John Smoltz doesn't live up to his own golfing hype

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The American Century Celebrity Golf Championship is a — duh — celebrity golf tournament that the good people at NBC happen to broadcast and sponsor and everything. It went down in Lake Tahoe this past weekend and, as usual, a lot of ex-baseball players participated.

The bosses didn’t let me go though, presumably because John Smoltz and Greg Maddux were involved this year and they didn’t want me going all Chris Farley on them (“remember that time you guys won the World Series. That was awesome!”).  Probably good for another reason too, because I’m not sure I would have been able to avoid taunting Smoltz just a wee little bit after it was all over yesterday.

Why? A little birdie tells me that, last week, Smoltz — who is an outstanding golfer — was at 15-1 to win it on the big board at Harrah’s.  Before the tournament started, however, he went off at 1-1. Why? Partially because a lot of people thought he might win it. Partially, however, because he put a whole bunch of money on himself to win it.

Sadly, however, he didn’t. He started off slow on Friday and wasn’t able to come all the way back. Billy Joe Tolliver won it. Smoltz and Tony Romo tied for second.

On the bright side, if Smoltz changes his mind about retiring from baseball, any prospective employer can secure themselves with the knowledge that Smoltz still has the utmost confidence in his own abilities.

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.