Barry Bonds: hitting coach

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Barry Bonds headshot.jpgAndrew Baggarly wonders if and when Barry Bonds will return to the Giants’ fold and impart some of his hitting knowledge:

Like McGwire, Bonds’ public
image as a steroid cheat probably is beyond rehabilitation. But many
players past and present continue to hold Bonds’ hitting intelligence,
vision and discipline in the highest esteem. They marvel at his ability
to entrap a pitcher and barrel up the slightest mistake. They rank his
hitting acumen in the highest tier with men like Ted Williams and Tony
Gwynn.

Bonds might be a hitting Einstein to McGwire’s fifth-grade science teacher.

Yeah, but at least my fifth grade science teacher was able to explain photosynthesis and the Doppler effect and stuff to me in basic terms. After struggling to think of how to dumb-down his copious brilliance to my level for an hour, Einstein would probably retreat to the teacher’s lounge for a smoke.

But based on what we’ve heard about him, Einstein would be a better communicator than Bonds, even if he spoke in his native German.  And really, how do you teach Bonds’ batting eye, which was his greatest gift as a hitter? “Schierholtz! Do it again, and this time recognize it as a ball! I could tell that from over here!”

Bonds may be the greatest hitter of my lifetime, but not everyone can teach, and in this capacity I get the sense that Bonds is not everyoner than most people.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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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.