This is a couple of steps farther down the grapevine than even I’m used to relaying, but my friend Rex Snider at WNST in Baltimore passes along some interesting gossip:
According to celeb-O’s fan, Roy Firestone, he received some possible inside information that indicated Peter Angelos might be readying the Orioles for a sale to local investors. Better yet, the group is supposedly headed by Cal Ripken.
On Saturday night, Firestone attended an event with Orioles greats, such as Brooks and Frank Robinson. The event provided Firestone with his information on the possible upcoming sale of the ballclub.
Firestone has been quick to point out his “source” is confidential. However, he has also identified this same source as one of credibility in past dealings – and, one who has the connections to know such information.
It’s still gossip, and Rex is quick to note that this is (a) just stuff he’s hearing; and (b) isn’t about anything imminent.
But even if it doesn’t happen I find it interesting, if for no other reason than it makes me wonder more about faces of the franchise buying their old teams. We have Nolan Ryan in Texas already and as time goes on — and as richer and richer former players decide to get active in the business word — we’ll probably see more of it.
I get it as a marketing idea — Rangers fans are understandably more excited about Nolan Ryan calling the shots than some leveraged buyout artist — but it runs counter to another couple of notions with which we’ve become acquainted in recent years.
One of which is ex-jocks not faring very well in the front office. Matt Millen and Isiah Thomas, anyone? Another is of how upset we tend to get when ownership meddles with baseball operations. We get chafed when the Yankees are allegedly telling Brian Cashman what to do. Why are we going to be any happier about this when Cal Ripken or Nolan Ryan does it? Just because they played the game doesn’t mean they’re better at second guessing the people actually hired to make such calls. They’re just a bigger name doing the second-guessing.
Writing about Cal Ripken owning the Orioles makes for great copy and it may even sell some tickets if it ever comes to pass. But I think, as a matter of substance, it’s overblown and possibly even counterproductive for the former hero to come back and “save” the team.
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.