Evan Longoria says B.J. Upton, James Shields couldn’t get the Devil Rays mentality out of their heads

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Opening Day is always a time for big, optimistic thoughts. A time to declare that now, the present, is so much better than the past. Thing is, when you do that, you’re implicitly saying that what came before was inferior or flawed. And when you put names on the past, you’re trafficking in some level of personal criticism whether you intended to or not.

That’s where Evan Longoria seems to be in this article from the Tampa Tribune, in which he talks about how the team is all about clubhouse camaraderie and positive thinking and how everyone is on the same page with “The Rays Way.”  Part of why that is now? Because a couple of old holdovers from the pre-2008 Rays — the old Devil Rays –are gone:

“There was a lot of history with B.J. and Shields in this organization, and I think there were some things that were tough for them to get beyond,” Longoria said. “They were really the only ones that were left in here that were here before the Rays were in 2008 when we started to be the team that we are now. I think some of those things kind of stuck around, and as much as you try to instill the new way, some of those things, it was tough to get some of those thoughts out of their head.

He says Upton and Shields were fine players, and says that he’s not trying to be negative and that maybe he wasn’t putting it the right way, but jeez, it sounds a lot like a criticism.

Know what keeps one from making such criticisms, however inadvertently? Not treating a baseball season as a grand tale in which there are necessarily good guys, bad guys, new beginnings and all the rest. It seems here that rather than have any actual criticism of his former teammates, Longoria was simply trying to fit the Tampa Bay Rays into some narrative, however contrived. Sportswriters are bad for this. But it seems that players do it too.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.