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MLB hires seven new umpires, names a Director of Instant Replay

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Press release from MLB on the officiating front. The league announced today that seven umpires have been named to the full-time Major League Umpiring staff.  In addition, as another part of this season’s expansion of instant replay, the Office of the Commissioner has appointed Justin Klemm as Director of Instant Replay.

Klemm, a former minor league umpire and minor league umpire administrator, will report to Peter Woodfork, MLB’s Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations. Which I assume means Joe Torre will be relieved of even more uncomfortable press conferences when things go screwy. Klemm will be based at the headquarters of MLB Advanced Media, which will serve as the Replay Command Center.

Here is the rundown of the seven new umps, all of whom have had callups as replacement/fill-in umps in the past. And one of whom served as Nick Carroway’s love interest in “The Great Gatsby”:

  • Jordan Baker – Baker, 32, has been an umpire in the Minor Leagues since the 2005 season.  In 2013, he worked in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  Baker worked his first game in the Majors on June 24, 2012 and overall, he has been a part of 199 regular season Major League games.
  • Lance Barrett – Barrett, 29, has been a Minor League umpire since 2003.  He is now the youngest full-time Major League Umpire.  In 2013, he worked in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  Barrett debuted in the Majors on October 1, 2010 and he has worked 237 big-league games.
  • Cory Blaser – Blaser, 32, has been an umpire in the Minor Leagues since the 2002 season. In 2013, he worked in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  Blaser made his Major League debut on April 24, 2010 and he has worked 346 Major League games.
  • Mike Estabrook – Estabrook, 37, has umpired professionally since 1999.  In 2013, he was on the staff of the Triple-A International League.  Estabrook’s first Major League game was on May 7, 2006, and he has been assigned to 698 Major League games.
  • Mike Muchlinski – Muchlinski, 36, has been a Minor League umpire since 1999.  In 2013, he worked in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  Muchlinski made his Major League debut on April 24, 2006, and he has worked 569 Major League games.
  • David Rackley – Rackley, 32, has been an umpire in the Minor Leagues since the 2001 season.  In 2013, he was on the staff of the Triple-A International League.  Rackley had his first Major League game on August 13, 2010, and he has been on the field for 165 Major League games overall.
  • D.J. Reyburn – Reyburn, 37, has umpired in the Minors since 2000.  In 2013, he worked in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.  He has worked 440 Major League games since his debut on June 10, 2008.

All hail our new replay overlords. All hail our new human elements.

Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals works against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.

The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.

Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.

The Dodgers asked the Tigers about Justin Verlander this offseason

DETROIT, MI - MAY 18: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the first inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on May 18, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.

It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.

The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.

So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.