Injuries may help explain awful postseason umpiring

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FOXSports.com’s Tracy Ringolsby offers a potential explanation for why the postseason umpiring has been so abysmal:

The quality of the umpiring has taken a hit because at least a dozen umpires, including seven crew chiefs, were left out of postseason assignments this year due to injuries.



Sidelined umpires include crew chiefs John Hirschbeck (testicular cancer), Charlie Reliford (back), Jerry Crawford (back), Tim Welke (concussion), Ed Montague (concussion and neck), Gary Darling (ankle and foot) and Rick Reed (stroke).



Other umpires who are sidelined by injuries include Kerwin Danley (concussion), Alfonso Marquez (back), Brian Runge (details unknown), Bill Hohn (back) and Ed Hickok (concussion). Several of them did return from the injuries in September, but given their limited time on the field this year they were not included in the list of postseason candidates.

Ringolsby compares it to the Yankees being “without Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Mariano Rivera and a couple other regulars.” While that may be a stretch, the fact that eight of the 19 umpires with 20-plus years of experience were unavailable for the postseason does help explain some of the odd assignments and less-than-stellar performances. MLB also has workload restrictions that have further limited the pool.
Of course, there’s a big difference between assigning lesser umpires to playoff games and watching as those lesser umpires perform horribly while flat-out blowing obvious calls. In theory even MLB’s non-elite umpires should be capable of doing their job at an acceptable level, so regardless of injuries and workload restrictions Bud Selig and company still need to address the issues that we’ve seen so far.

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.