Free Lainer Bueno!

Major League Baseball may owe an apology, a great big apology, to an obscure Venezuelan shortstop named Lainer Bueno. Bueno was last seen in the Cardinals organization, where he was signed as a non-drafted free agent. Bueno played in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2010, posting an anemic .228/.336/.239 slash line. This is the beginning and end of everything I know about Lainer Bueno.

Except for three things:

1. On September 30, 2010, MLB announced that Bueno tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned performance-enhancing drug. As a result, Bueno was suspended for the first 50 games of his 2011 season.

2. Shortly after this announcement, the Cardinals released Bueno from their organization.

3. Bueno’s suspension should be overturned. Because there’s a substantial possibility that Bueno did not dope intentionally. There’s a substantial possibility that Bueno ingested clenbuterol accidentally, through something he innocently ate in his home country of Venezuela.

Let me explain.

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Expensive Truth


Full disclosure: I’m a Yankees fan. As a Yankees fan, I consider the Boston Red Sox to be something more than a rival in the American League East. I consider the Red Sox to be my mortal enemy. The principal owner of the Red Sox is John Henry, so of course I hate and despise John Henry and everything he stands for.

But today, for purposes of this post, I’m going to put my hatred aside. You see, during an interview yesterday on Boston radio station WEEI, Red Sox principal owner John Henry revealed that he was fined $500,000 by Major League Baseball for comments he made in 2009 about baseball’s system of revenue sharing. Let’s be clear. When we say that baseball fined Henry, what we really mean is that Bud Selig fined John Henry. What we mean is that Bud Selig disliked what John Henry had to say, to the tune of $500,000.

We’ll dive into John Henry’s 2009 comments in a moment. But first, let’s consider: this is a fine of half a million dollars. That’s some serious fining. A $500,000 fine is equal to the largest fine ever given to the most fined person in the history of sport, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Cuban got fined $500,000 when he insulted the NBA’s Director of Officiating (“I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen”).

$500,000 is twice what former Reds’ owner Marge Schott was fined for making a series of racist comments and praising Adolf Hitler. What in the world could John Henry have said that’s twice as bad as praising Hitler?

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Open Thread: Buying MLB Advanced Media

I’ve reached an exalted status in life: I’m officially a baseball journalist blogger Joe Posnanski wannabe friend of Jason’s. I figure I can’t do my job adequately without video access to every baseball game there is (subject to blackout restrictions). How can I post adequately if I can’t watch Cleveland battle Kansas City for bragging rights in the second division of the American League Central?

Only I’m not sure the best way to do this.

There’s MLB Extra Innings through DirecTV. That’s about $200. I’m supposed to be able to watch 8 games at a time. Subject to blackout restrictions. I live in L.A., so I won’t be hit with Yankees’ blackout restrictions all that often. But then I’m limited to watching on the TVs in my house.

There’s MLB.TV ($100) and MLB.TV premium ($120). I can watch games on my computers, iPod, iPad, Droid phone, presumably all at once, with picture-in-picture on my computers if I pay for MLB.TV premium. I figure if I do that, it will take my wife and daughter about an hour to access their email, but that’s not my problem. If I invest in a Roku box, then I can watch the same stuff on a regular TV. I think.

Then there’s At Bat 11, available for $15, though I might have to pay for each device I want to use to access this service. At its heart, this program looks like a way to track ongoing games (like ESPN’s GameCast) and access statistics, but apparently you can use it to watch ballgames if you also subscribe to MLB.TV. Or maybe not.

Has anyone figured out the best way to access MLB Advanced Media content? Is it worth an extra $20 for MLB.TV premium? Do I need At Bat 11 on top of everything else? How about Roku? What are the cool kids doing at your school? Please post your thoughts in the comments below. Continue reading Open Thread: Buying MLB Advanced Media

Yanks’ Popularity With Texas Toddlers Hits All-Time Low

Every now and again a story comes along to warm your heart and freeze it, all at the same time.

Our story today concerns one Gavin Justice-Farmer, a three year old Texas Rangers fan and devotee of troubled Rangers’ infielder Michael Young. When Gavin learned that Young might be traded from the Rangers, he took his Rangers’ cap and dropped it on the floor “while lowering his head in disappointment”. Normally, this sort of thing would not be national news … only Gavin’s mother Kim recorded the event on her cell phone and posted the video on YouTube, where it became a “sensation”.

In response, Michael Young met Gavin at the Rangers’ merchandise store in Arlington, where player and fan “walked around the store, tried on a few caps and talked about baseball.” Nice.

Now Gavin reportedly asks his mom about Young every day. “He asks, ‘Is he still with the Rangers? He’s not going to the Yankees, is he?‘”

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Socialism 101

If you were reading this space yesterday, you probably heard that Hank Steinbrenner shot his mouth off again. I know, I’m not supposed to pay attention when he does this. But there was one thing he said that did catch my attention: he called baseball’s system of revenue sharing “socialism”.

I think this was meant as a criticism.

So boys and girls, open your Econ textbooks and follow along as we try to follow Hank’s reasoning.

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Continue reading Socialism 101

Simulpost: Jim Edmonds, the HOF, And Baseball’s Lost Generation

[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON ESPN HERE]

Jim Edmonds announced his retirement on Friday, his 17 season career finally grounded by an Achilles’ tendon injury. Edmonds is best known for his highlight reel catches in center field, but the remainder of his play has been oddly underrated over the years.

So we can begin the debate on whether Edmonds is Hall of Fame worthy.  Some say yes (as did Chad Dotson did here Friday), others no.

When we look at Edmonds’ Hall of Fame credentials, we’re struck by the numbers he put up in the five years after he was traded by Anaheim to St. Louis.  Between 2000 and 2004, Edmonds put together a string of seasons that ranked him with baseball’s elite. During this stretch, Edmonds averaged 7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) annually and posted an OPS over 1.000.  Consider that during this same period, a guy named Alex Rodriguez was putting together some of his best seasons as a ballplayer; only during this stretch A-Rod’s OPS was 14 points below that posted by Edmonds.

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W-L, R.I.P.

We can officially confirm that a pitcher’s won-loss (W-L) record will never again be taken seriously as a measure of a pitcher’s ability.

The W-L record started looking shaky when K.C. Royals pitcher Zack Greinke won the 2009 American League Cy Young award. In 2009, Greinke’s W-L record was 16-8, and the old guard complained that a W-L record like Greinke’s was not Cy Young-worthy. But for those stubborn defenders of the importance of the W-L record, there was hope: at least Greinke had won twice as many decisions as he’d lost. Then in 2010, Mariners’ great Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young award with a W-L record of 13-12. I mean, he nearly lost as many decisions as he’d won! Murray Chass screamed, of course, but the choice of King Felix seemed to generate little other controversy.

And now comes the death blow to the W-L record as a serious statistic. Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf won his arbitration case this week against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates wanted to pay Ohlendorf $1.4 million for the 2011 season; Ohlendorf asked for, and won, a 2011 salary of $2,025,000.

Here’s the thing: Ohlendorf’s won-loss (W-L) record in 2010 was 1-11, for a winning percentage of .083. .083 is not absolute zero, but it is nonetheless very, very cold. According to Baseball-Reference.com, .083 is the fourth worst single season winning percentage in baseball history for any pitcher with at least 20 starts, bested only by NY Met Bob Miller in 1962 (1-12 W-L), Pascual Perez for Atlanta in 1985 (1-13), and Jack Nabors for the Philadelphia A’s in 1916 (1-20; in Nabors’ defense, he also tallied a save in 1916).

How does a starting pitcher win an arbitration case after he’s put up the fourth worst W-L record in baseball history? One answer is that Ohlendorf was opposed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in this arbitration, and the Pirates can’t seem to win anything. But the better answer is that we’ve stopped taking won-loss records so seriously. A pitchers can’t control whether his team wins or loses, and a pitcher who pitches for a last-place team like the Pittsburgh Pirates is probably going to lose a lot of games no matter how well he pitches.

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ESPN Simulpost: On Doping Tests And Intelligence Tests

[ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON ESPN HERE]

Spring approaches!  Baseball fans, you know what that means?  Mandatory drug testing.  Under baseball’s anti-doping rules, every player must undergo doping testing within five days of reporting to spring training.

Baseball has a reasonably good anti-doping program – ESPN has given the program a grade of B+. But the program has some weak points.  The drug testing scheduled for spring training is one of these weak points, because scheduled drug testing is pretty much a waste of time.

BALCO lab founder Victor Conte puts it this way: when baseball schedules an anti-doping test in advance, this is not drug testing.  This is “IQ testing.”  Because a  baseball player would have to be careless, or dumb, or something (we’re looking at you, Manny Ramirez) to fail a doping test scheduled in advance.  To beat the scheduled test, all a doping player need do is to stop doping for the week or two prior to the test.

To develop a smarter anti-doping program, baseball should take Conte’s advice. Conte spent years helping top athletes beat the anti-doping tests.  Now, Conte is giving advice to the doping testers.

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Excuses, Excuses (Anti-Doping, Part 2)

Ever notice when an athlete fails an anti-doping test, he’s quick to offer up an excuse for what he did? And that often, the excuse ranges somewhere between crazy and bizarre?

I bring this up because baseball just announced its most recent doping case: minor leaguer Adrian Nieto has been suspended for 50 days for using the banned anabolic steroid Oxandrolone. Nieto’s excuse is a classic one: he says he ingested this steroid accidentally, in a protein shake he bought at his local gym.

Pardon me for pointing out the deficiencies in Nieto’s doping excuse. Nieto did not identify the offending protein shake, nor did he offer any proof that his gym’s protein shakes were actually contaminated with Oxandrolone. Oxandrolone is one of the most expensive anabolic steroids on the market, available (legally) only by prescription. It seems unlikely that such a pricey drug would find its way into a (relatively) cheap sports drink.

Unlikely it may be. But like most doping excuses, Nieto’s might possibly be true. Read on to find out why.

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