Happy Dock Ellis Day

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Today is the 42nd anniversary of Dock Ellis throwing a no-hitter while on acid.

We could joke about that. Believe me, I know, it’s easy to make drug jokes. But for some reason I have always viewed the Ellis no-hitter as something that — while certainly amusing — says something more about life and baseball and just how crazy and by-a-thread most people’s existence is.

Ellis had no business throwing a no-hitter while tripping his face off. No one has any business doing anything in that state. But he did. And it all happened because he was just completely unprepared. He mixed up the off-days on the Pirates’ schedule, took substances athletes should not be taking and ultimately ran into that game with reckless, hopeless, mind-addled abandon. And it worked somehow.

We shouldn’t glorify that, exactly, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and saying “damn,” and then giving a long, low admiring whistle. May all of us have a day go that well when, by all rights, it should go disastrously.

There are at least two other people who think about the Ellis no-hitter in this way, and they’re worth reading/listening to again.  The first one is Will Leitch who wrote this about it on the occasion of Ellis’ passing three and a half years ago:

The world is a crazed, nonsensical place, mostly random, confused, chaotic, numbing. We search for reason wherever we can find it. And then, out of the nether, someone throws a no-hitter on LSD, and we realize that there is so much we do not understand, so much that will always elude, so much with a strange beauty that’s impossible to comprehend.

The second is Todd Snider. Who wrote a song about it. A ballad for a man who was unprepared:

Happy Dock Ellis Day, Dock. On whatever plane it is you currently inhabit.

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.