Monument Park in Yankees Stadium was once reserved for the best of the best. The Mantles/Berras/Ruths of the world. In some ways that was a bit silly. A function of George Steinbrenner’s obsession with casting Yankees history in near-mythic terms and peddling the notion that anything less than uber-elite and perpetual champion players and teams was not up to Yankees’ snuff. That’s the kind of thing that leads to the sort of eye-rolling that a lot of Yankees fans have toward that franchise today.
And it also did a disservice to the merely good players who, if they played for any other franchise, would likely be honored somehow with a plaque or something in whatever that team’s particular hall of fame happened to be called. Lots of teams have those, by the way. They just don’t have press agents as good as those that Monument Park has had over the years.
The Yankees seem to be changing this. Last month they announced that Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez would be honored in Monument Park. I scoffed a little bit at that when the news came out, but after the weighing-in by some Tino fans and a month or so worth of reflection, I’m feeling cooler about it. Indeed, if this is truly a move by the franchise to come down off its “Only The Titans Are Worthy” stance toward its history, I’m all for it. Making Yankee Stadium a more populist place is good thing. I mean, you don’t go honoring Kevin Maas or anything, but people liked Paul O’Neill so why the heck not? At least as long as you don’t make everyone buy the notion that the standards haven’t been relaxed and that, really, Tino Martinez is worth every bit of praise that, say, Lou Gehrig is.
Anyway, Sweeny Murti thinks that if you’re letting O’Neill and Martinez in, you gotta do more:
O’Neill and Martinez will enjoy wonderful days this summer when they are honored. But if they are being recognized for their vital contributions to a Yankees dynasty, then I think we have to start opening the door to countless more players who could be considered Yankees greats.
We could add dozens more names if we wanted to, and maybe we will. But I’d like to start with two — Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles.
I suppose people’s mileage may vary, but they are pretty much the 1970s equivalents of O’Neill and Martinez. Not the biggest stars on the team, but certainly the sorts of players who could be strong second bananas on any championship club.
What say you, Yankees fans? You all for opening the doors like this? Or does Monument Park need to be reserved for only the inner-circle Yankee greats?
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.