Attention my minions, as I make a brief digression about blogging

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This is not about baseball. It’s about blogging. Those of you not interested in the meta-stuff, feel free to stay on break a little while longer. We’ll call you back when we get back to work.

This post from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch is from last September, but it was just brought to my attention this morning. It’s about the way in which it’s quite easy for an experienced and savvy blogger to manipulate reader opinion, play to the crowd and all of that, often without the readers even realizing it.  Arrington goes so far as to posit that “any blogger worth her salt could start, say, an extremely successful militant religious cult.”  I think that’s putting it too strongly, but there’s a  core point: a blogger can — either if he tries or if he’s merely careless — create a community of readers who think in lockstep, agree with whatever the blogger says and shouts down dissenting opinions as heresy. And for as nice as it is to have minions, this point should not be forgotten:

Remember this, though. When you’re reading something here that’s getting you really riled up, stop. It may be that you really should be thinking the exact opposite of what you are. And if you find yourself floating through a post agreeing with all the subtle pandering, wake up! And call us on it immediately.

I don’t know that any blog is immune to this phenomenon, this one included. I mean, I never write anything that isn’t truly my opinion — even at my most Swiftian moments I’m striving to make it clear that my tongue is placed firmly in my cheek — but I’m sure I’m not 100% successful at it. I probably frame issues in subtle ways such that a casual reader can be manipulated, even if it’s only for a moment. I’m sure I also do some lazy things on occasion, knowing on some level that, because I’ve got something of a track record, readers will let me skate from time to time.

But that’s not cool. And even if I’m not 100% successful in avoiding it, I certainly want to. I want the jokes and the tone and the vibe of this blog to build on itself over time, but anything I write should, at its core, stand alone on its own merits, or else it’s not successful.

I think you guys do a pretty good job at calling me out on my baloney, but I think I need to crack the mental whip on myself a bit more, and I can certainly stand you all doing it. Please, do it.

Anyway, just an observation I found interesting this morning.  We now return you to your regular baseball programming.

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.