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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.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.

The Rays are REALLY ready to get to work on that new ballpark

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Last month St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to seek a new ballpark outside of the St. Pete city limits, anywhere in the Bay Area. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports today that the Rays have submitted a required report to that end which “describes how they plan to evaluate potential ballpark sites across the Tampa Bay area” and serves as a rough outline of the sort of facility they’re looking to build.

They submitted it 39 days before deadline. Ya think they’re eager to get moving?

As for the specifics, it sounds like they’re shooting for a Braves or Cardinals style destination place with surrounding entertainment, retail and the like. The Braves are achieving that by basically building the park at a mall and plan to surround it with other mall/entertainment district-type development. The Cardinals built a downtown park, but have developed Ballpark Village after the fact. This is to be contrasted with downtown parks which either counted on existing city businesses or spurred separate development.

All of which makes sense given that there isn’t one dominant location in Tampa which all but demands development there. Tampa has a few different areas that might make sense and the place is generally more spread out than older cities. It also makes sense for the Rays’ owners who are likely well aware that being in the real estate business is just as good for them as being in the baseball business.

Will anyone EVER break that record that was broken nine years ago?

Hank Aaron
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In 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He would go on to hit six more, finishing his career with 762. That was nine years ago and, at present, the active home run leader is nearly 80 homers behind him and no sure bet to come close. The next closest guy is over 200 homers back and clearly entering a period of decline.

All of which raises the question: will anyone EVER pass the home run total of Hank Aaron, who is in second place on that list?

Maybe you think that’s not really a pertinent question. We tend not to ask whether people who do not, by any objective measure, hold a record will have their records surpassed. But you’d be wrong. Why, just today, on Hank Aaron’s 82nd birthday, at least two journalists speculated whether anyone would ever become the all-time second place home run king:

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That’s from Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated. As always, it’s excellent work from Cliff. Right up there with his seminal “will anyone ever catch Lou Brock in stolen bases?” and “who can catch Trevor Hoffman in career saves?” pieces.

Then there’s Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who approves of the question posed and has his own response:

You can imagine how those tweets were received by those parts of Twitter who are all about PED apologia, math, objective standards, noting that Aaron admitted that he took a PED that would have him banned today too and stuff like that. As always, these things get ugly.

Not that they have to be. It’s almost as if, if one were to try, one could celebrate the amazing inner-circle Hall of Fame career of Hank Aaron, full as it is with nearly unsurpassed accomplishment, without applying a revisionist gloss to the one accomplishment that, according to all objective measures and the accounting of Major League Baseball, has been surpassed. That one could talk about Aaron without slagging on Bonds.