Last night, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said he was taunted by Red Sox fans at Fenway Park with racist slurs and one fan even threw peanuts at him. The Red Sox and Major League Baseball both issued public apologies to Jones and the Orioles.
In the aftermath, Boston fans have become very defensive about the incident, saying that last night’s boorish fans represent a very tiny fraction of the city’s fan base. Others pointed to other cities’ fans who have acted similarly, as if to deflect responsibility.
Back in January, Red Sox starter David Price said he was on the receiving end of racist slurs from Boston fans as well. Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. said he received racial taunts in 2014 when he was struggling. Barry Bonds said in 2004 that he would never play for the Red Sox because Boston is “too racist for me.” Vernon Wells said that, as a player, he was warned about only two stadiums where racist comments were common, and Fenway was one.
Add Yankees starter CC Sabathia to the list. The lefty said, “I’ve never been called the N-word” anywhere but Boston, Newsday’s Erik Boland reports. Sabathia continued, “We know. There’s 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it.” Sabathia said he hasn’t heard racist taunts from Boston fans since he’s been with the Yankees, though, because of increased security in the bullpen.
Yes, racism is everywhere in America, not just Boston. But the combination of Boston being one of the larger metropolitan areas in the country and a very strong city-wide passion for sports leads to more incidents like Monday night’s. Rather than deflect responsibility, Boston fans should hold each other accountable for behavior. Jones last night said that there were “59 or 60” fans ejected from the ballpark. How many others did nothing but watch as these boors acted out? How many others silently cheered them on? The correct response, when players like Jones and Sabathia say that Boston fans are racist, is to acknowledge the problem and vow to make it better. Discrediting the lived experiences of people of color is how white people avoid having to deal with their own complicity in a racist system.
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.