The Mets will wear first responder caps on 9/11, but not during the game

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Last year there was a controversy in which the Mets wanted to wear first responder caps — FDNY and NYPD caps and the like, as we saw after 9/11 — but Major League Baseball told them they couldn’t.

In my view that was a stupid decision. I still haven’t heard a good rationale for it. It’s not like this opens the floodgates for other teams to wear unofficial caps. To suggest it would is to ignore the pretty obvious fact that 9/11 was far more significant — and especially significant to New York — than any other sort of tragedy that may inspire a team to wear irregular gear.  I know people feel uncomfortable with such distinctions, but you can draw a line between 9/11 and, say, a massacre that kills 20 people or something.

Anyway, that decision by MLB last year angered the Mets, who considered going rogue and wearing the FDNY/NYPD hats anyway, risking fines.  They ultimately relented, however.  This year there will be no such controversy, as the league and the team have reached an agreement:

To mark Tuesday’s 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Mets will continue their long-standing tradition of wearing first responder caps, though only during batting practice and the national anthem. The Mets will don their regular uniform caps for their game against the Washington Nationals.

Still nice, I suppose. But I think the Mets should be allowed to wear them during games when far more people can see them.

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.