Richie Phillips, former head of umpires’ union, passes away at age 72

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FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal passes along word that Richie Phillips, who served as the head of the umpires’ union for over 20 years, died last Friday at the age of 72.

Phillips took over as the general counsel and executive director for the Major League Umpires Association in 1978. During his tenure, he led multiple work stoppages for improved salaries and benefits. He was ultimately ousted from his position after recommending that the umpires resign in 1999 as a negotiating tactic. The plan backfired, as MLB accepted the resignations. The umpires ultimately decertified and started a new union without him.

While Phillips’ legacy is complex, there were sweeping changes under his leadership. As Rosenthal details, when Phillips began, rookie umpires earned $17,500 per season while most veterans made $40,000. By the time he was done, umpires earned as much as $282,500 and also received postseason bonuses.

Padres may have more interest in Dallas Keuchel than Bryce Harper

Dallas Keuchel
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An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.

As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.

While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.