Everything I’ve read about former Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy suggests that he is, to the extent we can know such things about the rich and powerful, a perfectly pleasant man who cares a lot about Pittsburgh and the Pirates. He’s also a good example for gay people who struggle with their decisions about coming out of the closet. Seems, from afar, like a pretty admirable guy.
But does anyone else besides me think it’s weird that he was asked to throw out the first pitch at the Cards-Pirates game at PNC Park yesterday?
He owned the team from 1996 through 2007, which is a period in Pirates history that makes the actual Dark Ages look like the height of Enlightenment-era Vienna. Those were some bad years for Pirates fans, and McClatchy was on watch then. They were also years in which McClatchy worked hard to get taxpayers to pay for PNC Park, amid threats, however veiled and unlikely they were, that the Pirates could leave Pittsburgh if the public didn’t pony up. Indeed, about 95% of what makes the 2013 Pirates season so wonderful are memories of just how horrifying 1996-through-2007 and a couple of years on either side were.
Yes, I realize a first pitch doesn’t make a lot of difference in the world. But would the Rays ask Vince Naimoli to throw out the first pitch? Would the Dodgers ask Frank McCourt to do the honors? Not saying McClatchy is a bad a guy like those two, but you’d think you’d want to do whatever you can to minimize negative associations.
Can someone call Bill Madlock or Kent Tukulve before today’s game?
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.