A summary of Bob Klapisch’s take on Manny Ramirez: He was totally awesome until he tested positive for PEDs, and then we all realized that he was a fraud and now he needs to prove he can still produce without the drugs. But if he does produce this season we’ll have no idea if he’s doing it legitimately or not because he has every incentive to cheat.
I may not agree with Klapsich’s particular take on PED testing, but if negative PED test results are not treated as even prima facie evidence that a guy is playing clean, I’ll agree that there’s something wrong with the system. Or something wrong with the guys who like to throw stones at everyone. Can’t decide which.
But maybe the most astonishing thing about the column is this passage:
If only Manny hadn’t succumbed to steroids, history would’ve eventually
glossed over his other transgressions, including his abandonment of the
Red Sox in 2008. The faked knee injury could’ve been written off to the
desperate act of a player who could no longer co-exist with his
teammates. But the positive test changed everything.
I personally think that the lowest point of Manny’s career — the blackest mark against him — was his behavior in his final days in Boston. He quite obviously faked his injures, quit on his teammates and when he did play didn’t even try. That behavior, in my mind at least, was far more damaging to baseball competition than any drug he ever took. That Klapisch can say that such behavior pales compared to his PED use suggests to me that we have either greatly overreacted to PEDs as an evil in the game or are far too dismissive of mid-2008 Manny Ramirez-style jackassery.
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.