Chipper Jones has no illusions that the Braves are going to catch the Phillies in the NL East — he rules that possibility out — but he thinks the Braves stack up pretty well with them overall and is hoping the teams meet in the playoffs:
“The only team that can really put any pressure on them and beat them somewhat is us. And I hope we get them head-to-head in the postseason. If we get them head-to-head, we like our chances. We’ve beaten their big three. I’m not sure if any other team in baseball has beaten their big three. They’re a great ballclub, don’t get me wrong. But we’re not scared of them. It’s going to be a knock down, drag out [fight].”
I think playoff predictions are kind of silly. Every team — even the best teams — play three or four lackluster games in a row several times a season and every team — even flawed ones — play three or four awesome games in a row several times a year. If those things line up just right (or wrong) in a series in October we tend to read more into it than we should. Which is understandable because of the stakes involved and the significance of the victory after the fact. But it’s not like one can predict that kind of thing.
So, yeah, if the Braves meet the Phillies in the NLCS there is a chance they could beat them. If you put a gun to my head and make me pick a winner I say it’s the Phillies because I have a hard time seeing how anyone can beat Halladay, Lee and Hamels the requisite number of times to advance past them. But of course there is a chance anyone can beat anyone in a short series, so that’s not worth a ton.
And given the Braves’ postseason experiences over the course of his career, Chipper Jones knows that inferior teams can easily beat superior teams at any time because the playoffs are just crazy and unpredictable like that. Indeed, he knows that better than any active player in baseball. Which makes me think that — wait for it — he’s just trying to mess with Phillies fans, much the way he messed with Mets fans for years.
Imagine that. A Braves partisan baiting Phillies fans. That’s unpossible!
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.