Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera hits a two run double against the Yankees during the first inning of their MLB spring training baseball game in Dunedin

It’s spring training for PED moralists, too


Hey, not everyone can show up in March with their PED outrage in mid-season form. Scott Ostler is going to need to get a few more reps in after this performance:

Among the things that ain’t what they used to be: the shame and disgrace of being busted for steroids.

Exhibits C and C: Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera.

They’re both back in baseball – although Colon has five games left on his suspension – and will be earning nice paychecks, without having to go the Hester Prynne route (look it up, you lazy kids!) where you wear your sins forever.


Cabrera’s salary, what could have been and what now is, is about business, not morality. Same with Colon.

It’s hard to tell exactly what Ostler is arguing other than oblique outrage. Colon and Cabrera have done — or will have done, in Colon’s case — their time and paid the price, according to MLB’s drug policy. And that’s where the buck should stop.

Despite Ostler’s insistence that players caught using performance-enhancing drugs don’t wear a “scarlet letter”, some most certainly do. After an impressive 2007 season at the age of 42, Barry Bonds and his agent stated loud and clear he still wanted to play and would take the Major League minimum salary after earning $15.5 million the final year of his contract with the Giants. $390,000 for a player coming off of a season in which he hit 28 home runs and posted a 1.045 OPS? Somehow, every single GM in baseball passed.

Was it his age? Proneness to injury? Jamie Moyer earned $1.1 million last season at the age of 49 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. In his age 40-47 seasons, Moyer had an aggregate 4.40 ERA. If Moyer could land a job, why couldn’t Bonds? It was the “scarlet letter”. Not every player wears one, but it certainly isn’t non-zero as Ostler implies.

And yes, Cabrera and Colon will collect paychecks and get ample playing time in 2013 after getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs. As is their collectively-bargained right as Major League Baseball players.

Many sportswriters’ tunes would quickly change if they themselves had to endure the level of punishment — sports McCarthyism, in a nutshell — they consistently call for with scathing column after scathing column. Speed to the ballpark to get into the clubhouse sooner to break that sizzling piece of news? Banned from the press box for life.

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
1 Comment

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.