus as transfer options – sources

Sergio Aguero is considering interest from Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after ruling out a return to club football in Argentina following confirmation of his exit from Manchester City this summer, sources have told ESPN.

The 32-year-old, who is the highest-scoring non-Englishman in Premier League history with 181 goals, will leave the Etihad at the end of the campaign after City confirmed on Monday that he would not be offered a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires on June 30.

Aguero had previously stated that his ambition, at the end of his stay at City, was to return to Argentina to play for boyhood club Independiente. But sources have told ESPN that Aguero considers he can still perform at the top level in Europe for at least two more seasons and the forward is now ready to take advantage of his free agent status this summer to secure a move to one of the game’s top clubs.

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ESPN reported recently that Barca were monitoring Aguero’s situation at City amid concerns that Lionel Messi will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season.

PSG are also interested in the Argentina international, while Juve are another option with the Italian champions keen to plan for life without Cristiano Ronaldo in the event of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward leaving the Turin club at the end of the season.

Sources have told ESPN that Aguero is aware of interest from within the Premier League, but after 10 years in England, the player would prefer to move to Europe.

Having signed for City in a £35 million move from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero has won four Premier League titles, five EFL Cup trophies and one FA Cup in his time at the club, with his winning goal, four minutes into stoppage time versus QPR in May 2012, sealing City’s first title in 44 years and becoming one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

But injuries, and a spell on the sidelines with COVID-19, have restricted Aguero to just four Premier League starts and one goal this season.

In total, he has made just 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals. Aguero is now fit, however, and ready to contribute to City’s push for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League this season.

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Dallas Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2021 campaign, the team revealed Friday.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

The unit played better down the stretch with 12 takeaways in the final four matches after getting just 11 in the first 12 games, but that was aided in part by facing backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”

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Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas at different times during the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones lamented the jarring scheme switch — from a 4-3 look to a hybrid look — made by the Cowboys during an offseason in which the coaches could only meet virtually with the players.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

In the three other times the Cowboys allowed a franchise record in points, the organization either made a scheme modification or a coaching change.

After allowing 436 points in 2010, Jason Garrett was named the full-time head coach after taking over for Wade Phillips at midseason, and he hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. In 2013, they allowed 432 points in Monte Kiffin’s first year as coordinator, and he was replaced by Rod Marinelli. After giving up 405 points in 2004, Bill Parcells switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme but kept Mike Zimmer as his coordinator.

McCarthy and Nolan have a long background together.

In 2005, Nolan hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, which helped propel him to earning the Green Bay Packers head job a year later.

But the defense could not find its footing. While they suffered some injuries to Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone, ankle), Trysten Hill (knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot), they were not hit as hard as the Cowboys’ offense.

Their bigger free-agent pickups were either hurt in training camp (defensive lineman Gerald McCoy), did not make the team out of camp (safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), were traded (Everson Griffen) or were released because of poor play in the middle of the season (defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Daryl Worley).

If the Cowboys look in-house for a substitute, George Edwards spent the year as a senior defensive assistant. He was Zimmer’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2019.

But the first question that must be answered is what type of scheme the Cowboys want to use. In Green Bay, McCarthy employed a 3-4 scheme for most of his tenure. If he wants to continue with the hybrid look Nolan attempted to use, adding players to fit the scheme will be an offseason priority. In all but three years of his time in Green Bay, the Packers used a 3-4 scheme.

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Manager Aaron Boone will turn to rookie Deivi Garcia to start Game 2 for New York Yankees

By taking the mound in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, rookie Deivi Garcia will make history.

The 21-year-old Dominican-born pitcher will become the youngest player to make a postseason start in New York Yankees franchise history (at 21 years and 140 days).

Despite only six major league starts under his belt, manager Aaron Boone said he opted to go with Garcia due to the maturity he has displayed this campaign.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, the only other 21-year-old to make a postseason start for the Yankees was Whitey Ford in Game 4 of the 1950 World Series (21 years, 351 days).

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone stated Monday ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between [Game 1 starter Gerrit] Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

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“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this is the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie right-hander concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2, what can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Tuesday’s start will also make Garcia the fifth-youngest player in American League history to make a postseason start, and the youngest player born outside the United States to make a playoff start in the AL.

Overall, only Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Julio Urías (20 years, 68 days) and Fernando Valenzuela (five times) were younger in making a postseason start among players born outside the U.S. Garcia, who stated he idolized Hall of Fame starter Pedro Martínez growing up in the Dominican Republic, reiterated that it was an honor to make pinstripes history.

Including a subpar outing at Fenway Park, Garcia finished the coronavirus-shortened 2020 regular campaign with a 4.98 ERA in 34⅓ innings pitched.

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Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu wins AL batting title

New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu has made batting title history. LeMahieu clinched the American League batting title Sunday and became the first player in the modern era to gain a batting title in each league. He’d previously won the National League batting title with the Rockies in 2016, hitting .348. LeMahieu led MLB in batting average both times.

“Guys don’t win batting titles in both leagues, because you win it in one league, they probably keep you,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly, the 1984 AL batting champ, told reporters following Saturday’s game (NYY 11, MIA 4), including the Associated Press. “It’s a different game nowadays.”

The modern era starts in 1900 and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty won the batting title in each league at that time. Delahanty won the 1899 NL batting title with the Philadelphia Phillies and 1902 AL batting title with the Washington Senators, but the 1899 batting title is disputed, hence LeMahieu being the first in the modern era.

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The only other player to attain the batting title in multiple official leagues was Pete Browning.

He won the 1882 and 1885 American Association batting titles with the Louisville Eclipse and the 1890 Players’ League batting title with the Cleveland Infants.

LeMahieu, an impending free agent poised to land a significant payday, is the first Yankee to collect the batting title since Bernie Williams hit .339 in 1998. 

Anderson (.335) won the batting title last year and LeMahieu (.327) ended second. This is only the seventh time in history the same two players finished first and second (in either order) in the batting title race in back-to-back years, and the first time since Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams did it in 1956 and 1957.

Of course, LeMahieu’s batting title this year occurred in an unusual 60-game campaign as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s difficult to consider it on par with a 162-game batting title. That said, you can only play the schedule you’re given, and every team played the same number of matches. This is baseball in 2020.

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