It’s been five years since Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez were less-than-perfectly-friendly teammates, yet old bloody sock can’t seem to let things go. After talking about how he didn’t care all that much for Pedro’s sense of humor and laid back personality back in Boston, Schilling brought some seriously oblivious irony to the table:
“You guys remember, when Pedro was here, Pedro played by different rules. And Pedro, to a degree, earned the right to play by different rules. But players that play by different rules and take advantage of those, that’s probably the only reason I ever had issues with Pedro. And it was not a big deal, I know people are going to make it a bigger deal than I’m making it. But the amount of respect and admiration and the loyalty and friendship I have with [Terry Francona] . . . I saw some things, from Opening Day leaving the ballpark in Tito’s first game here. There’s just little, crappy dumb stuff.”
And how didn’t Schilling play by different rules? How many stars write blogs with lots of critical content during the season? How many guys get a free pass for openly and obviously letting themselves get out of shape like Schilling did towards the end of his career? How many ballplayers have been as openly opinionated as Schilling was during his playing days? Given everything we know about the culture of baseball clubhouses, I’m sure there are no small number of former teammates who didn’t much care for the different rules that applied to Schilling, just as Schilling didn’t care for Pedro’s special treatment.
Schilling says ” I know people are going to make it a bigger deal than I’m making it.” Of course he does. Indeed, getting his opinion out there, stirring up stuff and having people talk about it is his entire reason for living anymore, is . Which is fine if that’s what he wants to do. But he should at least have a little self-awareness about it.
Pedro is an unorthodox, attention-creating personality. So was Schilling. In light of that, I’m tempted to believe that Schilling’s biggest problem with Pedro was that his time in Boston represented the first time in his career he had some competition as the center of attention.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.