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Happy Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura Day!

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There’s nothing going on today, so let’s celebrate one of baseball’s greatest anniversaries: Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura Beat Down Day!

It was on this day in 1993, in Arlington, Texas, that Nolan Ryan plunked Robin Ventura with a heater. Why? Hard to say. Ventura singled off of Ryan earlier in the game, but there wasn’t a ton of bad blood here or anything. And Ryan was not known as a headhunter. He only led the league in hit batsmen once in his 27-season career. Indeed, Ventura was the only batter he plunked that entire season. UPDATE: MLB.com’s Cut4 digs a bit into the “why” of it all today.

As for the plunking: Ventura collected himself for a moment. Thought about it and then made the worst mistake of his life: he charged the mound in an effort to mix things up with baseball’s most legendary fireballer. He, of course, got pummeled:

 

It was an instant sensation, going viral before anyone talked about video going viral. Every sportscast, local and national, and a bunch of other TV shows that otherwise wouldn’t feature baseball at all ran that clip. Today it’s the go-to reference for anyone talking about baseball and beatdowns.

Not that there isn’t some dispute as to how big a beatdown it was. A few years back a White Sox fan — obviously still salty over it all — put together a clip trying to rehabilitate Ventura’s fighting reputation, showing the moments AFTER Ryan’s haymakers to Ventura’s head in which Ventura gave back a little to the old Ryan Express:

 

I’ll give him this much: Ventura didn’t crumble and, yes, he gave back some to Ryan. Thing is, though, that Ryan was about 147 years old at the time and Ventura was a strapping young lad. And, as is the case in almost all walks of life, style counts. And there’s way more style involved in stopping a charging bull and putting it in a headlock than there is in wrestling an old man to the ground. Maybe it was more Leonard-Hagler in all of this than it was Hagler-Hearns, but the judges would’ve given this one to Ryan all the same.

Wanna know more? Last year Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com put together a great post setting forth 23 facts about the fight that you may or may not have known. For example: Ryan wasn’t even ejected. Ventura was, though, and then Ryan picked off the runner who took his place at first base.

Ryan would win that game. He’d only have six more starts after that, however, before retiring.

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.