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Thoughts, news and notes from the sports staff of The Saratogian newspaper, located in historic Saratoga Springs, New York. The gang in the corner office on Lake Avenue give you the post-game wrap-ups, news and notes from the games we cover and opinions about the sports we read about every day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ATBATW: A look at the day's signings around Major League Baseball; Fielder, Lincecum, Colon, Morrow, Betemit

Around the Block, Around the World: Baseball Edition
All stories compiled by the Associated Press

Fielder, Tigers agree to 9-year deal
DETROIT — Free agent first baseman Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers agreed Tuesday on a nine-year, $214 million contract that fills the AL Central champions’ need for a power hitter, a person familiar with the deal said.
CBS first reported the agreement.
The person told the Associated Press that the deal was subject to a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet complete.
Detroit boldly stepped up in the Fielder sweepstakes after the recent knee injury to star Victor Martinez. A week ago, the Tigers announced that the productive designated hitter could miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL.
The Tigers won their division by 15 games before losing in the AL championship series to Texas. Adding Fielder gives the Tigers two of the game’s premier sluggers, pairing him with Miguel Cabrera.
The move also keeps Fielder’s name in the Tigers’ family. His father, Cecil, became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season.
Several teams had shown interest this winter in the 27-year-old Fielder, who had spent his entire career with Milwaukee. He visited Texas, and the Washington Nationals also got involved in the discussions.
The beefy slugger hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs last season. He is a three-time All-Star and was the MVP of last year’s event in Phoenix.
Fielder has averaged 40 homers and 113 RBIs over the past five years. He’s also been among the most durable players in the majors, appearing in at least 157 games in each of the last six seasons.
The deal is only the fourth $200 million contract in baseball history, following Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million, 10-year contract with the New York Yankees, A-Rod’s $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas and Albert Pujols’ $240 million, 10-year contract last month with the Los Angeles Angels.
Among current players, his $23.78 million average salary is behind only A-Rod ($27.5 million), Ryan Howard ($25 million), and Cliff Lee and Pujols ($24 million each).
Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week he felt finding a replacement for Martinez was a short-term problem, but he left himself some wriggle room, saying it depended who the player was.
Acquiring Fielder opens all sorts of possibilities, such as moving Cabrera to third base or having one of the two sluggers be the designated hitter.

Lincecum, Giants agree to 2-year deal 
SAN FRANCISCO — Two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants reached a verbal agreement Tuesday on a two-year contract worth $40.5 million.
The deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $18 million this year and $22 million in 2013, a person familiar with the agreement said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the terms were not announced.
Lincecum had asked for a near-record $21.5 million in salary arbitration and had been offered $17 million by the club. He remains eligible for free agency following the 2013 season.
The 27-year-old right-hander, the winning pitcher in the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas in 2010, earned $13.1 million last season when he completed a two-year deal worth $23.2 million.
When the sides exchanged numbers last Tuesday, Lincecum’s request neared the record amount sought in arbitration. Houston pitcher Roger Clemens asked for $22 million in 2005.
San Francisco’s offer was the highest in arbitration history, topping the $14.25 million the New York Yankees proposed for shortstop Derek Jeter in 2001.
As Giants vice president Bobby Evans expected, they found common ground around the midpoint of the figures — and did so in only a week.
San Francisco’s front office had hoped to lock up Lincecum and fellow starter Matt Cain with long-term deals, though Lincecum seemed set on keeping his options open in the near future on a shorter contract. A call to the pitcher was not immediately returned and his agent declined to comment.
With Lincecum earning a hefty contract, Evans joked last week, “I usually leave off the final three zeroes because it’s easier to calculate.”
In February 2010, Lincecum agreed to a $23 million, two-year contract ahead of the scheduled hearing. He had been set at that time to ask for $13 million.
That last contract was quite a raise for the undersized, hard-throwing pitcher his teammates call “Franchise” and “Freak” after he earned $650,000 in 2009.
Lincecum — the 10th overall draft pick out of Washington in 2006 — has been an All-Star in each of the past four seasons. He went 13-14 with a 2.74 ERA last year for his first losing record. The Giants scored no runs while he was in the game in seven of 33 starts, had one run six times and two runs five times, according to STATS LLC.
San Francisco, which sold out every game in 2011 but missed the playoffs, will have a payroll of around $130 million.

Morrow and Blue Jays agree to $21M, 3-year deal
TORONTO — Pitcher Brandon Morrow and the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a $21 million, three-year contract that avoided salary arbitration.
Morrow gets $4 million this year and $8 million in each of the following two seasons. Toronto has a $10 million option for 2015 with a $1 million buyout.
The 27-year-old Morrow was 11-11 last season with a 4.72 ERA.
But the right-hander also set career highs in wins (11), innings (179 1-3) and strikeouts (203).
On Monday, the Jays announced the signing of 44-year-old infielder Omar Vizquel to a minor league contract.

A’s agree to terms with right-hander Bartolo Colon
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics and free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon have agreed to terms on a one-year contract.
The team made the announcement Tuesday. The sides had an agreement last week pending a physical.
The 38-year-old Colon, a former A’s nemesis during his four-year stint with the AL West rival Angels from 2004-07, went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 29 appearances and 26 starts last year for the New York Yankees in his 14th big league season. He won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award.
Last month, the A’s traded away starter Trevor Cahill to Arizona and All-Star lefty Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals. Oakland sent All-Star closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox on Dec. 28.
He is 5-1 with a 2.14 ERA in seven appearances at the Coliseum.

Orioles sign Betemit to two-year contract
BALTIMORE — Infielder Wilson Betemit and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a two-year, $3.25 million contract.
The Orioles announced the deal with the free agent Tuesday and say it includes a vesting option for 2014.
Betemit will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and earn $1 million this season and $1.75 million in 2013. The option for 2014 becomes guaranteed if he has a combined 7000 plate appearances over the first two seasons.
The switch-hitting Betemit batted .285 with eight homers and 46 RBIs in 97 games for Kansas City and Detroit last season. In nine big league seasons with six teams, Betemit has hit .269 with 63 homers and 243 RBIs.
To make room for Betemit on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated RHP Rick VandenHurk for assignment.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Around the Block, Around the World: Former Pro Wrestler to serve time for knowingly spreading HIV, Jorge Posada to announce retirement and A Woman Completes an Unassisted Ski Trip Across Antarctica in Record Time

All stories by The Associated Press

Ohio wrestler gets 32 years in HIV assault case

CINCINNATI — A former professional wrestler was sentenced Monday to 32 years in prison for having sex with women without telling them he had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.
Andre Davis, 29, was sentenced in Hamilton County Common Pleas on 14 counts of felonious assault. Davis, who wrestled using stage names including Gangsta of Love and Sweet Sexy Sensation, was convicted in November.
Prosecutors said Davis violated state law by not telling a dozen sex partners about his HIV status or lying to them.
Davis told the judge Monday that he was a “sex addict” and that his addiction grew worse when he lost his dream of becoming a professional wrestler after getting the HIV test results.
He said sex addiction is probably the worst addiction anyone could have.
“Drugs and alcohol are terrible, but sex is something everybody wants,” he said.
Davis, who said he didn’t disclose his HIV test results because he didn’t want his family to know, said he never intended to hurt anyone.
“I am not a monster,” he said.
Assistant prosecutor Amy Tranter had argued during trial that Davis should go to prison for a long time, saying the case was about his responsibility to tell the women his test results.
Davis’ attorney, Greg Cohen, argued that the state law regarding HIV and felonious assault is poorly written because it doesn’t require proof that there has been harm or an attempt to commit harm.
Cohen said Monday that his client was sorry for what he had done and that the women Davis slept with also had some responsibility for choosing to have unprotected sex.
The judge, citing medical privacy laws, had prohibited attorneys from bringing up whether any of the women was infected with the virus, which can be transmitted through unprotected sex.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has reported that World Wrestling Entertainment told Davis in July 2009 that it wouldn’t hire him because he failed his physical and tested positive for HIV.
Cohen had noted during the trial that a company, not a doctor, told Davis that he was HIV-positive and that he did not think prosecutors could prove that Davis has HIV. But the state law requires those who test positive for HIV to inform their sex partners of that status and it was not necessary to prove that Davis is HIV-positive, Tranter said.
Tranter and Cohen didn’t immediately return calls for additional comment Monday.
Davis, who could have received over 100 years in prison, faces similar charges in Warren County, north of Cincinnati.

Posada to announce retirement Tuesday
NEW YORK — The New York Yankees say Jorge Posada is going to announce his retirement Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
The 40-year-old five-time All-Star catcher will end his 17-year big league career with the team that drafted him rather than pursue another team. Posada became a free agent after a trying season in New York, the final year of a four-year, $52 million contract.
The Yankees announced Posada’s decision in a statement Monday. Sports radio station WFAN first reported his plans two weeks ago.
The clubhouse leader helped the Yankees win five World Series titles. For his career, Posada hit .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBIs. But he lost his catching job this year and his playing time diminished.

Tears, joy as woman sets Antarctic crossing record 
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — British adventurer Felicity Aston became the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica on Monday, hauling two sledges around crevasses and over mountains into endless headwinds, past the South Pole and onward to the coastal ice shelf, persevering for 59 days in near-total solitude.
She made it to her destination ahead of schedule, using nothing but her own strength to cover 1,084 miles (1,744 kilometers) from her starting point on the Leverett Glacier on Nov. 25 to Hercules Inlet.
The most surprising thing about her journey, she said, was how emotional it proved to be, from the moment she was dropped off alone, through every victory and defeat along the way.
“I’m not a particularly weepy person, and yet anyone who has been following my tweets can see me bursting into tears,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday while waiting for a plane to pick her up.
“When I saw the coastal mountains that marked my end point for the first time, I literally just stopped in my tracks and bawled my eyes out,” she added. “All these days I thought there was no chance I was going to make it in time to make that last flight off Antarctica, and yet here I am with three days to spare.”
Aston also set another record: the first human to ski solo, across Antarctica, using only her own muscles. A male-female team earlier skied across Antarctica without kites or machines, but Aston is the first to do this alone.
Aston, 34, grew up in Kent, England, and studied physics and meteorology. A veteran of expeditions in subzero environments, she worked for the British weather service at a base in Antarctica and has led teams on ski trips in the Antarctic, the Arctic and Greenland.
But this was the first time she traveled so far, so alone, and she said the solitude posed her biggest challenge. In such an extreme environment, the smallest mistakes can prove treacherous. Alone with one’s thoughts, the mind can play tricks. Polar adventurers usually take care to watch their teammates for signs of hypothermia, which is easier to diagnose in others than yourself, she said.
She thought she was done for when her two butane lighters failed high in the Transantarctic Mountains, where it got “really very cold.”
“Suddenly I realized that without a lighter working, I can’t light my stove, I can’t melt snow to make water, and I won’t have any water to drink, and that becomes a very serious problem,” she said. “It’s quite stressful. It was just a matter of every single day, looking at my kit, and thinking what could go wrong here and what can I do to prevent it?”
She did have a small box of safety matches, and counted and re-counted every one until the lighters started working again at lower altitude, she said.
This Antarctic summer has seen the centennial of Roald Amundsen’s conquest of the South Pole, where Britons still lament that R.F. Scott’s team arrived for England days later, demoralized to see Norway’s flag. Scott and his entire team then died on their way out, and some of their bodies weren’t found for eight months.
Aston had modern technology in her favor: She kept family and supporters updated and received their responses via Twitter and Facebook, and broadcast daily phone reports online. She carried two satellite phones to communicate with a support team, and a GPS device that reported her location throughout. She also had two supply drops — one at the pole and one part way to her finish line — so that she could travel with a lighter load. Otherwise, her feat was unassisted.
While others have traveled farther using kites, sails, machinery or dogs (now banned for fear of infecting wildlife with canine diseases), she did it on her own strength.
“She’s pretty average really, stands about 5-foot-6 I suppose, with an athletic build, but nothing outstanding,” said Brian Dorsett-Bailey, a trustee with the British Antarctic Monument Trust. “It’s only when you talk to her that she stands out. ... Whatever she wants to do, she’ll do. She’s a very determined lady.”
Aston, whose journey also helped raise money for monuments to the 29 Britons killed on Antarctica since Scott, had to fight near-constant headwinds across the vast central plateau to the pole. Then she turned toward Hercules Inlet, pushing through thick, fresh snow, until she reached her goal on the Ronne Ice Shelf, a spot within a small plane’s reach of a base camp on Union Glacier where the Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions company provides logistical support to each summer’s expeditions.
With skies clearing Monday, Aston tweeted that she’s been promised red wine and a hot shower after she gets picked up. “A very long, very hot shower,” she emphasized. “It’s something I haven’t had in quite a long time now!”
From there, she’ll join dozens of other Antarctic adventurers on the last flight out, a huge Russian cargo plane that will take her to Chile. Then she will fly home next week to Kent, in southeast England.
There, after two months of little but freeze-dried food, she can look forward to chicken pie, her mother said.
“I think there will be lots of cuddles, lots of hugs, it will be quite emotional,” said Jackie Aston, 61.
Felicity Aston, pondering her last hours of solitude Monday, told the AP she felt both joy and overwhelming sadness at finishing.
“I’m still reeling from the shock of it that I’ve made it this far. I honestly didn’t think I’d be getting here,” she said.
What remains, she hopes, will be a message about perseverance.
“If you can just find a way to keep going, either metaphorically or literally, whether you’re running a marathon or facing financial problems or have bad news to deliver or it’s tough at work or whatever, if you can just find a way to keep going, then you will discover that you have potential within yourself that you never never realized,” she said.
“Keeping going is the important thing, persevering, no matter how messy that gets. I mean, for me, sometimes I’ll be sitting in my tent in the morning bawling my eyes out, having tantrums. It’s not been pretty. But I’ve kept going, and that is the important thing because at some point in the future you’ll look back and just be amazed at how far you’ve come.”

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

We misreported Joe Paterno’s death, here’s how it happened.

Along with hundreds of other news outlets we made a serious error Saturday night: we reported that Joe Paterno died when, in fact, he was still fighting for life in a Pennsylvania hospital.

Mistakes like that are unacceptable — everyone at the Saratogian knows that.

First and foremost, our sincerest apologies go out to Paterno and his friends and family who were hurt by the deluge of misreports. Second, everyone at the Saratogian, including myself, apologizes to our readers for our mistaken report. Our credibility is damaged, understandably so, and we will all redouble our efforts to (re)gain your trust in our news reporting.

The apologies are one thing; but they alone won’t cut it.

Here’s an accounting of how this mistake was made, how we attempted to correct it and what we will do to make sure nothing like this happens again.

First, a timeline of the error:

We first published an AP story that Joe Paterno was gravely ill around 6 p.m. Saturday. That story was posted on all of our sports and news social media accounts.

From that point on, the three members of the sports department who were working and I watched social media and national news outlets very closely for news related to Paterno. We also paid strict attention to the news being reported by the Citizens Voice newspaper from Wilkes-Barre, Pa. That paper broke the (correct) news of Paterno’s grave condition so we lent it credence we otherwise might not have.

The sports and news departments continued to build the print pages of the Sunday paper while keeping a close eye out for developments in the story. When the Associated Press published an extended story about Paterno’s health we updated our website. The sports department began to develop two plans for the print product — one front page design in the event of Paterno’s death and another if the story remained the same all night.

Around 8:30 p.m. things began to go wrong.

We all noticed hundreds of reports on social media of Paterno’s death. We immediately checked major news outlets (like CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN) for confirmation. When reported Paterno’s death we hesitated to publish until we also saw that the Citizens Voice and one of our sister papers in Pennsylvania published the same news.

At that point we (it was really all hands on deck in the newsroom) pulled the trigger on a short story online that cited and linked to CBS’ report of Paterno’s death. We posted that story on all of our social media outlets. We also retweeted CBS’ reports on Twitter.

A few minutes later I took the information from CBS and combined it with an earlier AP story that had details of Paterno’s career to create a longer story about his (alleged) death for the website.

Then, we scrambled to correct our mistake:

Less than 30 minutes after we reported Paterno’s death we began to see a new deluge of reports via social media — reports saying he was in fact still alive.

I again edited our online story and headline, this time couching CBS’ report (which was not yet retracted) with links to a New York Times reporter’s tweet quoting the family spokesperson.

We sent more alerts via social media highlighting the discrepancy in reports.

When the Associated Press reported the same quote from the Paterno family spokesperson (that reports of Joe Paterno’s death were ‘absolutely not true’) I pulled all mention of Paterno’s death from our website and posted a new story. That story began like this:

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — News that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had died exploded on the internet Saturday evening, including a report on CBS Sports. Soon after, however, the Paterno family spokesman, Dan McGinn, told the Associated Press that reports of former Penn State coach's death are 'not true'.

I wanted to account for the media reports of Paterno’s death that were still pouring out, fast and furious, from across the country, while also reporting the family spokesperson’s assertion that Paterno had not died.

At this point we began to pull back all of incorrect reports on facebook and twitter. We posted the correct story several times, deleted tweets and facebook posts with incorrect information and responded to readers who had called us on our mistake.

Here's the story that ended up in print and on our website.

So that’s how it happened, here’s how we prevent it from happening again:

All of the incorrect reports trace back to the story which cited, an independent Penn State student newspaper that first incorrectly reported Paterno’s death. We got caught up in the sense that “everyone” was reporting Paterno’s death, when in reality a lot of people we follow on twitter were passing around CBSSports’ and OnwardState’s incorrect reports.

We should have drilled down to the source on every media report we used to justify our publication of the story – including the incorrect reports at our sister paper and at the Citizens Voice. Had we done that we would have wound up with just one source, Onward State via CBS, rather than the multiple sources we thought we had. (Click here for more on this idea from

We should have waited for the Associated Press to publish a report or waited for independent confirmation from at least one other national media outlet before we published a story.

We should have counted to 10 (or 10 million) before hitting publish. In the age of online journalism and in a company that prizes a “digital first” ethos, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of pushing news out fast and furious. Waiting a few minutes to confirm and then confirm again feels like an eternity when it seems everyone has beaten us to a story. Getting a story wrong feels a lot worse, as we learned tonight. In the case of misreporting someone’s death, getting the story wrong is just not acceptable.

Emily Donohue

Online Editor