I’ve been hearing stuff like this from the Washington Post’s Tom Shales over and over from people fortunate enough to have previewed the update to Ken Burns’ “Baseball” — called “The Tenth Inning” — which premiers tonight:
Your degree of interest might depend on where you live, since “Tenth
Inning” tends to favor the Northeastern United States and spends
relatively little time west of the Mississippi. Especially in the second
half, Burns and Novick
concentrate on New York, Boston and Baltimore to a degree that seems
I get that you have to have a lot of east coast in this one because apart from steroids, the story of baseball from 1994-present is one of economics. Economics which led to the end of that relatively brief period of parity in the game that began after the fall of the Mickey Mantle Yankees in the late 60s and lasted until Derek Jeter showed up. You have to focus on the Yankees in such a story, and if you’re talking about the Yankees you have to talk about the Red Sox.
But it is going to put a lot of people off. Documentaries are at their best, I think, when they teach us stuff we don’t know, and who among us isn’t familiar with the Yankees-Red Sox storyline? I guess this is a problem when you try to document something so recent.
Also worth noting is that the primary narrative thrust of the thing is going to be steroids, and Burns decided to tell the story of steroids in baseball by focusing on the story of Barry Bonds. This is probably a good choice in that (a) Bonds is the most significant player attached to steroids; and (b) Bonds is an interesting and complicated figure in his own right and is likely to lead to good storytelling in ways that, say, Rafael Palmiero and Jose Canseco wouldn’t.
My fear is that Bonds’ story is portrayed as a story of the Fall of Man or some such and that the facts complicating such a narrative (i.e. baseball’s complicity in PED use) are underplayed. Burns hasn’t disappointed me before, however, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here.
“The Tenth Inning” premieres on PBS Tonight at 8 p.m. and continues tomorrow night at the same time.
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.