One of the many reason Derek Jeter was and is so popular is that he has made a conscious effort to avoid controversy. The easiest way for an athlete to become controversial is to make a political stand, and Jeter has generally steered clear of that. He’s made a comment here or there over the years, but he’s not out there stumping for candidates.
Which is why it was so surprising when, yesterday, a candidate for New York City Council named Ronnie Cho issued a press release trumpeting Jeter’s endorsement, which included an alleged quote from Jeter saying “That is why I’m proud to support him on his run for New York City Council, District 2 and I urge you to support him too on September 12th.”
As the New York Daily News reports today, however, Jeter never said any such thing. His charitable foundation’s spokesman said “Derek does not endorse any political candidates, so this is no different. He was speaking to Ronnie’s character and the relationship he and the foundation had with Ronnie,” not providing an endorsement. And, yes, Jeter has appeared in photos and things with Cho, thanking him for support of his foundation. Political endorsements, however, are another matter altogether. It’s also worth noting that Jeter doesn’t even live in New York.
Cho called it a “communications mixup.” Given that today is the New York primary and that this correction is coming after people have already voted this morning, I guess it was a pretty fortunately timed mixup.
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.