A pleasant day at Goodyear

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It’s been a nice day so far at Goodyear. After talking to Nick Swisher, Jason Giambi, Terry Francona and after watching and pretending to scout Scott Kazmir, I feel like it’s a good time to stop being a reporter and mostly just gawk. So I’m gawking.

Bad news about Goodyear Park? The press box is impossibly small. Like, there’s room for the home writers, the team PR people, the MLB and scorer people and, like, three visiting scribes. That crowds me out. The good news: for the second straight year the Indians staff let me set up in a luxury box just down the way from the press box. My view:

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It’s way better too. I’m out on the patio in the open air with just as good a view as the press box types but with way better atmosphere.  Last year I caught a foul ball up here. It’s the bottom of the fifth as I’m writing this and no luck yet, but I’m hopeful. And if I do get one, there is no Jonah Keri here this year to guilt me into giving it to a kid. It’s minemineminemine.

The game so far: 2-0 Indians beating the Dodgers. It’s pretty inconsequential, though. It’s a split squad Dodgers team and, really, not much drama is going down with this Tribe team at the moment. It’s a far more chill day than is even typical for spring training. The highlight so far: Don Mattingly — who you can see in the dugout in the picture above — stood up an inning or two ago, attempted to put his lineup card in his back pocket, tried again, and again, and again, and again, and kept missing his pocket. So he threw it on the floor.

This guy:

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Amazingly not a scout.  I thought he might have been, as he was watching the Kazmir thing earlier and, well, looks like how I imagine all scouts looking.  Nope. Just a guy “who likes a lot of baseball” he told me. His name is Carl. He goes out to a different complex every day and just hangs around until he feels like getting lunch, he says. I want to be Carl when I grow up. He’s really cool.

Just outside the Indians’ clubhouse: Phiten necklaces, marked down!

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This is how it was with Poison albums just after Nirvana hit big.  Speaking of big:

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Love this thing. If Cheech and Chong made a baseball movie this would be a central plot point, methinks.  And now from the comedic to the absurd:

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In between the first and second inning some trainer people jumped onto the dugout and did a “90 second workout” for the crowd. They actually expected everyone to get up and exercise. They yelled things like “C’mon! You’re not gonna work off those beers just sitting there! Now 1! And 2! And stretch! And move!”

Their bodies were never discovered and there are no suspects.

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.