“Manny would call you and tell you, ‘I’ll meet you in a little bit to go
eat at 12.’ You would be there until two and Manny wouldn’t show up.
That’s him, that’s the way he is.”
— David Ortiz, providing a longer synonym for “Manny being Manny.”
Not that the quote is some great revelation. I mostly use it as an excuse to link to Rob Bradford’s lengthy piece in which Ortiz talks a lot about Ramirez and their relationship.
The thing that sticks out: yet another example of an off-the-field narrative writers like to give us — in this case, Manny and Big Papi are big buddies — being shown to be a lot more complicated than was initially portrayed. They were friendly at the ballpark and had no relationship to speak of off the field. Not chilly or anything, they’re just different people.
It’s this kind of thing that makes me dismiss most of the human interest angles you hear about current players. At least those who are at the top of their game or are currently capturing the zeitgeist. There’s so much PR involved on the players’ side and so many preconceived narratives on the writers’ side that I think it’s pretty rare that we get a great deal of insight from these kinds of things. Only now, when Manny and Big Papi are in the twilight of their careers, does the initial narrative start to melt away.
Sports Illustrated does it pretty well when they go super in-depth on guys, and when the focus is some external event — like a tragedy or something off-the-wall — we often get an insightful glimpse into the minds and lives of top players. But for the most part we’re best served to wait for the biography to figure out what’s really going on in these players’ lives.
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.