Cliff Lee has surgery to remove bone spur from foot

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That sound you just heard was the optimism of Mariners fans blowing up like the Hindenburg.

OK, so that last sentence was way over the top. But there must be at least a little bit of concern in Seattle with the news from that Cliff Lee underwent foot surgery on Friday.

The surgery, which was performed by Dr. Bryan Burke, removed a floating bone spur in Lee’s left foot that broke from its attachment. The procedure will not require Lee to wear a cast. He’s expected to return to normal baseball activities in the next two to three weeks, which means Lee will be unable to participate in workouts when Mariners pitchers and catchers report to camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 18.

“We decided Lee should have the surgery as soon as possible, rather than try to pitch with the discomfort during the year,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “To get it out of the way and have it behind us is important.”

This procedure looks like a minor thing, and it’s not as if Lee showed any signs of health problems in the playoffs.

Besides, with the magic Zduriencik has been working lately, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he’s actually going to use the bone spur to clone a new and better Lee – and at half the price.

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Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.