Baseball was back in Boston this afternoon for the first time since Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. And the Fenway faithful went home happy.
Capping off an emotional day, Daniel Nava delivered a dramatic three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead the Red Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Royals. The Red Sox have now won seven straight and sit at 12-4 on the young season.
Nava’s blast off Kelvin Herrera made a winner out of Clay Buchholz, who gave up two runs over eight innings. He’s now 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 29/11 K/BB ratio in 30 innings over his first four starts.
Andrew Bailey made things interesting in the ninth inning by giving up a leadoff homer to Lorenzo Cain and putting the tying run on second base with two outs, but he managed to get Alex Gordon to ground out to end it. He has saves in three straight games since blowing his first chance in the Patriots’ Day game on Monday.
After his pointed comments during the pre-game ceremony, David Ortiz went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in his season debut. Oh, and Neil Diamond also showed up to lead the crowd in “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning. All in all, a pretty great day for Boston.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.