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Kenneth Moffett, federal mediator of 1981 baseball strike and former MLBPA executive, dies at 90

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Kenneth Moffett, the federal mediator during the 1981 baseball strike who briefly succeeded Marvin Miller as the second head of the players’ association, has died. He was 90.

Moffett died Nov. 19 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, said his wife, the former Mary Taddeo. He had been ill with dementia for about six months and the death certificate cited natural causes, she said Monday.

His death was first reported by The New York Times.

Moffett was part of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in 1980, when baseball players and owners reached an agreement that put off a work stoppage until the following year. As deputy director of the FMCS during the 50-day strike that interrupted the 1981 season, he shuttled between the parties, set up bargaining sessions and suggested frameworks for settlement.

He also worked at the FMCS during the August 1981 strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization against the Federal Aviation Administration. President Ronald Reagan ordered the firing of workers who did not return to their jobs.

Moffett said in 1994 that baseball negotiations were different from all other types of collective bargaining.

“It is done in a fishbowl,” Moffett told The Associated Press. “Every statement, every press release — anything — is for public consumption. In most negotiations, you don’t hear a peep until there’s a settlement.”

As the union’s 1994 strike deadline approached, Moffett said: “My gut reaction is it seems like nothing’s changed. … The issues are still the same.”

Moffett was hired in December 1982 as the second executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and took over on Jan. 1, 1983, when Miller retired ahead of his 66th birthday. Moffett was given a three-year contract but lasted just 10 1/2 months and was fired that Nov. 22 by the union’s executive board.

Donald Fehr, then the union’s general counsel, took over as acting executive director on Dec. 8, became executive director on a full-time basis in January 1986 and held the top spot until retiring in December 2009.

Moffett became assistant to the president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians in 1985. That union merged with the Communications Workers of America in 1994. He retired in 2003 as the CWA’s human resources director.

Moffett is survived by his fourth wife, whom he married in 1999; and three children from his first wife, Barbara: son Kenneth Jr., director of negotiations at the National Treasury Employees Union; son John; and daughter Laura Tornell. Moffett’s three previous marriages ended in divorce.

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022, one step away from major league baseball

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NEW YORK — Robot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season. Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball-Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. The system also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

There were no minor leagues in 2020 because of the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed in its labor contract that started in 2020 to cooperate and assist if commissioner Rob Manfred decides to use the system at the major league level.

“It’s hard to handicap if, when or how it might be employed at the major league level, because it is a pretty substantial difference from the way the game is called today,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, said last March.

MLB said the robot umpires will be used at some spring training ballparks in Florida, will remain at Low A Southeast and could be used at non-MLB venues.

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Tampa Bay Rays say split-season plan with Montreal rejected by MLB

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays‘ proposed plan to split the season between Florida and Montreal has been rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced the news on Thursday.

“Today’s news is flat-out deflating,” Sternberg said.

The idea of playing in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal has been discussed over the past several years after attempts to build a new full-time ballpark locally failed.

Montreal had a big league team from 1969, when the expansion Expos began play, through 2004. The Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals for the 2005 season.

The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season.

Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field but not at the box office.

Despite reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020, the Rays have annually ranked near the bottom in attendance. The Rays averaged about 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch feels a new stadium in his city remains a possibility. Governmental officials have been working on a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site.

“We are working with our county partners and city council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals,” Welch said in a statement. “With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

Sternberg said the team will definitely explore options in the Tampa Bay area.

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One fun fact you (probably) did not know for all 30 MLB teams

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From telling team numbers to surprising player stats, we find what you might have missed about your favorite squad.

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