Astros undecided on a White House visit

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The Houston Astros are back home and, earlier today, while preparing for their World Series parade, met the media. One question asked of several on the team: whether they would visit the White House if President Donald Trump extends an invitation.

Such visits are common for title-winning teams, but in the past year many athletes have said they would not visit due to their opposition to Trump. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors did not make the trip after being disinvited by Trump, though many said they wouldn’t go anyway. No matter the case, the once-rote ceremony of meeting the president after winning a title is no longer necessarily rote.

Manager A.J. Hinch said that, given the celebratory mood in Houston now, he didn’t want to make any decisions on that. It makes sense, given that no matter what the club decides, someone is going to be unhappy. The country is as polarized as all get-out these days and the day of your big party is not when you want to anger people.

As for the individual players, World Series MVP George Springer says he will go if the team goes. So too did Dallas Keuchel. Third baseman Alex Bregman said he’d follow whatever two of his teammates decide, saying “I’m going to do whatever Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa do.”

That’s an interesting response from Bregman, who has been sharply critical of Trump in the past. It’s all the more interesting given that Trump is, to say the least, not a popular figure among Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria. It would not be shocking if Beltran, who may be retiring anyway, said he wasn’t going to go. Correa hasn’t spoken on the matter. No one with the Astros has taken CC Sabathia’s approach and issued a preemptive rejection of a White House visit.

My guess: most of the Astros will go and, among those who don’t, there won’t be any grand public proclamation about it. If there are any no-shows, it wouldn’t surprise me if they cited a prior engagement or a schedule conflict at the time. Ballplayers, in general, lean farther right than other athletes. Ballplayers who don’t are still nonetheless loathe to make waves. It’s just how they tend to roll.

Whatever happens, the Astros have a long time to think about it. White House visits tend to take place when the championship team visits either Baltimore or Washington. The Astros only visit Baltimore once next year. It’s their very last series of the season, September 27-30.

 

Report: Major League Baseball bans transactions with Mexican League teams

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.

Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.

Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.

There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.