Our long national nightmare ends: The Red Sox win a game

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It wasn’t pretty — God, it wasn’t pretty — but the Red Sox are finally in the win column, having beat the Yankees 9-6.

This was a game, more than any other, that puts lie to the significance of the win stat. Because John Lackey got the win despite pitching terribly: five innings, seven hits and six runs allowed.  His saving grace: Phil Hughes was way worse, allowing six runs on seven hits in two innings. He didn’t strike out a batter. His velocity, while not quite as bad as his first start (at least judging by NESN’s gun) wasn’t great, and he didn’t fool any Red Sox hitters.

The question after this one is whether Hughes is totally healthy. It wouldn’t shock me to see him DL’d for some reason. Or perhaps to have his next start skipped. If so, Joe Girardi has the option of inserting Bartolo Colon in his place. Colon was actually pretty good in middle relief today despite taking the loss, striking out five in four and a third innings and flashing good speed and movement.

Offensively, Terry Francona’s gambit of putting Carl Crawford in the leadoff spot wasn’t exactly a masterstroke given that he was 0 for 5, but most of the other guys in the lineup hit.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that this game has taken a giant weight off the Red Sox’ shoulders. Now that they will no longer be asked “when will you win?!” the season can truly begin for them. Or at the very least get normal.

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.