In the weekend wrap this morning I had a joke in there about Clint Hurdle taking the Pirates’ job on the basis of “hey, how could I do any worse than the last guy?” I deleted that, though, because the real reason he took the Pirates job — aside from wanting to continue his managerial career and maybe help them win — is not at all snark-worthy. From John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times:
One of the primary reasons why Hurdle would prefer to take the Pirates’ job instead of waiting to see if the Mets make him an offer is that his 8-year-old daughter Madison was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome. The disease, which affects about one in every 12,000 people, is a chromosomal disorder that typically causes low muscle tone, short stature if not treated with growth hormone and an insatiable appetite that can lead to life-threatening obesity
The Children’s Institute, located Squirrel Hill, is one of the nation’s foremost providers of care for those affected with Prader-Willi. Hurdle serves as the national spokesman for the Prader-Willi Foundation.
Baseball players and coaches spend years, if not decades, trying to balance their professional and family lives while working an in industry that, by necessity, makes them into itinerants. That Hurdle will be able to fulfill both his professional and familial interests by taking the Pirates’ job will make me root for the Pirates a hell of a lot more than did before I knew this.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.