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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.

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)
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.