Ivan Rodriguez becomes fifth player in baseball history with 300 home runs as a catcher

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Last night Ivan Rodriguez hit his 307th career homer, 300 of which have come while catching. Rodriguez joins Hall of Famers Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, and Yogi Berra as the only players in baseball history to amass 300 homers while catching.
And for all the people freaking out about Alex Rodriguez being “stuck” on 599 homers, Ivan Rodriguez went three months, 51 games, and 192 plate appearances between homers.
Rodriguez has been terrible after a strong start to the season, hitting .178 with a .441 OPS in 33 games since mid-June to bring his overall season line down to a career-worst .268/.294/.358. However, because the Nationals signed him to a two-year, $6 million contract this offseason he’ll be back in 2011, although perhaps in more of a backup/mentor role to newly acquired 22-year-old catching prospect Wilson Ramos.
Rodriguez is 218 hits away from 3,000 and seems likely to get a chance to stick around long enough to reach that mark even if his pace has slowed considerably at this point and he’s no longer really a starting-caliber backstop at age 38. And then he’ll be in Cooperstown five years after whenever he decides to retire.

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.