Scenes from Spring Training Coco Crisp is an anti-baldite too

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Yeah, it’s another equipment bag shot. At this point I probably need an intervention. If you see me out someplace, kneeling on a warning track, squaring up a photo of an equipment bag on the grass, you are authorized to knock me over and take my camera away from me.

I’m at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to catch the Reds-A’s game today. As I mentioned earlier, it’s Yoenis Cespedes Day, but I was looking forward to it anyway because I like this place. I dig the extremely municipal touches like the large, featureless parking lot and the pedestrian bridge over the road to the park. I dig the poured concrete columns and roof over the press box. I dig the 1960s design flourishes. If the “Mad Men” people wanted to put in some Phoenix-in-March subplot, they could film here and all they’d have to do is to cover up the electronic scoreboard.

The clubhouse was fun this morning. Manny Ramirez walked in right after I did. His locker, by the way, is two down from Cespedes’ locker, so I’m guessing the A’s are making sure Cespedes has a strong mentor and spiritual guide as he enters the big leagues.

I went over to talk to Manny, hoping that it would be as interesting as some of his past chats. I chickened out on the surrealism, though, and decided to ask him some basic stuff. For example, how he feels after a couple weeks of workouts following what amounted to a year off:

Me: Do you feel close to where you were in past seasons at this point, or is there still some rust?

Manny: Well, it’s like my dad says, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I’m going to assume that Manny thinks his dad invented that phrase. It makes me happy to think that.

I wandered around a bit more. Coco Crisp walked toward me, smiling. He said “bald must be the hot new hair style for you guys. Everyone here is wearing it.” I looked around and saw Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com, who is bald. There were a couple other bald reporters in there too.  Crisp had a point.  But really, between him and Bastian’s taunting, I’m just gonna start wearing hats when I leave the house.

Other notable stuff:

  • Jonny Gomes was talking to a player I didn’t know. He was claiming — in a bad Spanish accent — that henceforth he shall be known as “Juan Gomez.”  Something tells me that’s not gonna stick;
  • For the entire hour I was in the clubhouse, Cesepedes sat in front of his locker. He occasionally talked to an older guy who I assume is his translator, and he talked with Manny a bit, but he didn’t really mix. Big day for him. You can never really tell just by looking at someone, and it’s possible that he is just a shy guy, but I got the sense that maybe he’s a bit nervous.
  • It was apparently free gear day today, as there was a rep from Nike there with a big box of sunglasses, passing them out to the players. There was also a glove guy showing off his wares to Kurt Suzuki and breaking in gloves for other players who kept coming by.  Outside the clubhouse they had set up a table with catalogs and samples of clothes. Baseball players get all kinds of cool perks.
  • Above Wes Timmons’ locker were taped two baseball cards. One was Josh Reddick. The other was Chipper Jones. Timmons wasn’t there, so I have no idea why he had those two. Jones might make sense as a mentor as Timmons was in the Braves organization forever. But really, this is the kind of thing that is gonna bug me for a while.

Maybe I can track him down now, as the A’s have left the clubhouse and are out doing their stretching and stuff.  I’ll check back in later.

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.