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NEW YORK — Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols won baseball’s Comeback Player of the Year awards Tuesday night.

Verlander, the American League recipient, returned from Tommy John surgery to lead Houston to its second World Series championship. He had the lowest ERA in the majors and was a unanimous winner of his third Cy Young Award — becoming the first player to earn the prize after not pitching in the previous season.

Pujols, honored in the National League, came back to St. Louis for his farewell season and posted his biggest numbers in years at age 42. The three-time MVP compiled an .895 OPS for the NL Central champions and became the fourth major leaguer to reach 700 career home runs.

The winners were chosen in voting by the 30 team beat reporters at MLB.com.

Verlander went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 28 starts and made his ninth All-Star team. He won Game 5 in Philadelphia for the first World Series victory of his illustrious career, then became a free agent this month.

The 39-year-old right-hander made only one start in 2020 because of his elbow injury and missed the entire 2021 season while recovering from surgery.

Pujols batted .270 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs in 109 games for the Cardinals after getting released by the Los Angeles Angels in May 2021 and finishing last year with the Dodgers.

His OPS was his highest since his last season with the Cardinals in 2011 (.906) before joining the Angels, and his home runs were his most since hitting 31 in 2016 for the Angels.

The 11-time All-Star hit 18 home runs in the second half and retired after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs by Philadelphia in the wild-card round.

He finished his career fourth in major league annals in home runs (703), second in RBIs (2,218) and total bases (6,211) and ninth in hits (3,384).

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796 goals and counting: The Alex Ovechkin chase to 800 tracker

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796 goals and counting: The Alex Ovechkin chase to 800 tracker

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is currently chasing down career NHL goal No. 800. After starting the 2022-23 season at 780, he has scored 16 goals thus far.

Ovi is third on the all-time NHL goals list, behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801). The next highest active player on the list is Sidney Crosby, at No. 35 with 532 goals. With his 787th goal, Ovechkin set the record for most goals scored with the same franchise. With goal No. 793, he passed Gretzky for the most goals scored on the road for a career (403).

Follow along here as Ovi scores his way up the record books, including a schedule of upcoming games and highlight videos of goals No. 787 and beyond.

Subscribe to ESPN+ | Stream the NHL on ESPN
Upcoming schedule | Goal videos


The NHL’s top 10 in career goals

1. Wayne Gretzky (894)
2. Gordie Howe (801)
3. Alex Ovechkin (796)
4. Jaromir Jagr (766)
5. Brett Hull (741)
6. Marcel Dionne (731)
7. Phil Esposito (717)
8. Mike Gartner (708)
9. Mark Messier (694)
10. Steve Yzerman (692)


Highlights

Goal No. 796

At 19:56 of the third period against the Seattle Kraken, Ovechkin fired a shot into an empty net to put him four goals away from 800. The empty-net goal was assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson.

Goals No. 794 and 795

With the Capitals up 2-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin was on the ice to close out the game — and scored two empty-net goals! The first was assisted by Anthony Mantha and John Carlson, while the second was assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary.

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Alex Ovechkin tallies twice on an empty net and now has 795 career goals.

Goals No. 792 and 793

Ovechkin scored two goals in the first period of the Capitals’ matchup against the Vancouver Canucks — the first unassisted and the second with help from Dylan Strome and Anthony Mantha. Ovechkin has now passed Wayne Gretzky for most goals all time on the road.

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Alex Ovechkin slaps in his second goal of the game to put the Capitals up 2-0 against the Canucks.

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Alex Ovechkin jumps on the loose puck and notches his 792nd career goal vs. the Canucks.

Goal No. 791

A victory over the Calgary Flames was already well in hand, but Ovechkin’s goal at 12:24 of the third period — assisted by Conor Sheary and Sonny Milano — put him nine away from 800.

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Alex Ovechkin tallies goal for Capitals on the power play

Goal No. 790

At 1:04 of overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin notched a game-winning goal assisted by Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson.

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Alex Ovechkin wins it for the Capitals with this clutch slap shot in overtime vs. the Flyers.

Goal No. 789

A goal at 15:12 of the second period against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 17 moved Ovechkin one step closer to 800. Dylan Strome was credited with the one assist on the tally.

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Alex Ovechkin nets goal vs. Blues

Goal No. 788

Ovechkin scored at 14:36 of the second period in a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 7, a power-play goal assisted by Erik Gustafsson and Evgeny Kuznetsov:

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Alex Ovechkin scores on the power play for Capitals

Goal No. 787

With his goal at 8:55 of the second period — a power-play tally assisted by Trevor van Riemsdyk and Anthony Mantha — Ovechkin broke Gordie Howe’s record for most goals scored by a player with a single franchise:

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Alex Ovechkin scores his 787th career goal to break Gordie Howe’s record of most goals with one team.


Upcoming schedule

Note: All games not on ESPN, TNT or NHL Network are available via NHL Power Play, which is included in an ESPN+ subscription (local blackout restrictions apply).

Dec. 11: at Winnipeg Jets
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 13: at Chicago Blackhawks
9 ET | ESPN

Dec. 15: vs. Dallas Stars
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 17: vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 19: vs. Detroit Red Wings
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 22: at Ottawa Senators
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 23: vs. Winnipeg Jets
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 27: at New York Rangers
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 29: vs. Ottawa Senators
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 31: vs. Montreal Canadiens
4 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 3: vs. Buffalo Sabres
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 5: at Columbus Blue Jackets
7 ET | ESPN

Jan. 6: vs. Nashville Predators
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 8: vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
5 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 11: at Philadelphia Flyers
7:30 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 14: vs. Philadelphia Flyers
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 16: at New York Islanders
7:30 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 17: vs. Minnesota Wild
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 19: at Arizona Coyotes
9 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 21: at Vegas Golden Knights
10 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 24: at Colorado Avalanche
9 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 26: vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 29: at Toronto Maple Leafs
5 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 31: at Columbus Blue Jackets
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

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Trainer Servis pleads guilty to drugging his horses

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Trainer Servis pleads guilty to drugging his horses

NEW YORK — Trainer Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security was the 3-year-old champion in 2019, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges involving a widespread scheme to drug horses.

The 65-year-old New Jersey-based trainer faces four years in prison when he is sentenced next May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was the last defendant facing charges in the scheme, and now 23 of the 31 individuals charged have pleaded guilty.

Servis pleaded guilty in connection with his role in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs intended for use on horses in his stable.

“Servis’ conduct represents corruption at the highest levels of the racehorse industry,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “As a licensed racehorse trainer, Servis was bound to protect the horses under his care and to comply with racing rules designed to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and protect the integrity of the sport.”

Servis’ attorney, Rita Glavin, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Servis was charged in 2020 after a wide-ranging investigation into doping in the horse racing industry. Racing authorities suspended his trainer’s license.

Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for interference during the running of the race. The colt finished first in the $10 million Saudi Cup shortly before Servis’ arrest in March 2020. Saudi officials later withheld the winner’s share of the purse, citing Servis’ arrest and indictment.

“I don’t take any solace in other peoples misery, actually quite the opposite I feel some empathy for them,” Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion tweeted, “but the reality is that those of us who were beaten by Jason Service’s (sic) horses have little to show for it other than losing money, owners and horses due to his success.”

Another New Jersey-based trainer, Jorge Navarro, is serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty a year ago. Eleven of the defendants were trainers and seven were veterinarians.

Servis is the brother of trainer John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before the colt lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.

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‘I’m totally speechless’: Inside the $1.6 billion spending spree that rocked MLB’s winter meetings

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'I'm totally speechless': Inside the .6 billion spending spree that rocked MLB's winter meetings

SAN DIEGO — The industry’s executives and agents filed out of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in clusters late Wednesday afternoon, leaving behind the madness of an event that had somehow exceeded lofty expectations of extravagance. Major League Baseball’s winter meetings, back for the first time in three years, had seen money flow and precedents buckle — but one final stunner remained. It came Wednesday night, while most of the sport’s movers and shakers sat inside airplanes bound for their respective home cities. The San Diego Padres, a midmarket team that already possessed enviable infield depth and a massive payroll, agreed on an 11-year, $280 million contract with Xander Bogaerts, one of the premier shortstops on the free agent market. A text message from a rival general manager said it all:

Holy s—. I’m totally speechless.

From the start of Monday to the end of Wednesday, 20 major league free agents agreed to contracts totaling nearly $1.6 billion. The vast majority did so while outshooting their projections. And if there was one phrase that could encapsulate the week’s event, it was that one — muttered so often by front-office members, agents, scouts, coaches and media members that it might as well have been part of the branding. The winter meetings, presented by Holy S—.

This offseason, signs of a spending spree had come early. One day after the World Series ended, the New York Mets brought back Edwin Diaz on a five-year, $102 million deal that stood as the richest ever for a reliever. Three days later, Robert Suarez and Rafael Montero — two non-closing relievers with minimal major league dominance in their track records — secured multiyear deals totaling $80.5 million from the Padres and the Houston Astros, respectively. Four days after Thanksgiving, Jose Abreu, who will be 36 next month, received three guaranteed years at an annual rate of nearly $20 million from the Astros. Jacob deGrom, a 34-year-old right-hander who accumulated 156⅓ innings the past two seasons, followed by garnering a five-year, $185 million contract from the Texas Rangers on Dec. 2 — a deal the industry’s executives were still stunned by when they arrived for the winter meetings a couple of nights later.

It was only an appetizer.

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