Dallas Braden almost had to school someone else on the unwritten rules

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Dallas Braden headshot.jpgThe only downside to Dallas Braden’s perfect game yesterday is that we narrowly missed out on a chance to have him once again bring the 209 noise about respect and the unwritten rules and all of that jive.

The scene: fifth inning, nobody out, Evan Longoria at the plate. He attempts to reach on a drag bunt. Bunt goes foul, life goes on, Longoria ends up going down on strikes.

Braden kept his cool about it, but I can’t help but think that he was seething inside about someone trying to break up his no-no with a bunt.  Not doing that sort of thing is one of the unwritten rules, you know.

Just ask Bob Brenly.  He was the Diamondbacks manager back in 2001 when Curt Schilling had a perfect game going against the Padres in the eighth inning. Padres catcher Ben Davis laid down — or rather, popped up — one of the uglier bunts you’ll ever see, but the ball managed to elude second baseman Jay Bell just long enough for Davis to reach.  The Diamondbacks freaked out, with Brenly calling the move “chicken” after the game and saying “Ben
Davis is young and has a lot to learn. That was just uncalled for.”

That set off a nice little controversy about whether it’s kosher to break up a no-hitter with a bunt.  My memory has it that Brenly’s position was a minority one and that at the time most people were of the view that an opposing team can and should do everything in its power to win the game. That game was 2-0 at the time and the Padres and Diamondbacks were tied for first place, so I was totally cool with the bunt attempt.

I haven’t seen anyone complaining about Longoria’s attempt yesterday, but it was 4-0 at the time, which I suppose makes it a tad less defensible. Of course, it was also earlier in the game, so that makes it a tad more defensible.

My guess is that even hardcore unwritten rules guys would have a tough time criticizing Longoria’s bunt attempt. But the day is still young and, to my knowledge, no one has thrust a microphone into Bob Brenly’s face about it yet.

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.