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UPDATE: The Pirates renounce any connection to the Pirates Fan Advisor thing

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UPDATE: There has been clarification from the team. This remains a dumb idea, but it is apparently not a team-endorsed dumb idea, the presence of team president Frank Coonelly on the website in question notwithstanding. In fact, they have asked that the video of Coonelly be removed from the site and issued a statement making it clear that they have nothing to do with this:

“The Pirates have no financial agreement or affiliation with PiratesFanAdvisor.com and receive no financial benefit in any way. The Pirates were approached by a long-time Pirates fan and Pirates Fantasy Camp goer, asking if the organization would consider feedback that he collected from the fans through his independent Web site in order to improve the experience at PNC Park.

“We agreed to consider any feedback he gathered as we are constantly seeking input from our fans. The fact we agreed to listen to whatever information is collected and agreed to shoot a brief online video communicating as much is the extent of the Pirates’ involvement inPiratesFanAdvisor.com. To avoid any confusion among our fans that we are in some way asking them to pay to provide us with their input, we have asked the video be removed from the site.

“All of the many, many channels of communication remain available to our fans. Whether it is through our online surveys, social media platforms, customer service department, guest services stations at the ballpark, season-ticket holder Q&A events, fan forums at public events such as PirateFest, e-mail, standard mail or the many other options, we actively encourage our fans to share their experiences and opinions with us.”

 

1:41: This is … odd.

The Pirates have set up something called the Fan Advisor Network. The upshot: they’re asking Pirates fans to pay the team money, ranging from $9.95 to $50 a month to become some sort of glorified focus group. From their website, where team president Frank Coonelly greets you with an awkwardly read video:

The concept is fairly simple:  Turn the most passionate and intelligent Pirate fans into consultants for the team that they love.  Never before has the objective “voice of the fan” been captured.  The Fan Advisor Network does so each and every week through its unique Fan Advisor Network Consulting System, a weekly single-question statistically valid survey.  Confidential weekly reports are generated  from this data and provided to the Pirates as well as to the Pirate Fan Advisors themselves.

In addition to being allowed to take part in the team’s weekly surveys there are what sound like message boards, lapel pins, some ticketing preferences and other swag, the niceness of which depends on what level of membership you sign up for. Bronze is $9.95 a month, Silver is $23.95 a month and Gold is $600 a year. Why they don’t just call that $50 a month is beyond me, but maybe some past focus group paid the team to tell it that $600 a year sounds better.

The core to it all, however, is that the Pirates are selling some sort of exclusive fandom to people and then want to use them as a focus group.  Which all sounds kind of weird.  I mean, maybe other teams go to their season ticket holders for feedback and things, but I’m not sure any other team does this kind of thing so explicitly.

If it were me: I’d just constantly harass the Pirates twitter feed with all of my brilliant ideas. That’s free!

(h/t to Dejan Kovacevic)

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.