Must-clink link: Barry Bonds, cycling through retirement

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Gwenn Knapp of Sports on Earth has an excellent profile/catch-you-up with Barry Bonds. What’s up with the Home Run King? Some highlights:

  • Spurred on by his girlfriend, former world champion and Olympic silver medalist cycler Mari Holden, Barry Bonds’ new obsession is cycling. He’s good. Not great, but good. And has taken to it with the same sort of abandon to which he used to take baseball, working out and generalized surliness.
  • But he’s not as surly these days. People who know him describe him as relaxed. He never handled the spotlight well. Now he’s out of it. You get the sense that Bonds, for the first time in a long time, is at peace. Maybe because he is not expected to be the absolute best, either by himself or by others.
  • Because of his obstruction of justice conviction — his very dubious conviction, but conviction all the same — Bonds is barred from owning a firearm. Which was problematic for him as, before cycling, he had become an avid skeet shooter and hunter. There’s a bit in there about Ryan Klesko introducing him to hunting that, I feel like anyway, could have become a sitcom circa 2003.
  • Oh, and there’s a better anecdote in there about him telling Kirk Reuter’s wife how to get pregnant. Which, well. Just read it.

But the more interesting stuff comes after that. Stuff about his playing days and relationships with teammates. Some of it is old, some of it new (at least to me) but all of it looks different now with some years between us and a time when Bonds was the biggest star in the game. And it looks different in light of the stuff Knapp talks about earlier in the piece.

It doesn’t serve as any kind of apology for Bonds, his cheating or his surliness. You don’t come away from it liking Barry Bonds as a result (I think that’d be hard regardless). But you do feel like you understand the guy a little more. Or at least understand why you’ll probably never understand him.  All of which is exactly what a good profile of a famous person should do.

Great piece.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.