Former umpire Ken Kaiser dies at age 72

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Ken Kaiser, who was a big league umpire from 1977 until 1999, has died at his home in Rochester, New York. The cause of death was not given. He was 72.

Kaiser — who this excellent obituary in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle notes spent time as a professional wrestler before he made the big leagues — was a colorful umpire with a colorful strike and out call. That didn’t always sit well with the players but you certainly knew when he was behind the plate. He once split his pants during a game and kept umping because, heck, we all wear underwear, right? No big whoop. I know umpires are supposed to make people mad as a matter of course, but I always sorta liked Kaiser and guys like him. If the calls are good and they’re not of the view that they’re more important than the game I don’t mind a little showboating and humor. Kaiser didn’t always make the right calls, but no other umpires do. I don’t recall him being a Joe West type as far as attitude, but it’s been a while and that’s all ancient history now.

Unfortunately, Kaiser’s end in the game came by virtue of a profoundly misguided labor negotiation tactic during the 1999 season. That’s when the umpires union had the brilliant idea of mass resignations as a means of attempting to create bargaining leverage. It backfired spectacularly as Major League Baseball happily accepted the resignations of the umps it didn’t like but had no real power to fire — Kaiser among them — and re-hired the ones they did like and went on its merry way. Since then there has been labor peace with the umpires, but Kaiser and 12 other umps saw their careers end.

The linked article suggests that Kaiser fell upon some hard financial times after losing his job, but I hope that he still managed to find some happiness all the same. Rest in peace, blue.

Mets trade Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers

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The Mets traded centerfielder Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers for cash considerations or a player to be named later, the teams announced late Friday night. Granderson was rumored to be drawing interest from teams earlier in the week, and found a landing place after slashing .256/.360/.721 since the start of the month. In a corresponding move, the Dodgers designated right-hander Dylan Floro for assignment to clear roster space for the outfielder.

As a whole, the 36-year-old’s 2017 campaign has been a tad underwhelming. Granderson entered Saturday batting .228/.334/.481 with 19 home runs and an .815 OPS through 395 PA, and accrued 1.7 fWAR to the 5.1 fWAR he produced during his pennant-winning, MVP-contending season in 2015. Still, with under $4 million remaining on his contract, another 20+ homer season around the corner and the defensive chops to man center field, it looks like a prudent deal for the Dodgers as they continue to bulldoze their way to the playoffs this fall.

The club has yet to outline their plans for Granderson, but his addition to a crowded outfield could displace centerfielder Joc Pederson, who turned in a meager .214/.329/.415 batting line through 292 PA in 2017. It could also have ramifications for fellow veteran Andre Ethier, assuming he’s healthy enough to compete for a starting role when he comes off the 60-day disabled list in September. The Mets, meanwhile, are expected to lean more heavily on rookie outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who’s made just five starts this season after struggling to get consistent playing time on the field.

Corey Kluber exits game with right ankle sprain

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Indians’ right-hander Corey Kluber was removed from the sixth inning of his start on Friday night, bringing a streak of 14 starts with 8+ strikeouts to an unfortunate end after he sprained his right ankle. Kluber stumbled off the mound while trying to field a base hit from Eric Hosmer and was seen visibly limping as he moved to cover first base. He was allowed to stay in the game for one more batter, but quickly yielded a three-pitch single to Melky Cabrera and left the mound with head athletic trainer James Quinlan.

It was a poor ending to another strong outing by the right-hander, who delivered 5 1/3 innings of one-run, four-strikeout ball and took his 12th win of the season after the Indians amassed a nine-run lead. Postgame comments by Cleveland skipper Terry Francona suggest that Kluber isn’t facing a serious setback after sustaining the sprain, however, and might even be good to go by the time his next start comes around on Wednesday.

While the Royals escaped Friday’s loss without injury, the 10-1 drubbing pushed them 6.5 games back of the division lead and half a game behind the Twins and Angels for the second AL wild card berth. They’ll host a rematch on Saturday at 7:15 ET, with left-hander Jason Vargas set to face off against Indians’ righty Trevor Bauer.