What do Oakland Athletics pitcher Paul Blackburn and Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto have in common? Both are 2022 All-Stars and play for teams that apparently look to save a few bucks on travel expenses.
On Monday, Blackburn shared that he was going to fly to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles commercial but was offered instead to fly with the Houston Astros, as his Athletics were in Houston immediately in the series before the All-Star Break. While having an All-Star fly commercial seemed like a uniquely A’s story, that’s not the case. The Nationals did the same thing with Soto. And while Blackburn eventually found his way onto a charter plane, Soto did not.
Stephanie Apstien of Sports Illustrated quoted Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, who said that Soto flew commercial from Washington and didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until 1:30 a.m., five hours after Washington’s final first-half opponent, the Atlanta Braves.
— Jon Tayler, Top 0.1% On OnlyJons (@JATayler) July 19, 2022
Baseball fans tore into the Nationals for making one of baseball’s best players fly across the country on a commercial flight.
maaaaan, why are the nats like this? https://t.co/rcVSWBKgbN
— Traded Danny. (@DidEspiGetAHit) July 19, 2022
Nats have Soto on spirit airlines to get to the ASG lmfao come on https://t.co/WOd8Z6Q5iP
— GreenTroii (@JGMyGoat) July 19, 2022
— Patrick Creighton (@PCreighton1) July 19, 2022
The Lerners didn’t charter a PJ for its superstar? This is a TERRIBLE look. https://t.co/IN066lArAM
— Ben Kaplan (@BaKaplan_) July 19, 2022
nationals and athletics ownership should be launched to the sun 🗣 https://t.co/DuDZWA84Gu
— Evan (@OhChev) July 19, 2022
We get on the Nationals for "Natitude" and all of that but frankly, Nationals fans deserve better than this ownership. https://t.co/TMNVsiH2jG
— Just Plain Tom (@tcopain) July 19, 2022
Can't pay for a chartered flight with deferred payments https://t.co/DMBicgJ6gf
— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) July 19, 2022
the nationals are an unserious franchise and always have been https://t.co/FGeRYGyqOC
— Erik Malinowski (@erikmal) July 19, 2022
As was the case with Blackburn, there are two ways of looking at this.
The defense of the team (in this case, the Nationals) is that it’s environmentally responsible. Chartering a plane for one All-Star seems outrageous. Major League Baseball could easily have teams share a chartered plane from the final first-half series to the All-Star Game.
But right now, MLB doesn’t do that. Until that happens, it’s a really bad look for an organization to make its All-Star fly commercial while players from its most recent opponent are flying charter. If one company rewards its Employee of the Month with a $5 bonus and a competitor rewards its Employee of the Month with a $100 bonus, the former company just looks bad. That’s essentially what’s happening here, albeit on a much grander scale.
This kind of thing gets noticed around the league. Is it a dealbreaker? Probably not. If the Nationals are bidding on a free agent and have by far the best offer, the free agent will probably still sign in Washington and worry about flights to the All-Star Game later. But if two deals are close, this is not the kind of thing that will help the Nationals.