Forget college basketball. This is the week that the baseball season begins. Everything else is beside the point.
- Russell Branyan made the Dbacks’ roster. He hit the crap out of baseballs this spring. He’s done that fairly often in his career, actually, though never in quite the way people like, leading to him never really having a solid job. Just an oddball career for the guy. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.
- Bronson Arroyo has mono. No, not that mono. The sucky one.
- Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia get the last two Yankees’ rotation spots. Wish I could have made bets with Yankees fans last November that, at some point in 2011, there would be a Freddy Garcia-Gustavo Molina battery pitching for New York.
- Clint Barmes broke his hand. Oh, deer.
- Mike Hampton retired. Now he will have the freedom to enroll his children in the best school district he can find anywhere in the country without the need for it to be near a Major League Baseball team.
- Good news: Zack Greinke, who recently suffered broken ribs, is playing catch again. Bad news: He’s just checking the ball in, ready to drive it hard to the hoop against a bunch of big guys who are all elbows.
- The Nyjer Morgan trade that was first rumored then denied actually happened. I’m going to pretend that Milwaukee never actually considered the trade until Ken Rosenthal tweeted about it, then they thought “hey, that Rosenthal had a good idea” and only then did they decide to pursue it.
- The Cubs released Carlos Silva. Milton Bradley is still playing for the Mariners. Ergo, the Cubs win. No, that’s not a mistake.
- Terry Francona was less-than-pleased at Buck Showalter’s comments in a recent interview. This marks the first time anyone with the Red Sox paid attention to anything related to the Orioles since 1996.
Three days until Opening Day, my friends. Three days. This video pretty much sums it up. Well, this one does too.
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.