We'll find out today if Mark Cuban is in on the Rangers


Barry Shlachter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that we’ll know today whether Mark Cuban is in or out of the August 4th auction of the Texas Rangers.  The bidders are meeting today, Shlachter reports, and he has all the details in the increasingly technical and slightly boring sale of the Texas Rangers.

Not boring is Cuban, however, and today Maury Brown has a look at Mark Cuban: potential owner over at FanGraphs.  It’s well worth a read, though I think Maury is being way too hard on Cuban here, and far too credulous of Major League Baseball’s assertions regarding the desirability of the Chuck Greenberg Group as owners.

Maury talks about how Cuban would be a distraction as Bud Selig focuses “on growing MLB’s business instead of chasing maverick owners around,” but that ignores the fact that Selig and his gang have always put provincial and clubby loyalty concerns above business considerations when it comes to choosing ownership groups. It also ignores the fact that the biggest “maverick” of an owner baseball has ever seen — George Steinbrenner — is probably more responsible for “growing MLB’s business” than Bud Selig and the types of owners he has favored in recent years put together.

Not that Cuban is any sure-fire MLB savant.  I just think that his track record — which Maury accurately notes — entitled him to a little more deference than the “crazy Mark Cuban!” treatment he usually gets.

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.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.