St Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers

Oh my stars and garters, Andre Ethier flipped a photographer the bird


Andre Ethier flipped the bird: During batting practice before Monday’s game against the Brewers, Ethier was snapped givin’ the finger to a photographer. And actually, the AP story uses the phrase “flipping  his middle fingers at a photographer,” so it may have been the rare but always impressive double-barrel salute. I like that kind of moxy. UPDATE: oh yeah, it was the double-deuce. WARNING: have your fainting couch handy if you click through to those pics.

The Dodgers and Major League Baseball don’t like that kind of moxy, however, so they made Ethier apologize yesterday. Though it wasn’t the most contrite apology. The L.A. Times runs his comments, and it really sounds like he’s more interested in complaining about the photographer than anything else.

Which is fine by me. I mean, sure, I suppose the photographer could retain Gloria Allred tomorrow and hold a press conference reenacting the incident, but I’m guessing he’s seen worse before.  If I were the Dodgers I’d prefer it if my players didn’t flip the bird to photographers, but given that my family — including my wife, my mom, my grandmother and everyone ever — has a habit of flipping off any other family member who ever tries to take a picture, I don’t have much room to talk.

Really, it’s uncanny. I have a picture somewhere of my great aunt Ruth flipping me the bird when she was 86 years old. Why? “Because you’re probably going to use that picture for my obituary.”  Well no, now that you shot me the bird, I can’t really do that, can I Ruchel?

Oh well. It was a lot funnier before digital cameras and bird-bombing a pic burnt up actual film.

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.