There was some moderate-to-serious hand-wringing the other day when it was revealed that Bartolo Colon received an injection of his own stem cells to help repair ligaments. As David Epstein notes in a very informative article over at SI, however, the hand-wringing is unwarranted. Colon’s procedure is fairly commonplace and, in its general effect, is no different than microfracture surgery, which no one thinks is a problem.
He likens the response to Colon’s procedure to another procedure — platelet rich plasma therapy — that caused people to freak out a little bit in recent years. In both cases, however, the therapy itself is noncontroversial. The source of the controversy was the doctor at the center of the particular case: Anthony Galea in PRP and Joseph R. Purita in the case of Colon’s stem cell thing. Galea remains in legal trouble over his alleged use, purchase and transport of HGH. Purita because he admitted that in his non-athlete patients he uses HGH in the stem cell therapy.
Given the level of misinformation and ignorance floating around sports media and among fans when it comes to things like PEDs, it’s not surprising that new-to-us medical procedures lead to raised eyebrows. But we should all understand that, for the vast majority of us, when we talk about medicine, we really don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.
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.