Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton told reporters this past weekend, after Texas had secured a World Series berth by taking care of the Detroit Tigers, that he has been operating at about 50 percent health this postseason due to a lingering groin injury.
After checking out Game 1 of the World Series, we’re thinking he’s hurting even worse than that.
Hamilton seemed to grimace in every at-bat during Wednesday night’s 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Cardinals, and he took an odd route on a David Freese flyout in the fourth inning — allowing Lance Berkman to tag first base and advance to second.
When Hamilton then sent a rainbow throw to the infield, he gave the biggest cringe of the night.
The 30-year-old outfielder is batting just .267/.286/.378 over 47 plate appearances in these playoffs. His swing is off, and it’s not hard to tell that he feels the groin strain most when he tries to quickly twist his core — as one is required to do on all pitches, but most of all ones inside. The Cardinals know they can pound him in, and they’ll continue to do it throughout the Fall Classic. Hamilton was 0-for-4 on Wednesday with a strikeout.
Texas has a nice bench, especially under National League rules. If the three days of rest leading into the World Series didn’t heal Hamilton’s groin, and it’s a problem that is only going to get worse over the course of this seven-game set, it may be time for Rangers manager Ron Washington to make a monumental change.
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.