A commenter said yesterday that Joe Maddon often accuses other teams of throwing at his players but that he has never even once hinted that the Rays do the same. Here he was on a radio show yesterday talking about the Red Sox doing just that — and the Red Sox doing nothing — over the weekend:
I guess Adrian Gonzalez had made a comment about hitting a home run and it just happens that night that Matt Moore hits him with a pitch that’s inside and not at him. All of a sudden there is something made out of that and then Luke Scott is intentionally hit in that game. Again they must have a little program up there that if one of their guys gets hit you are going to hit them back regardless of the situation and that’s what it appeared to be to me. Beyond that listen we do not do that. I’m telling you we don’t do that.
Did you think Bobby Valentine ordered his pitchers to throw at your hitters? It seemed that way:
“It was contrived. There’s no question it was a contrived situation. It was very obvious and again that is what I am talking about. You got to be very careful because when you do that as a manager of a team eventually it can get your own guys hurt and that’s what could happen. I would bet to a man none of the Red Sox players appreciated any of that.”
Flash forward to yesterday’s White Sox-Rays game, it seemed pretty darn obvious that Rays pitcher Alex Cobb intentionally threw at both Gordon Beckham and A.J. Pierzynski. Now, given the events of Tuesday’s game when Pierzynkski went into the bag spikes up, those idiotic unwritten rules of baseball may have demanded that he be hit. But justified or not, the Rays threw at Pierzynski. Worth noting that Maddon denied it, and then accused the White Sox’ Jose Quintana of intentionally throwing at Ben Zobrist and applauding Quintana’s ejection, so he’s pretty consistent.
Of course, after being plunked, A.J. came around to score the White Sox’ third run. While the Rays may have accepted that as baseball justice, I wonder if, to a man (and woman) Rays fans appreciated that stupid plunking nonsense led to a run by the opposition in what turned out to be a one-run game.
It’s all so silly. Throwing at guys is dumb. Accusing the other team of doing it and denying that you do it is fairly insulting. Just play the game and leave the discipline to the league. If that’s too much, at least quit accusing others of things you do yourself. Keep your uber secret code of silent valor silent.
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.