Union head: "The Pirates have a plan"

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It was a big deal when the MLBPA went after the Florida Marlins a few months ago, essentially accusing them of pocketing revenue sharing money and not investing enough  to improve the team anywhere apart from the bottom line.  It was a serious enough criticism that even Major League Baseball agreed and the league, the union and the Marlins entered into an agreement pursuant to which the Marlins will raise their payroll over the next few years.

When that all went down fingers pointed at the other low-payroll, revenue sharing-receiving teams, and people wondered when they would be similarly pursued. Speculation immediately focused on the Pirates, who have cut payroll substantially in recent years despite moving into a nice new ballpark.

But you can forget about going after the Pirates. Union head Michael Weiner likes what they’re doing just fine:

“Are we happy with the current state of the Pirates’ payroll? Of
course we’d like to see it higher. Is it tough to see when they sign a player
like Nate McLouth and then trade him? Is it tough to see some of the
other things they’ve done? Sure. But, to date, we have been convinced
the Pirates have a plan.

“You guys have as beautiful a ballpark as there is in
the major leagues. You’ve got a phenomenal fan base and history.
(Ownership has) a plan in place, so we’ll continue to monitor it. We’ve
been satisfied so far.”

Those comments were made to students at at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law.  Inherent in those comments, I think, is an acknowledgment that the Pirates are at a very different place on the success cycle than are the Marlins. Indeed, the shortest path between losing and winning for the Pirates is through lower payroll and giving young kids a chance as opposed to paying for more older veterans who won’t be around the next time the team has a chance to win. Compare this with the Marlins who have, for the past couple of years anyway, been a player or two away from being serious playoff contenders.

The union is often accused of being interested in nothing other than high salaries. And to be fair, getting high salaries for its members is part of its mission.  But there’s some reality and pragmatism afoot in today’s MLBPA, and this is some evidence of it.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.