The Brewers are off to their best start since 1987

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Get a load of this Brew Crew.

Behind seven strong innings from right-hander Wily Peralta and home runs from Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds, the Brewers topped the Pirates 4-2 last night at Miller Park in Milwaukee. They have now won seven straight games and sit at 8-2 on the young season, giving them the best record in the majors. This is their best start since they began the 1987 season at 13-0.

The Brewers have simply been hitting on all cylinders thus far. While they have the third-fewest walks in the majors, they rank third in batting average and slugging percentage and fifth in OPS thanks to hot starts from the likes of Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy. The pitching has been even better, putting up a major league best 1.86 ERA. Their starters have gone at least six innings in seven out of 10 games, with Yovani Gallardo showing signs of a rebound with 12 2/3 scoreless innings to begin the year. Their relievers, highlighted by the trio of Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith, and Tyler Thornburg, have allowed just four runs in 29 2/3 innings for a 0.91 ERA.

There are obviously reasons to be skeptical here, especially with the questions surrounding Ryan Braun’s thumb and the injury histories of Ramirez and Matt Garza, but this team could surprise if things break right. The Cardinals deserve to be considered the favorites in the National League Central, but the Wild Card race has the potential to be wide open this year.

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.