After saying that he, personally, wanted to throw baseballs at Dodgers players as they sat in their dugout and after saying that he was angry that there was no “retaliation” for Diamondbacks players being hit by pitches and that he wanted to see some of it, Kevin Towers has “clarified” his comments:
“I’m not saying hit players on purpose,” Towers said. “I’m saying if our hitters are being made uncomfortable at the plate, we need to be the same way; we need to make the opposing hitters uncomfortable at the plate and pitch in with purpose and take that inner third away. I’m talking about pitching inside effectively with purpose. Sometimes they’re not always strikes, but you pitch in to a hitter to be able to get the slider down and away.
Yeah, a guy who cited “eye for an eye” justice in reference to hit batsmen — someone who said “somebody’s goin’ down” — was really saying “pitch to the inner third.” We just misconstrued him. I’m sure there is no element of walking back insane comments after people correctly called them insane. And after he probably got a text message from team ownership or the league office or something. Much the way Brian Sabean did a couple of years ago when he made veiled threats to Marlins player Scott Cousins.
In other news: who knew a guy Towers’ age could moonwalk?
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.