A story in the Daily News this morning reminds me of a “Seinfeld” scene:
- George: Magellan? You like Magellan?
- Jerry: Oh yeah, my favorite explorer. Around the
world, come on. Who do you like?
- George: I like DeSoto.
- Jerry: DeSoto? What did he do?
- George: Discovered the
- Jerry: Oh, like they wouldn’t have
found that anyway:
In a freezing, wet Michigan spring, [Dick] Groch watched Jeter from the
stands, from behind the backstop, from down the foul lines while
sitting in his car. The shortstop’s joy in playing “emanated from him,”
Groch says. “I made the comment once that he started playing baseball
at a family picnic and he’s been playing ever since.”
Groch saw power potential, strong hands, athleticism. He saw that
Jeter easily handled the failure that’s part of baseball. “It was only
a temporary inconvenience to him,” Groch says.
Scouting is no easy job, and the guys who do it are dedicated, hard working people who rarely receive the kind of credit for their work that they deserve.
Still, is finding Derek Jeter — a guy the whole world knew would be a really good one — the best hook on which to hang an appreciation of Dick Groch? If I didn’t know better I’d say that this was really just another appreciation of Derek Jeter leading up to his breaking of Gehrig’s Yankees hits record and maybe serving as a subtle MVP campaign for the guy.
Interesting, sure, But I’ll bet Dick Groch has found all kinds of good players over the years who weren’t drawing the kind of heat Jeter was. Those are the scouting stories I’d like to hear, not yet another Jeter love-fest, of which we’ve had plenty in the past week.
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.