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Elephant Rumblings: Hitching rides to the All-Star Game is commonplace, not scandalous

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All-Star Red Carpet Show
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 19: Paul Blackburn #58 of the Oakland Athletics exits the stage during the All-Star Red Carpet Show at L.A. Live on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.  
Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Happy Friday, Athletics Nation!

Look, I’m not trying to deflect here. The A’s are thrifty and we all know it. They have one of the lowest payrolls in MLB. The A’s top 2018 draft pick decided to play football instead of baseball, and now he’s going to make almost as money as the A’s entire roster currently does.

But earlier this week, the Twittersphere lit up with a constellation of tweets savaging the A’s for leaving their All-Star Paul Blackburn to hitch a ride on the Houston Astros’ charter jet to the festivities in Los Angeles.

My first blush response was, “This is dumb.” I guess that was mostly because I’m a bit of a tree hugger: jet planes burn a whole lot of fuel, and chartering one to get one guy from Houston to Los Angeles is, well, rather excessive in my view. I have an economics degree, but this far better known economist quantified the carbon footprint of a charter flight much better than I could have:

Regardless of the global warming angle, it also turns out that this sort of thing happens all the time, anyway. The Astros’ gesture was solid, but also in keeping with recent practice around the league. It just made a lot of good, old-fashioned common sense for Blackburn, who was in Houston for the A’s three-game series against the Astros, to hitch a ride.

John Shea at San Francisco Chronicle broke down the logistics and provided some history on All-Star transportation yesterday.

Turns out, baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that for each individual All-Star, MLB is responsible to foot the bill for three first class flights and two hotel rooms. Teams sometimes opt to charter planes to the game, especially when they have a sizable contingent of All-Stars.

The A’s last chartered a jet from Seattle to Cleveland for All-Stars Matt Chapman and Liam Hendriks in 2019, and the Mariners’ Daniel Vogelbach hitched along. When these ride shares occur, the “hitchhiker” can help defray the cost of the charter flight with the transportation allowance provided by MLB.

Last year, A’s All-Stars Matt Olson and Chris Bassitt flew first class on a commercial flight with their significant others in tow—just as Blackburn would have done if circumstances prescribed. He was booked by A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito to fly to L.A., first class, on MLB’s dime per standard practice—not on a “Southwest jumper”—before the Astros extended their offer.

Sure, the A’s need to invest in more competitive rosters and keep more of their stars long-term, and that is the tip of an iceberg of improvements the organization could make. But this Airplane!gate affair is a big, fat nothingburger. And if you don’t believe me, well, listen to what the foremost authority on the matter has to say:

Whatever you believe, try not to get riled up by everything you read on social media. Have a great weekend, AN! There’s a whole lotta Texas headed to the Coliseum.

A’s Coverage:

MLB News & Interest:

Best of Twitter:

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I am glad that ball stayed in the park!

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Good luck with that!

Big payday for a former A’s draftee.