Associated Press

World Series Grillz: Rapper offers free grillz to Astros

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HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Astros will soon have the most sparkling smiles in baseball.

Grammy-nominated Houston rapper Paul Wall has offered free grillz – precious metal covers worn over teeth – to every member of the team to congratulate them for reaching the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It’s a celebratory thing,” Wall told The Associated Press. “We want to celebrate with them, congratulate them, here’s a memorable, commemorative grill.”

Wall made the offer on social media Sunday , a day after the Astros beat the New York Yankees to capture the American League championship and advance to the second World Series in franchise history. Wall is offering the mouth jewelry through Johnny Dang & Company which he co-owns with Johnny Dang, who is better known in the rap world as TV Johnny.

Several players or their representatives have already contacted Wall to let him know they’d like one, and right-hander Lance McCullers tweeted that “a lot of the guys are hype for this.”

But would McCullers actually wear one?

“Definitely,” he said. “I would definitely get a grill.”

Wall, a lifelong Astros fan who watched games at the Astrodome from $1 seats as a child, said he got the idea to offer the team grillz after running into pitchers Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Tyler Clippard at a local steakhouse before the ALCS began.

“I was just joking around with them about it,” Wall said. “I said: `Hey man if y’all go to the World Series, I’m going to hook y’all up with some grillz.’ And they were like: `Hell yeah we want some grillz.”

Wall believes that grillz are a representation of the culture in Houston and his Grammy-nomination came for an ode to the jewelry he did with Nelly in 2005 that is aptly titled “Grillz.”

Wall’s grillz vary widely in price depending on what metal they’re made of and if they are encrusted with diamonds or other gemstones. The rapper himself has a platinum one with 20 carats of princess cut diamonds that set him back about $25,000. But to be clear, that isn’t the model he’s gifting to the Astros.

“The offer is solid gold grills maybe with the Astros emblem engraved on them,” Wall said.

But those aren’t just a drop in the bucket, with Wall estimating that a style like that would cost about $500.

“One or two is not too expensive, now if the whole 40-man roster wants a grill, oooh it could start getting expensive,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m a die-hard Astros fan and for me and TV Johnny to make grillz for them and congratulate them with a grill it means something, and that they would even accept or want a grill means a lot to me.”

He’s also open to getting grillz for people associated with the team who aren’t players, and loves the idea of buttoned up owner Jim Crane sporting one.

“We need to hook him up with a grill. (But) he probably doesn’t even know what a grill is, he’d be like: `What is it, gas or charcoal,”‘ Wall said cracking up.

He also wants Verlander’s model fiancee Kate Upton to know that he’s available if she wants to match her man.

“We’re going to hook her up with a rose gold, pink sapphire grill,” he said. “Yep, yep, we’ve got her grill ready, too. His and hers.”

Wall released an Astros-themed rap to commemorate Houston’s first trip to the World Series in 2005. But he has no plans for anything like that this time after the Astros were swept by the Chicago White Sox in that series after his song dropped.

“We jinxed them,” Wall said. “A lot of the rappers in town, we’ve got a rule right now where we’re not making no songs until it’s over. We need to chill out on these songs.”

That doesn’t mean he hasn’t put a few things together in case they finally win it all this season.

“I’ve already got like three of them wrote,” he said. “I’m just waiting to put them out.”

AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Follow Kristie Rieken at http://www.twitter.com/kristieAP

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.