Last night, Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar shouted a homophobic slur at Braves reliever Jason Motte. Pillar was upset that Motte had quick-pitched him. To Pillar’s credit, he owned up to his mistake immediately, saying, “It was immature, it was stupid, it was uncalled for. It’s part of the game, it’s just, I’m a competitive guy and heat of the moment. Obviously I’m going to do whatever I’ve got to do to reach out and apologize and let him know he didn’t do anything wrong, it was all me.”
The Blue Jays issued a statement on Thursday. They said, “The Toronto Blue Jays are extremely disappointed by the comments made by Kevin Pillar following his at-bat during the 7th inning of last night’s game. In no way is this kind of behaviour accepted or tolerated, nor is it a reflection of the type of inclusive organization we strive to be. We would like to extend our own apologies to all fans, Major League Baseball, and especially the LGBTQ community. We know Kevin to be a respectful, high-character individual who we hope will learn from his situation and continue to positively contribute and live up to our values on and off the field.”
Pillar made a statement of his own, which he posted on Twitter.
Last night, following my at-bat in the 7th inning, I used inappropriate language towards Braves pitcher Jason Motte. By doing so I had just helped extend the use of a word that has no place in baseball, in sports or anywhere in society today. I’m completely and utterly embarrassed and feel horrible to have put the fans, my teammates, and the Blue Jays organization in this position. I have apologized personally to Jason Motte, but also need to apologize to the Braves organization and their fans, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community for the lack of respect I displayed last night. This is not who I am and will use this as an opportunity to better myself.
This is how you apologize. There was no, “I’m sorry I was misinterpreted” or, “I’m sorry you got offended.” Pillar took complete ownership of his mistake, showed us that he understands the consequences of using hate speech, and told us how he aims to improve himself as a human being. Major League Baseball should use Pillar’s statement as a shining example on how to handle oneself after one screws up.
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.