We might just have ourselves a competitive series here.
The Braves evened things up with the Giants tonight — or this morning,
really — taking Game 2 by the score of 5-4 in 11 innings. They jumped
ahead thanks to a long solo home run by Rick Ankiel, which splashed down
in McCovey Cove beyond the right field fence.
The Giants were actually in great position to win in the bottom of the
10th inning, as Edgar Renteria led off with a bunt single, testing the
hobbled Troy Glaus at third base. After Andres Torres sacrificed him
over to second base, Billy Wagner was removed from the game due to an
oblique injury. Kyle Farnsworth entered and hit Freddy Sanchez with a
pitch and walked Aubrey Huff to load the bases for Buster Posey. It pretty easy to think the worst.
Farnsworth was able to induce a groundball to Glaus at third, but instead of going the safe route and throwing home, he made the do-or-die decision to go for the double-play by throwing to second base. Incredibly, it worked. Just barely. Inning over. Without a doubt, the key play of the ballgame.
With the series now knotted up at 1-1, the Braves return home for Game 3 on Sunday. Tim Hudson will square off against Jonathan Sanchez.
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.