Great Moments in not ignoring A-Rod

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It’s OK if you don’t care about A-Rod. If you find him irrelevant and annoying and wish he’d just go the hell away. Not everyone cares, nor should you feel obligated to.

Just do me a favor: if you’re one of those people, please don’t write 1,000 words for a national sports website about A-Rod, claiming you care so little about A-Rod. Because it kind of undermines your point.

Beyond that, I think A-Rod is the “Two and a Half Men” of baseball figures. All of the clever, in-the-know people act like no one watches that show and that it’s irrelevant and stupid and should just go away. If you read their stuff you’d think that “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad” are what everyone’s watching. Meanwhile, “Two and Half Men” had bigger ratings than those three things combined.

That’s A-Rod. Well, he is based on what I’ve observed about website metrics and the general amount of attention anything about him gets from the broader sports-reading audience. We can still hate him. We can still make fun of him. We can say that, in objective terms, he’s way less relevant to the game today than whoever the baseball player equivalent of “Mad Men” is.

But it’s a lie to claim that no one cares, because a lot of people do. And pretending that you’re above that when you’re really not wears pretty poorly on a person.

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.