The Cubs days on WGN may soon be over

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The broadcasting business has changed a ton in recent years. And it will change a ton in the near future. Change is pretty much the only constant, so looking back to some past time and saying that things should be like they were is silly and pointless. Still: there’s going to be some emotions and nostalgia when the Cubs, as it appears likely, cease to appear on WGN in the near future:

The Chicago Cubs have exercised an option to get out of their broadcast contract with WGN-TV after the 2014 season, sources said Wednesday.  The team notified the Tribune Co.-owned station on Tuesday it had 30 days to agree to substantially higher fees for the 2015 season and beyond, or the broadcast rights would be opened up for negotiation with other media, according to a source close to the situation.

The Tribune article talks about all of the money and angles in play. WGN could still be a player. Or not. But the days when WGN and the Cubs went hand-in-hand are probably over. Really, since the Cubs have split time with WGN and Comcast for the past several years, they likely were over already.

The same story played out with the Braves and TBS. Which, very much like the Cubs and WGN, made fans of people who lived nowhere near the team they came to love. Now, thanks to technology, geography doesn’t keep someone from following a team they used to love back home. And weird national followings like those experienced by the Cubs and the Braves are a thing of the past too.

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.