CHAMPIONSHIP TOUR

World Champion Houston Astros visit the White House in style

World Champion Houston Astros visit the White House in style
Jeremy Pena was recognized for his history-making award. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Houston Astros flashed some championship swagger on Monday, August 7 as they made their second trip to the White House since 2017 to celebrate a World Series title.

Our gents who normally don the orange and blue unis stepped out in some killer suits — and kicks — as they made the trip to Washington D.C. to meet President Joe Biden. All Star Alex Bregman rocked some H-Town-worthy, red and yellow Jordans (a nod to the Houston Rockets) with his suit. And speaking of suits, Justin Verlander — who just returned to the team via a deadline-edging trade — was truly on-season and on-theme with his gold/khaki custom summer number.

Super slugger Yordan Alvarez — a strapping six-foot-five and clad in steel-blue custom suit and shades — looked every part the steely Secret Service agent.

Fans have been all over the team on Instagram and Facebook as our guys arrived in D.C. and strolled into the White House like total ballers.

At the official ceremony, President Biden congratulated the team and listed their many accomplishments during their second World Series run that saw the team topple the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, and Philadelphia Phillies (Biden joked that he wouldn't be able to return to Philly after noting the loss.)

He also spotlighted star shortstop Jeremy Peña for his historic title as the first rookie position player to win the World Series MVP award. Peña, for his part, sheepishly raised his hand and flashed that million-dollar smile.

President Biden then congratulated and welcomed the Astros manager with a generous, “...and this is not hyperbole — the legendary Dusty Baker,” pointing out that the legend and Major League Baseball elder statesman won his first World Series title as a manager with the Astros.

“People counted you out saying you’re past your prime—I know a little something about that,” Biden said with a chuckle. The room, full of team staff, Houston elected officials, and more, erupted in laughter.

Biden also recognized the Astros off the field for “raising awareness for things near and dear to my heart,” such as domestic violence, children battling cancer, and Winter Storm Uri.

In a poignant moment, the president turned away from the podium mic to thank team owner Jim Crane and the team personally for their unforgettable efforts after the Uvalde tragedy through the Astros Foundation, which even included a special game-day experience.

“You played ball in the park with them,” he said with a tone of reverence and gratitude, adding that such time, “validates in a way I don’t think you really understand. You’re an impressive group of men. You really are.“

Crane, afterwards, thanked the president, team, and staff “from the announcers to the guys who clean the stadium.”

“I parked cars with that guy when I was 16,” Crane noted, pointing to Astros senior manager of parking Gary Rowberry. Always gracious with fans, Crane thanked them, noting that they “pay the bills.”

Welcomed by whoops and hollers, Baker, thanked his World Series-champion team, calling them, “the greatest guys I’ve been around.” Baker spotlighted his team's “perseverance” and that what he feels is their best quality: “they genuinely love each other... and I love them all.”

Baker, before the World Series jersey presentation to President Biden, then made a promise that's music to every Astros fans who wants to watch this ceremony again next year: “We plan on repeating.”

Secret Service or World Series champ? Yordan could be both. Photo via: Astros Facebook.

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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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