Triple-A ump Muchlinski a Twin killer

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In all of its glory, here is the brutal call at home plate that ended Monday’s Twins-Athletics game.

Cuddyer is safe in scoring the game-tying run, of course, but Mike
Muchlinski, a Triple-A ump filling in for a vacationing major league
counterpart, got himself in lousy position and blew the call.

What makes this particularly disgusting is that Muchlinski knew
exactly what was materializing. He clearly took a peek towards third
when Cuddyer was rounding the bag — he knew there was going to be a
play at home — yet he still did his best Brandon Phillips imitation
while loafing over to where he was in an awful position to make the
game-determining call.

And the positioning is as much of a problem as the laziness. It’s
ridiculous how often umpires let themselves be screened on plays at the
plate. Unfortunately, the best place to make those calls from would be
in fair territory, right at the top of the circle. We never see umpires
there, though, and for good reason most of the time. Still, wouldn’t it
make a lot more sense to set up on the first-base line except when the
throw is coming in from right field? Muchlinski doesn’t blow that call
if he’s three feet to the right. He probably wouldn’t have blown it if
he was a couple of feet to the left, as he would have had a better view
between Michael Wuertz’s legs. Delmon Young, the hitter on the wild
pitch, has no formal training and was in a much better position to see
the play.

Muchlinski, though, didn’t set up anywhere. He was still moving even
as the tag wasn’t being made. He only stopped to make his impressively
elaborate out call, complete with the arched-back load-up and powerful
right hook to the ground. It was the type of punch out that’s sure to
get him noticed if MLB ever again hires a full-time ump. He’ll certainly have A’s fans on his side.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.