With the exception of racial integration, baseball has always been a bit behind the times. From facial hair to anti-disco sentiment to pro-Macarena sentiment and everything in between, you can bet that if a trend is hitting big someplace in this nation, you’ll see it in a ballpark … eventually.
Which is what makes me think that the food truck thing has peaked. Because they’re doing it at a ballpark now:
On Thursday, Aramark Corporation, which runs the food venues at Coors Field, rolled out Wok in the Park, a truck serving noodle bowls and egg rolls on the first-level concourse. It’s the first food truck to be stationed inside a major sports venue in the country … “The Rockies are always challenging us to be creative and to have a lot of variety. And we saw that the one gap we had in our ethnic food concepts was Asian. The truck is really conducive to any concept.” All of the food is made fresh inside the truck, he adds. “This is no scoop-and-serve operation. That’s the beauty of these trucks. They’re fully self contained.”
I never ever leave my home so I don’t get to a lot of food trucks, but isn’t the point of those things to (a) make it possible for would-be restaurateurs to get moving without bricks-and mortar overhead; and (b) to bring the food to where the people are, rather than to make the people go some fixed location for the food? A variety of food in lots of people-friendly locations? And isn’t it also the case that, by their very nature, that’s what every single ballpark food vendor is?
Seriously: look around the next time you’re at the ballpark. The unique food out on the concourse are at little stations which can be broken down and moved anywhere. Even those fixed Aramark outlets could be changed over to anything in about two hours. With rare exceptions, food options in ballparks are duplicated and triplicated or more, with no one having to walk too terribly far to get what they want. And the existing stands have the added bonus of not having the potential to run over people on concourses that were never intended for vehicular traffic.
So why a food truck? Because it’s hip! Because that’s where all the cool kids are getting their pork rib tacos or meatballs or whatever these days! Why not take it to the ballpark!
Congratulations food trucks. You’re now the culinary equivalent of Disco Demolition Night. Or planking. Or flash mobs. If the ballparks have you, you’re over.
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.