Off days stink because they force writers to fill space with silly stuff like this article making an argument for Chase Utley as “the best second baseman in baseball. Ever.” The evidence cited: his OPS is higher than Jackie Robinson’s! He’s on pace to have more hits than Joe Morgan! He’s got more home runs than Eddie Collins! He plays better defense than Rogers Hornsby!
All of which is beside the point. I mean, it’s not hard to take four great second baseman, cite those stats which are among the least impressive of their case for immortality, and then note that Utley bests them in that department. Try this out for size: I’m the greatest man in world history because I can run faster than
Steven Hawking, sing better than Albert Einstein, shoot better than
Ghandi, and shave closer than Lincoln. Anyone see any problems there?
The fact is that Joe Morgan wasn’t just a guy who got base hits. He walked a lot and had superior power, defense and base running ability. As the author of the linked article admits, Collins played in the deadball era, so his home run totals are pretty irrelevant. Robinson certainly had a good OPS, but his all-around ability — he played many positions — base running and, oh yeah, BALLS OF STEEL are a bigger part of his story. Citing Hornsby’s defense? C’mon, he’s known as a subpar defender. He’s at the top of most people’s lists because he hit .400. And oh yeah: all of those guys did what they did for way longer than Utley has done what he has done.
Utley is an outstanding player. He’s certainly the best second baseman in the game today. If he keeps up the current pace for a few more years, he’s going to be Cooperstown bound. But after what, in reality, is only five strong seasons, he’s got a long way to go before he can reasonably be compared to Hornsby, Robinson, Morgan, and Collins.
And Grich and Sandberg and Alomar and Whitaker and Kent and Gehringer and . . .
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.