Yesterday the New York Times noted how the organizational philosophy of the Independent League Newark Bears was to provide a place for former big leaguers to play as they try to work their way back to The Show. Indeed, just this season the Bears have been home to Armando Benitez, Carl Everett, Shawn Chacon, Jacque Jones, Marlon Anderson and Keith Foulke.
It seems that this philosophy extends to their front office too:
Dwight “Doc” Gooden is back in baseball at the independent minor league level.
The Newark Bears say the former Cy Young award winner, who pitched for the New York Yankees and New York Mets, will be hired as senior vice president of the Atlantic League franchise on Thursday.
Team spokesman Jesse Suskin says Gooden will serve as the Bears’ community ambassador in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. The 44-year-old Gooden will work with youth baseball camps and leagues.
This is not merely some charity or publicity-driven job, as Gooden has worked in youth baseball in Tampa for the past several years. Moreover, if you’re going to cultivate interest and excitement about your team and your programs in the New York/NJ area, it would be hard to find a better guy to do it than Doc Gooden. For all of his foibles, people simply love the guy in New York.
On a more basic level, it’s good to finally hear news stories about Gooden that don’t involve trouble with the law or with substance abuse or what have you. I hope this job works for him and I hope it keeps him in and around baseball for a long time.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.