A’s in “serious talks” with free agent Billy Butler

10 Comments

As first first reported by Cover Those Bases and then confirmed by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the A’s are in “serious talks” with free agent Billy Butler. Word is the two sides are “close” to an agreement.

There was a report last week that Butler had a three-year, $30 million offer on the table, and MLB.com’s Phil Rogers wrote that it was “widely believed” to be from the Orioles. But it appears as though the 28-year-old designated hitter is headed to Oakland.

Butler batted just .271/.323/.379 with nine home runs and 66 RBI in 151 games this past season for the Royals and Kansas City’s front office then declined a $12.5 million club option on him in early November. But he has been a very productive hitter in the past, managing a stellar .306/.371/.483 slash line between 2009-2012.

The Athletics badly need a jolt of offense for 2015 and Butler is a decent bounceback candidate.

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

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
20 Comments

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.