Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve stole home in Friday night’s game against the Tigers

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The Astros are 35-46 in last place in the AL West entering Saturday’s action, but they’re actually in much better shape than we thought they’d be (they were 51-111 last season), and they’re actually a fun team to watch. Second baseman Jose Altuve is a big reason behind both of those.

Altuve is now hitting a league-leading .342 with a league-leading 32 stolen bases in 35 attempts. He’s had seven multi-hit games out of his last ten starts, and went 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI last night. Oh, and also? He stole home.

According to Baseball Reference, it’s the second time in Altuve’s career that he’s stolen home.

While the Astros, stunningly, have several viable nominees (Dallas Keuchel, George Springer) to represent the club at this year’s All-Star Game at Target Field, Altuve should almost certainly get the honor if the Astros are to have only one representative. He may not start, however, as one can make an argument in favor of Ian Kinsler or Brian Dozier for starting honors. (Robinson Cano leads all American League second basemen in balloting by about 670,000 votes at the recent count.) Still, Altuve is having a fine season and has quickly become one of baseball’s most exciting players to watch.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.

Report: The new collective bargaining agreement reduces players’ meal money

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.

Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.

Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.

EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.