I scoffed this morning when I read George Vecsey’s statement this morning that, 600 homers or no, A-Rod will never get into the Hall of Fame. But maybe he’s not wrong. Buster Olney — who is on record as saying he will vote for A-Rod when he comes up for consideration — takes a look around the BBWAA and the veteran’s committee and thinks that Rodriguez’s chances are grim:
I’ve voted for McGwire, and I will vote for Clemens and Bonds and
Rodriguez, because within the context of their era — a time when most
of the best players were probably using drugs — they were the best
players . . . But that view is clearly in the minority among voting members of the
Baseball Writers’ Association. And that means that Rodriguez, an
acknowledged user for performance-enhancing drugs, is never getting into
the Hall of Fame, no matter if he hits 600 or 6,000 homers.
I sure hope he’s wrong. Not because I care so much about Rodriguez’s fate for its own sake, but because I’d hate to see the Hall of Fame become an utterly irrelevant institution. Which is exactly what it would be if it completely ignores the accomplishments of an entire era’s best players.
Olney nails it here: Bonds, Clemens and A-Rod all used, but so too did a great number of their peers. By some estimates the majority of them. While we can argue about some borderline cases like Rafael Palmiero and maybe even McGwire, to think that, PEDs or not, that Alex Rodriguez wouldn’t have still been among the best of his era is rather silly.
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.