MLB and the Braves need to trash that new batting practice cap now

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UPDATE:  It seems that the Braves may, possibly, be considering a change.

9:26 AM: Inspired by their atrotious new batting practice caps, Ryan Hill has a take on the Atlanta Braves and their regrettable use of American Indian iconography and how one reconciles being a Braves fan with the existence of that garbage.

My short answer is basically the same as his: it’s horrible and I hate it, but I’m here for the baseball, not to buy in to some cult of fandom which requires me to approve of these things. Nevertheless, if that bp cap is a harbinger of things to come and Liberty Media is making a conscious effort to reemphasize the screaming Indian and other such things, I’m going to have to question my level support for the team.

Hill’s larger point, which applies to not just the Braves, but the Indians, Redskins and any other team which chooses to portray Indians as savages and caricatures, is spot-on:

The more that American Indians and First Nations people are seen as cartoons and caricatures of the past, the less they are likely to be seen as people that exist today, who continue to make contributions to human culture, and who continue to be denied many of the basic rights and respect afforded to others … There was a time when professional baseball moved ahead of society, defying Jim Crow and racially integrating the sport. Today, even with all the formal tributes to its Civil Rights legacy, baseball lags behind by condoning American Indian mascots.

I’ll acknowledge that getting rid of Chief Wahoo will be hard because it’s been around for a long time and is still actively being used by the Indians. There is no excuse for the Braves and the screaming Indian, however. He has been dead for some time and there is no reason why the Braves and Major League Baseball can’t put a stop to that new cap before a single one is sold. It’s the right thing to do and I’d hope they’d know it.

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.