Bobby Valentine went on the other day about how umpires can’t get ball and strike calls right and suggested that maybe it’s time for the robots to take over. He was particularly mad at Alan Porter, the ump from Sunday’s Nats-Red Sox game.
Today former MLB VP in charge of umpiring Mike Port blasted Valentine, saying that he was blaming the umps for his team’s poor performance:
Is Bobby Valentine whining too much about the umpires?
“Yes. Precisely. I would admit my bias only knowing what I do about umpiring. Bobby’s a good baseball man and he knows the game well and he’s a good manager, but I think we all at one time or another fall prey to looking for others. It’s almost a societal thing — who can we blame? I can promise you that those in the military who are successful in their endeavors don’t go that way. They go on a no excuses basis. When I saw Bobby’s comments about the game Sunday, June 10th and the umpiring, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t that the game where the Red Sox surrendered a two run lead? Where one player misplayed a ball allowing a run to score? Where they had another player strike out four times and ultimately where they couldn’t score more runs than the opposition. Were all of those guys named Alan Porter?
Kind of a sick burn, I’ll give him that. But it doesn’t change the fact that umpiring could stand to be improved. And Port sounds both retrograde and crazy when he was asked about whether the technology exists that could get the calls correct.
In response to automated ball and strike calls he asks says “perhaps we could go to the robot hitter and the robot pitcher …” In response to a question about putting chips in balls to allow them to transmit whether they are fair or foul, he suggests that its possible for the home team to jam the freaking signals. Or for home team broadcast trucks to purposefully avoid getting shots of plays that could, on replay, disadvantage the home team.
So, sure, maybe Port is right about Valentine. But he also sounds like a guy who is predisposed to make whatever insane defense of human umpires he can think of if it means not changing the world with which he is familiar.
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.