Murray Chass made a brief return to the New York Times, and it’s quite welcome indeed

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Many have mocked long-time New York Times baseball columnist Murray Chass since he left the Times a few years ago and began writing at his own website. After he kicked off his solo enterprise explaining how he was NOT a blogger and how bloggers are the worst and all of that, he has been called “The Blogger Murray Chass” around these and other parts.

And a good deal of his output over the past several years — including his seeming obsession with Mike Piazza’s back acne, his smearing of Stan Musial, and his reporting mistakes regarding Marvin Miller’s Hall of Fame candidacy — has revealed that the the mocking is quite often earned.

That said: Chass is among the absolute best when it comes to writing about baseball’s labor and business history. He is particularly well-versed and well-spoken when it comes to the labor battles of the 1970s and 80s. Which is why it was quite nice to see the New York Times ask him to write a column about the 1975 decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz in the McNally/Messersmith case which ushered in free agency. It ran late last week and is well worth your time.

It’s worth it for two reasons. First, because as Chass notes over at his blog, the Times (and almost everyone else, to be fair) tends to jumble the history of free agency in baseball, often citing the Curt Flood case or the instance in which Catfish Hunter was set free by the A’s to sign with the Yankees as the birth of free agency. In reality neither of those cases actually did anything, even if they are important historical touchstones in the larger story of baseball free agency. Flood lost his case. Hunter’s was a singular matter involving an insurance premium that created no actual precedent.

The second reason it’s worth it is because it shows that baseball’s arbitrators are almost certain to be fired whenever they make a big decision and that, because of that, they can’t really think too hard about who they’ll please or anger with any decision. This is why discussion of the upcoming Alex Rodriguez arbitration shouldn’t really focus on whether the arbitrator is worried about his job security.

Anyway: always nice to see Chass talking about the stuff he knows so much about.

Report: Astros offer one-year contract to Charlie Morton

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The Astros have made a contract offer of one year with an option to free agent pitcher Charlie Morton, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports. The amount of the contract offer is not known, but would likely be less than the $17.9 million qualifying offer the Astros failed to make to him.

Morton, 35, had the best season of his career in 2018, going 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA and a 201/64 K/BB ratio in 167 innings. It is likely the peak in what has been a late-career reinvention that started at the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh, persisted through an injury-shortened stint with the Phillies, and continued over the last two years with the Astros. Morton’s delivery, which famously mimics that of the late Roy Halladay, has seen his strikeout rate rise from middling to elite rates while his fastball velocity climbed from the low-90’s to the mid-90’s.

Despite Morton’s reinvention, he is likely going to have to settle for short-term deals due to his age and durability issues. 2018 was the first time in his career he crossed the 30-start threshold.