Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman — writing on his personal blog — reflects on the retirement of Randy Johnson and, as is typical for him, he totally takes the high road:
I have nothing but negative thoughts for Randy Johnson, a brilliant
pitcher but a pathetic human being. I covered baseball for a good chunk
of time. I had direct access to such unpleasant men as Will Clark, John
Rocker, Barry Bonds, Arthur Rhodes. But nobody–and I mean absolutely
nobody–possessed the pure dismissive cruelty of Randy Johnson.
I’ve heard it a million times–no one cares how athletes treat the
media. Well, I care. And Johnson was a punk. He bullied reporters, he
snarled at reporters, he occasionally threatened reporters. He is one
of the far-too-many professional athletes who believes the ability to
throw a round piece of animal skin 100 mph grants you the right to
treat other human beings as dog excrement. Just ask anyone who covered
Johnson during his days in Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, New
York and, lastly, San Francisco. He was a first-class pitcher and a
It’s probably worth noting that Pearlman is famous for taking the bad things said about him on blogs quite personally. Just last week Pearlman wrote a post — starting with a quote from a comment on this very blog — in which he talked about what it feels like when someone criticizes him:
So, does hate mail hurt? In a word: Yes. Not that I cry over it. I don’t. But it never feels good hearing you’re a dolt, a moron, an anus . . . Fire away. Call me every nasty word in the book. But whether you’re yelling at writers or athletes or garbage men or actors, it never feels good.
Jeff, like Paul McCartney once sang: the love you take is equal to the love you make. You’ve flung around personal crap like the above-quote about Randy Johnson for years. Is it any surprise when people do the same to you? And even if it isn’t, is anyone’s life enhanced by the exercise?
There’s nothing wrong with being critical. Heck, in my view, sports writers should be more critical than they currently are, not less. But there’s a difference between being critical and getting personal, and getting personal to the extent Pearlman does, especially at a time — an athlete’s retirement — when perhaps a bit of restraint along those lines might be in order is a totally bush league move.
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.