A near-death experience can cause a guy to reassess his life and seek reproachment with enemies. A ball to the side of the head is less dramatic, but maybe it can have the same effect:
Scott Rolen tried to put an end to his feud with Tony La Russa stopping by the Cardinals manager’s office Monday in his first trip back to Busch Stadium since his trade almost two seasons ago . . . He said he hadn’t spoken with La Russa since being sent to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus in January 2008, a deal made when relations between the two soured after Rolen was benched during the 2006 postseason.
I’m no Tony La Russa fan. Though I respect him as a manager and can’t deny his success, he grinds my gears to no end. I think his particular brand of bullpen usage has done way more damage to baseball than good, I’m peeved by the fact that he’s all-too-willing to accept the “genius” label, yet is all-too-willing to play dumb when someone asks him about steroid use in his clubhouses, and I can’t stand anyone who wears sunglasses at night.
All that said: Rolen was the jerk in that little feud. He couldn’t hit a lick with that bum shoulder in 2006, and if I were in La Russa’s shoes, I would have benched him too. Cardinals won the World Series that year, by the way. Why it took nearly three years for Rolen to get over that is beyond me.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.