Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Baseball is back!!...kinda sorta. This is how we do it in the not-nearly-twilight-enough phase of the Bud Selig (BS) era, where the National Pastime gets hustled over to Japan for a whacked-out "pre-opening" that is played while two-thirds of the country is asleep. (In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny: "What a maroon!")

At least Ichiro! is happy. The ancient Mariner slapped out four hits in front of his countrymen, floating a feeble thought balloon into the pink-eyed sky about crashing though for one more 200-hit season.

One thing's for sure in this sorta kinda stupid Opening Day giveaway--Ichiro! is likely to be the major league hit leader for at least seven to ten days. Who knows, he may have a clause in his contract that awards him bonuses for that...

Ah well, it gives us an excuse to publish his bobblehead again.

Speaking of the Ancients: we are so out of our element by tapping our keyboard in praise of 49-year old wunderkind Jamie Moyer, who is getting more ink than anyone as he tries to sneak his 80 MPH fastball by the firing squad of Father Time.

That said, one has to wonder if Jamie can possibly make this work. His latest comeback effort, currently underway after he missed the entire 2011 season after having reconstructive arm surgery, is being taken in support of the Colorado Rockies--who really seem like just about the worst ballpark matchup for the ol' Crafty One...

Lifetime ERA for Jamie at Coors Field? As you might expect: 9.00.

That's kinda sorta likely to take some of the purple haze out of the picture the Rox orchestrated for Jamie when he first joined the club in the spring.

Now, Jamie's holding his own in spring training. His most recent outing (earlier today, as 90% of all baseball clubs played exhibition games...) was a bit rough, but signs are still encouraging that Jamie will open the season in the Rox rotation.

Until Coors Field puts its own special "rotation" on him, that is.

For those who pay attention despite all indication to the contrary, Jamie is the answer to one of our trivia questions. And this is an answer that none of the other Moyer-i-fyin' sites that have cropped up like crabgrass after a downpour is going to be able to provide you: it's one of the spiffy little facts that even a Triple-A weisenheimer like J-Dub is kinda sorta going to fail at presenting to you, the reader that demands only the unutterably obscure.

We've got it for you here. The question was: who is the pitcher who's given up the most homers on the first pitch? 

And, of course, the answer is Jamie. That's happened 84 times. Only fitting, you say, for the man who's given up the most homers in baseball history? (What's that total again? It's at 511 and counting.)

The recently retired Tim Wakefield, by the way, is a close second to Jamie in the first-pitch gopher sweepstakes: he had it happen to him 83 times.

All of which makes us, despite our love and admiration of all things Jamie, kinda sorta wish that when he delivers his very first pitch in the 2012 regular season, it will be turned on and hit out of the park.

After which, of course, Jamie will settle down, throw a few brushback changeups, and keep his opponent off-stride for the rest of the day.

Farfetched? Kinda sorta. But, after all, somebody has to specialize in it.

Best of luck, Mr. Moyer.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


No surprise: a more-than-slightly-pornographic two-foot, one-pound hot dog (serving, at minimum, what various offshore All-American websites specializing in moaning and heavy breathing like to call a "threesome"...) is coming to Arlington Stadium, home of the Texas Rangers.

The price tag: $26. (Tape measure not included.)

Seriously, this is a truly strange photo...visually arranged, apparently, by someone who had just consumed two or three of these mamas and was having trouble standing up.

The saving grace? That displaced jalapeƱo. Not inspired enough, however, for us to waver from the most urgent cultural, nutritional, and ontological warnings.

Just remember what happened to Babe Ruth when he ate the primordial version of this thingee back in 1925 (apparently in multiple stages) if you and your friends decide to order one, phone ahead to reserve a room at South Hampton Community Hospital, just a short ambulance ride away from Arlington. (And don't worry about the fact that it's just emerging from its second bankruptcy!!)

(And you thought we never did public service announcements...!)

Friday, March 23, 2012


Mam'zelle Hepzibah to the rescue...
Browning 1: Pete...never saw a
camera he couldn't stare down.

Clearly we should be getting ready to make a bunch of 2012 predictions, right? Great gobs of goo, it's just a few days before America's pastime resumes (though it must be some type of sign'o'the times that the season is once again opening in Japan--just why is it, anyway, that we never permit them to reciprovocate and start their season over here?) and we really ought to be trying to tell you what's going to happen before it happens.

Browing 3: Robert...preparing
to do his Bud Selig imitation.
Browning 2: Tom...not the worst
pitcher to ever throw a perfect game.
But (against our better judgment) we find ourselves transfixed by the continual "Browning effect" amongst our once and future cohorts (that's Robert Browning, he of the "reach exceed grasp" and the first consumerist conception of heaven---not the fiery outfielder from the 19th century, or the sneaky southpaw who got away with years of slop in Cincinnati.)

Wasting time reading their breathless math exercises disguised as theories (or is that vice-versa...) when we should be writing about film noir, we were stunned to discover that the time is once again "right" for a hard dollop of "timelining," that quaint old sabermetric custom that expects (and sometimes downright insists) that it can apply a linear value to the quality of play over the history of the game.

The most excruciating aspect of these types of exchanges (which we are proud to report that, for once, we refrained from wading into, either in or out of our new pair of Speedos...) is the eventual appeal to authority as opposed to reason, common sense, or compelling, verifiable research. But they are also instructive exercises in how one can be seduced by their own brain pan, swept up into a lexicon of terms that one's cronies (cohorts) and sycophants (proxies) find irresistible.

So we read on, glued to our seats, only to find out that the glue has seeped into our ears.

OK, let's get to the "theory" (or the "math exercise," depending on what type of glue you've been sniffing). The idea is that pitchers' hitting is the key to constructing a device for "timelining" baseball's quality of play. Working from a series of biological analogies cooked up by Stephen Jay Gould, it was noted that pitchers' hitting has decayed over the course of baseball history. Whereas the original usage of this fact was to demonstrate how baseball followed certain precepts of evolution, the late-post-neo vanguard now is bent on calculating the quality of play timeline from the change in the OBP and SLG of pitchers as hitters.

It's one of those over-ingenious "reach exceeding grasp" audacities that issue from the "counterintuitivity" wing of baseball numberology. And, as with many of these types of ideas, there's a surface excitement to the attempt. But, of course, there's something seriously (if not fatally flawed in it).

But let's not give up on it so easily. After all, we've just made an assertion, we haven't even presented any actual facts. (Not that this tends to stop anyone else, mind you, despite loud claims to the contrary.) Let's look at some numbers.

No, these aren't exhaustive data points for pitchers' OPS as hitters, they only show the values for years ending in "0" from 1920 until the present. But that's really enough to get the general idea.

Oh, and we also know that this isn't the best data--we need to relativize, which we'll do in the chart that's a bit further down. But the basic data--the original raw data--is here, and it shows that there's a bounce upward in the midst what is otherwise a clear trendline of decline. That bounce has to do with offensive levels (1930 a zenith and a noticeable step up from 1920; 1950 a big year for offense; 2000 a big step up from 1990). While the theorists want to present the data as a linear thing, we must admit to being a good bit more interested in why it isn't quite linear.

But before we do that, we should present the data in a way that leaches out the differences in offensive levels to show you the actual percentage decline. This chart shows the pitcher OPS as a percentage of the overall OPS for those years. Don't be thrown by those X-axis values--while they look like the OPS numbers, what they actually represent is the percentage (.750 is 75% of league average; .400 is 40% of league average).

Now this shows a more consistent, linear pattern of decline.When the offensive levels are factored in (keep your eye on 1930), you can see that the relative hitting performance of the pitchers actually declined in 1930 even though their raw numbers were up a good bit from what they were in 1920.

Again, however, we become more and  more interested in the big drop points on the chart (1930-1940; 1950-1960; 1980-1990) and wish that the math whizzes were more interested in these types of details than the lassoing motion inherent in their singular commitment to sweeping theories/(math exercises).

The chart shows that pitchers' OPS relative to the overall league OPS has fallen from just under 71% of league average in 1920 to around 48% in 2010. That works out to just under a 33% decline over ninety years.

The theory at this point goes on to postulate that if you take a 150 OPS+ hitter in 1920 and bring him forward to the present day, you can adjust according to the value of this decline in pitchers' hitting. That means that such a hitter would be just barely over league average today. (150 x .67 = 102.)

Sounds peachy, doesn't it? Linearity...check. Proxy...check. The rhapsodic power of analogy...check. Or is that simply strike three for this idea? Here's where the flaw comes in.

Simply put, pitchers are not hitters in the same way that position players are. Using OPS as the measure for this makes a huge assumption about pitchers' hitting that is almost certainly not true about regular hitters. It's important that the two components of OPS (OBP and SLG) get examined separately--both to determine how they relate to each other and to examine any differences in how they individually change over time.

The chart shows that OBP and SLG are divergent in terms of the level of their league-relativeness. OBP is a good bit closer to league average than SLG, and they (again) show some interesting anomalies and reversals as they change over time (contrary motion in 1940-1950, and a huge loss in OBP that's not reflected in SLG from 1960-70).

The divergence in OBP and SLG relative values is crucial to understanding why the timelining method is seriously flawed. Regular hitters always have a much greater ISO (SLG-BA) than they have OBE (on-base extension, as Alan Shank calls it: OBP-BA). SLG is always higher on a league basis than OBP, but this is not the case when pitchers hit. They are sacrificing power in their hitting to a much, much greater extent than would be the case for a regular hitter.

Failing to adjust for this fact creates an overly simplistic timelining estimate. What we see is that pitchers' OBP has dropped 27% relative to league average over the past ninety years, whereas pitchers' SLG has dropped 36% over that same time span. That is simply not going to translate to how regular hitters would decline if they were "beamed forward" in time from the past.

Again, it's very interesting to note the uniformity of decline across both OBP and SLG from 1930-40 and 1980-90. What makes it so interesting is that the overall level of offensive change over those two discrete ten-year periods in no way resemble each other. Why did pitcher hitting prowess take its biggest nosedives in those two decades (a bit more than 40% of the total change in two ten-year periods)? Is the data skewed by particular types of differences from league to league? (1930s AL and NL were quite divergent.) Did the fact that the DH supplanted pitchers hitting in the minors have a sledgehammer effect on pitchers' hitting in the second decade of that rule change? We're just conjecturing here--but then again so is the mathex crowd.

Our guess is that pitchers' hitting, while an interesting idea for a proxy, is too glued to itself to be of much use in an actual timeline. There is another step that has to be infused into the process that creates a plausible proxy. Maybe it's simply balancing against the defensive position or batting order position that represents the weakest overall "regular hitting" performance. Maybe it's something much more complex. We simply don't know yet. What will be interesting to note, however, is what trend pitcher hitting takes in the next 20-30 years. Can it go even lower?

Some might argue that the OPS chart argues for jumps in league quality in 1930-40 and 1980-90, but they'd be arguing against the linearity hypothesis by doing so. Nope, we just aren't yet equipped to really isolate the factors that provide a way to quantify how the level of play has improved over time. Best not to keep reaching where we can't yet grasp...

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Veteran utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. is one of those players that hard-core baseball fans have to love...they hang on in the majors for lengthy careers because they are versatile enough to play many positions.

Jerry Hairston on all fours, March 15, 2012...
Jerry is no exception to that rule: he's logged time at seven different positions over his fourteen-year career. But he's never been quite so visible as was the case the other day, when he was playing third base for the Dodgers (who would be his ninth major league team) and literally got down on his hands and knees in an attempt to change the direction of a slow roller near the third base line.

Now, of course, this play is strictly illegal according to baseball rules, the Lords having inserted a clause in 1981 after Lenny Randle (once called a "punk" by his own manager!) successfully used his lung power to alter the path of a bunt from one side of the white line to the other...

But our crack staff of researchers has uncovered a disturbing trend regarding Hairston. It's now clear that Jerry suffers from a rare condition that causes him to get down on all fours and forcefully exhale whenever he sees a slow-rolling spherical object near a chalk line. For shocking evidence of same, we point you to our second image, which provides incontrovertible evidence of Jerry's rare affliction.

"Mildred!! He's at it again!!" Jerry Hairston, April 26, 2011...
We hope that the Dodgers will be able to take appropriate and humane measures to correct this rare and strange disorder, and that it can be handled without having to cut him loose from the team. Lord knows the Dodgers need a decent utility man now that they've let Jamey Carroll move on. Of course, they could simply not play Jerry at third base, but that would be a case where they'd be too severely limited their options--because, let's face it, they don't have a third baseman.

Or they could do what so many do these days when confronted with such a situation: ignore it. In fact, one wouldn't be surprised to see them attempt to exploit it, which of course would be doing a disservice to all those "serial blowers" out there desperately in need of help. Our pal Buzzin' Fly (who clearly gets around, as you can imagine...) tells us that someone in the Dodgers' PR department is already considering a Jerry Hairston Jr. bobblehead to "commemorate" Jerry's strange compulsion, using the reasoning that it will be a product innovation...

Yes, folks, the very first horizontal bobblehead.

Alas, this is just another example of the price we must pay for progress...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


No, this is not a Pitch FX essay, where we try to tell you what's changed in pitch selection and how this has sliced or diced an ever-so-crucial 35-run range across offensive performance.

This is a much more straightforward (but rarely if ever exposed) set of active comparisons that will (hopefully) make you think about what's been changing in one of the crucial statistical subsets in the game--namely, those plate appearances that begin and end with the first pitch.

With nearly a quarter-century of data, we can actually look at some relatively long-term trends, and that's just what we'll do.

The first thing we want to know when look at first-pitch data is whether the percentage of first-pitch plate appearances has been constant over that period, or whether it's changed. And, if it's changed, we want to know if that change looks random or shows a demonstrable trend. Go ahead and guess (if you haven't already looked at the chart below.)

Don't believe the trend you're seeing? You're not one today believes that Robert Young could have been a romantic lead in a lurid film noir, either.

Yeah, that's right. First-pitch plate appearances have dropped off by more than 30% since 1988. They were near 15% of all plate appearances then; now they barely scrape over 11%. That correlates reasonably well with the continuing rise in pitches/PA.

However, there's an odd fact that doesn't quite track with the trend displayed above. The percentage of PAs than end in walks (the stat we call BBP or BB%) has gone down rather than up since peaking in 2000, when the first-pitch PA pct. was making a rebound. Taking pitches and taking walks seem to be (for the lack of better term...) de-correlating.

First-pitch hitting is a good bit more successful than overall offensive performance: over the past twenty-four years, batters who hit the first pitch had an OPS+ of 127 with respect to the overall hitting levels. But once again, we need to look at any trends in that data to see if it tells us anything unusual.

Even Dogman Tony, the semi-clueless anti-hero of the noirish hobo documentary Long Gone (2003), is unable to explain why hitters are doing so much better over the last decade when they hit the first-pitch.

And here again, there is a rather astonishing progression. For reasons that we may not be able to identify,  overall performance on the first pitch took more than a tidy leap upward in 2001. Whereas the previous thirteen years had produced a 122 OPS+ for these PAs, the next eleven years have shifted a gear, with the aggregate OPS+ rising to 134 from 2001-2011. It's been at its highest point over the past three years, even as overall offense is falling. (As a matter of fact, the OPS figure for first-pitch hitting has fallen since 2009, just not as much as the overall offensive levels have.)

But we get another mystery when we couple this data with the first-pitch PA percentages in the first chart. If hitters continue to do well on that first pitch, why are their first-pitch PA percentages declining? Shouldn't they start to go up? But as those percentages have dropped, the OPS+ for first-pitch PAs has risen to its highest point. Does that mean that hitters have somehow gotten better at determining which first-pitch plate appearances are the optimum ones to hack at?

Contrary to popular belief, this bunt attempt does not represent the final
plate appearance in the career of Carlos Delgado...
Not sure that we can separate cause from effect on this one without a much more detailed data breakout, but before we move on to one possibly relevant factor, let's see if we can inject some fear and loathing into the numbers crowd. Anyone out there know the percentage of plate appearances where batters successfully execute a sacrifice hit? C'mon, take a guess. We have all spent a lot of time moaning about one-run strategies and their impact on run scoring, so you'd think everyone would have this figure at their fingertips.

Give up? OK, here it is: over the past twenty-four years, sac hits have accounted for just a bit over nine-tenths of one percent of all plate appearances. That's 0.91%, to be exact.

Now, of all those sac hits, what percentage of them occur on the first pitch? Please, take a guess. Of course, this data has to be front-loaded, because virtually no one will risk bunting with two strikes.

The answer: just under 47% of all SHs occur on the first pitch. Those SHs represent a little more than three percent of all first-pitch PAs (3.3%, to be exact.)

So the SH has been about 3.7 times more likely to occur on the first pitch than it does overall. And here's the scary part: that measure, along with the percentage of SHs on first-pitch PAs, have taken a noticeable tick upwards over the past three years. Last year, SHs on the first pitch were just under 4% of those PAs (stop the presses!!), and this meant that the majorly dreaded one-run strategy was being deployed almost 4.5 times as often as was the case generally.

At this rate, by 2020 we may simply have to ban the first pitch altogether in order to stop this trend.

Yeah, yeah, I know, my rim shot is not necessarily your rim shot. But have a shot of something before you look at our final chart, which shows the percentage of first-pitch plate appearances that result in home runs.

Who's that man behind our double-lined foul screen? Look closely and you'll see a pitcher who knows his way around underwear and is grateful that he didn't have to pitch in what Eric Walker (not Walt Davis!!) termed the "sillyball era"...

Looks to us that the scenario that includes the supposition that hitters have somehow gotten better at determining which first pitch is the one to swing at--a notion that just seems hard to defend based on any current type of study known to basement-dwelling man--is in some way a factor here.

Hitters sluggers HRs at 132% of the overall frequency from 1988-2000. That figure moved up to 146% from 2001-2011. The chart shows several yeas where the HR/PA rate was above 4% for first-pitch swingers, with that spike in 2009 representing a relative first-pitch HR frequency of 161%.

It's interesting how volatile this data is, and it's notable that there's been a falloff over the past couple of years. Pitchers may be starting to get this aspect of the first-pitch battle back under control, and we will find out one way or another soon enough.

Let's leave you with another of our patented wacky trivia questions. What pitcher has given up the most HRs on the first pitch? We'll post the answer to that soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


We'll start what we're terming "active comparisons" (the distinction we'll want to make regarding this will appear a bit further down...) by making a simple "top-level" examination of some global MLB stats from 2011 and 2006.

The folks at "The Book" (and elsewhere) often isolate very small subsets of actual data, sometimes with the idea that these operate at a level of importance well beyond what can actually be demonstrated (their recent look at "called strikes" is a perfect example of this type of shared assumption). This type of analysis is really a "passive comparison" because it assumes a great deal of analytical constants that might or might not hold up under greater scrutiny. We're better off starting at the top level and peeling off the layers of the onion a bit more slowly.

So our five-year comp finds that overall OPS levels have dropped about 6% since 2006, while run scoring has gone down about 9% (as measured by runs/plate appearance). That 2-3 ratio is reasonably constant when examining up-and-down movement for these two measures.

BABIP (the stat that fuels much of the work of the 21st century fielding men) is down only 2%, but its more complete cousin (the one that includes doubles and triples in the TB calcs, and that we've called slugging average on balls in play or SLIP) has moved down a bit more than 4%. That again tracks with a general 2-3 movement between OPS and run scoring changes.

The chart breaks down a few key splits and situations that might just tell us more about the dynamics of the pitcher-hitter duel than umpire adjustments and variations in called strikes. The biggest decline in the overall platoon advantage data is found in lefty batters vs. righty pitchers: this more favorable matchup has fallen a good bit more than is the case for righty hitters against lefty pitchers. (That pattern persists in the  left-left/right-right splits.) Lefty hitters seem to be the ones taking it on the chins most of all in the overall context of offensive decline.

In terms of the "count"--the pitch-by-pitch skirmish between batter and pitcher--the biggest change seems to have occurred when batters fall behind 0-1. The 8% drop that occurs here is twice as much as what's happened on the first pitch or after the count starts 1-0.

It should also be noted that the percentage of plate appearances that conclude with the first pitch has also dropped around 8% over the past five years. We'll have a much more detailed look at this effect in our next post, but there are some fascinating historical undercurrents in this area that involve examining the full 24-year data set of pitch-by-pitch info that's currently available to us.

One of the persistent pet theories of neo-sabe analysis is the idea that starters show throw fewer times through the batting order (Mitchell Lichtman is probably the most vocal about this, though Craig Wright got there first). It's interesting enough to warrant some team that not's really going anywhere in 2012 (the Astros come to mind) to give it a try, if only so we might have something to actively evaluate. (It's a bad sign for those in or on the fringes of the "consultancy culture" when these ideas fester for so many years without some kind of trial...makes one wonder just how seriously "outside-the-box" thinking is really taken.) The idea can be actively addressed, however, by looking at inning-by-inning OPS and ERA data.

What we can see is that starters and set-up men led the way in cutting down offense from '06 to '11, gaining more ground than average in the first, second, fifth and eighth innings. However, it's still true that only the closers (appearing almost exclusively in the ninth inning) actually get their ERA and OPS figures significantly below the starters' performance. Set-up men (predominantly eighth inning) seem to have made strides, but the level of improvement isn't quite dramatic enough to signify a wholesale change toward a five-pitcher-per-game model (starter for five, followed by four one-inning specialists).

It's true that to really get inside this issue, we need to break out the inning-by-inning data from the sixth inning on into starter-reliever categories. That would show us just how much difference there is in the their performances, but that's a level of detail not readily available at present. (We'll try to shake it loose as soon as we can, however).

Finally, looking at the K%/2-strike and BB%/3-ball percentages makes us pine to see what those numbers would have looked like in 1968, mostly to see if the BB-rate actually fell below the K-rate. (Probably not, though: we are tracking at the highest level of K/game in baseball history).

Next: a look inside the one-pitch at-bat and how that dynamic has gone through some mind-boggling changes in the past quarter-century. Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 8, 2012


We've been too embroiled with other endeavors in the past week (including dodging the subpoenas from the hounds in Commissioner's Office who've brought bug spray along with the process servers in hopes of taking out our zig-zag wanderin' friend the Buzzin' Fly...) to get on with what promises to be some really pro-vo-ca-tive material, but here's a fun little stopgap in the meantime.

This is the chart that shows the "days of rest" percentages for starting pitchers since that data became readily available from daily logs first compiled by our old friends at Retrosheet (no age-ism intended in that statement, by the way) and formatted more felicitously for visual presentation by our somewhat younger old friends at Forman et fil.

As you can see, rest patterns for starters have shifted more than dramatically over the past thirty-five years, as the lines for short rest (SDR%, 3 days or less), long rest (LDR%, 5 days or more), and four days of rest (4DR%) demonstrate. Short rest was always at or near the greatest preponderance of the usage options adopted by managers until 1975, when a descent began that is nothing more or less than asymptotic.

The advent of the five-man starting rotation in the 70s reached its peak in the mid-1990s, but began to decline in the last decade, and in 2011--for the first time--was eclipsed as the predominant usage pattern by long days of rest. Will that pattern continue? Is that somehow related to the resurgence of pitching in the last several years? This is not the time for any glib answers or hasty conclusions. We will keep an eye on it, so stay tuned.

The fourth line, at the top of the chart, tracks the percentage of innings that starting pitchers contribute over the course of an individual season. A slow but steady decline from three-fourths of the total innings to under two-thirds occurred over sixty years; that, too, has shown a small reversal over the past couple of years.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


The easiest part of any Bud Selig disguise:
don a pair of glasses, cross the eyes and place the
right hand adjacent to the ear. Works every time...
...even Dino, good Wisconsin boy that
he is, was easily taken in.
Time for me to 'fess up.

Yes, 'twas I, motorvatin' my way through the vast American heartland early last October (in an RV formerly owned by John Madden...), who donned a Bud Selig disguise, momentarily distracted Dino Laurenzi, Jr., and smeared a sample of highly-concentrated Bull's Balls™ testosterone into the cup containing Ryan Braun's fateful urine sample.

(And y'all know this must be true, because we never, ever refer to ourselves in the singular around here. Even two out of three arbitrators would concur that such is conclusive proof that I--oops, we--am/are a stinker...and don't forget to put the Brooklyn spin on that, a la Bugs Bunny, to get the proper pronunciation--"stink-ah".)

Oh, and a wascal, too.

But, as always, we digress. What really happened in the Ryan Braun case is something that only our flighty pal the Buzzin' Fly knows, from his vantage point inside ol' Bud's office back in December when the matter of the MVP with a positive test for testosterone first came to light.

Unfortunately, the transcript that our infiltrating insect provided is filled with several gaps that, while not quite Nixonian in length, render our understanding of what happened behind closed doors frustratingly incomplete.

So, for better and/or worse, here's what we've got to share...a fly's account, sent to us via carrier pigeon.

BS: Hello?
VOICE: Bud, it's Rob. We've got a problem.
Neyer: not likely to tweet...
BS: Rob? Rob who? Rob Neyer? I thought I sent you some dress shirts...are you still dressing like a lumberjack??
VOICE: No, no, Bud. This is Rob Manfred.
BS: Oh, Rob Manfred! I know you!! Can you speak up, I'm having trouble hearing you...
BS: For goodness' sakes, Rob, quit shouting! What is it?
RM: We've got a player who tested positive.
Manfred: knows just when to wear the matching tie...

BS: So what? Isn't that why we have a testing program?
RM: No, Bud. You don't understand, It's a BIG player.
BS: How big?
BS: (swats at fly on his desk--reply unintelligible)
RM: This year's National League MVP.
BS: No, no, no, NO! Not...
RM: Yes. Ryan Braun. Though Allen Barra will, for some reason, think his name is Matt.
BS: Not a...BREWER!! (Swats at fly again, rest of reply unintelligible)
RM: I told you it was a big problem. The MVP of the league is going to get suspended for 50 games, and we're going to take a big hit.
BS: Is there anything that can be done about it?
RM: What do you have in mind?
BS: Any chance that maybe the results can be appealed?
RM: Sure, but-- (BS swats at fly again, rest of reply unintelligible)
BS: Well, there's a first time for everything. Where there's a will, there's a way. (Starts to sob.) Oh, why did this have to happen to a BREWER!
RM: There's a chance that we can muddy things around procedural issues...but we're going to have to start by leaking his name.
BS: What? Why?
RM: We've got to use the media-- (BS lunges at fly, crashing noise, rest of reply unintelligible)
--Hey, Bud, you OK?
BS: Yeah, yeah, it's nothing. Are you sure that such an approach will work?
RM: Well, it's the best shot we have. There are some grey areas that we can exploit. We just need to get everyone on the same page without making it possible to connect the dots.
BS: (Wails.) Why did it have to be a BREWER!!
Carefully-cropped photo of BS with post-nubile celebs (Sheryl Crow,
Sarah Jessica Parker) at 2011 All-Star Game...
RM: Bud, get a grip. There's every chance that it can be made to look as natural as mother's milk.
BS: Mother's milk, oh yes, that's the ticket. Safe as milk. Nothing like all that wonderful, all-American breast-feeding--
RM: --Bud, what the hell are you talking about?
BS: I'm sorry, Rob. I get so easily distracted by those young girls they make me go onto the field with during the post-season, at the All-Star Game...
RM: Well, OK. Just...just calm down and I think we can let this process play itself out. It can look as though it happened that way due to due process.
BS: What?? Doo-doo? Tell me we're not in deep doo-doo, Rob!
RM: (big sigh) No, no--due process, Bud. We can make the system work for us.
BS: OK, Rob. That sounds good. I'm just so upset that it had to be a BREWER!
RM: Don't worry, Bud, we'll get them to win a World Series even if we have to move them to Japan. I promise it will happen in your lifetime.
Bud's aim, like his moral sense,
is still a bit our
pal Buzzin' Fly is still on the job.
BS: You are so, so wonderful, Rob. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
RM: That's OK, Bud.
BS: But, listen, I've got to send you some better shirts. No respectable senior VP for major league baseball should be dressing like a lumberjack!
RM: (BS swings wildly at fly, falls on office floor with a crash...reply unintelligible)

So there you have it. A shadowy scenario where MLB's top brass delve deep into the murky language of their drug-testing policy to look for a loophole that will prevent a stain on the game, avoid a blot on The Team Formerly Owned By Bud, pre-empt a firestorm that will cause the steroids controversy to rear its pointed little head again.

But apparently Dino Laurenzi did not get the memo (in whatever form that communique was supposed to take). Not quite willing to be a fall guy, he talked to reporters, insisting that he followed the testing protocol.

That's a wrench in the works, to say the least, and it forces us to wonder just what type of detailed analysis of the case and its technical details can possibly be forthcoming from veteran arbitrator Shyam Das, who was the deciding vote on the three-man arbitration team.

But you know, it's always strangely reassuring when March comes in like a... like a... you know, it sure seems possible that somebody in this scenario is a lyin' sack o'sh*t.