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Astros visit White House; Jose Altuve takes center stage

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The World Series champion Houston Astros visited President Trump in the White House today.

As we’ve mentioned in the past, White House visits, once a routine, low-level ceremonial thing for championship sports teams, have become controversial in the Trump Era. Some teams and players have decided not to bother going or to say that, if they won a championship, they would not go. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, Trump himself disinvited the team, though he did so after they apparently said they would not go. Kind of a “you can’t fire me, I quit” sort of a thing.

The Astros are not fully represented in Washington today either. The recently-retired Carlos Beltran previously said he would not go and, true to his word, did not go. Current Astro Carlos Correa likewise did not make the trip. Beltran had said skipping the White House trip was not political, but he is on record saying he is disappointed in the government’s response to the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, so draw your own conclusions. Correa, also from Puerto Rico, has not offered his reasoning, though it may be safe to assume he has similar reasons to Beltran’s. I imagine at some point he’ll say something about it.

Then there’s Jose Altuve. The reigning AL MVP did make the trip to Washington today. Though, based on his facial expressions, it seems like maybe he wished he hadn’t:

It likewise seems that either (a) he didn’t want to shake Trump’s hand; or (b) Trump skipped him in the handshake line:

Not sure what comes next. Is it an awkward Altuve interview in which he says, unconvincingly, that he was totally happy to be there or some unhinged Trump tweets at 5:37am tomorrow morning in which he talks about how Altuve is a “low energy loser” or something?

Not that both of those things can’t happen. Anything can happen these days, it seems.

UPDATE: New video shows that a handshake did, in fact occur:

It seems that Trump didn’t know who Altuve was at first, but in his defense, if I was president and an NFL team showed up, I might not know what their star player looked like, so we’ll give him a pass.

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.