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 invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.