As least psychically, as the GMs who met in Chicago last are said to be increasingly wary of players moving from the NL to the AL:
His shoulders shrugged. His lips pursed. But Kenny Williams bit his tongue one syllable too late.
“A guy going from the American League to the National League, no disrespect, but . . . There are guys in the American League who go to the National League and
don’t do well, but there are not too many of them
that I can think of.”
The two most familiar reasons for the A.L.’s recent dominance are cited: the DH and, more significantly, the competitive pressures caused by the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ big spending. The latter even affects teams outside of the AL East, as the frequent unavailability of the wild card — the Yanks and Sox usually win it — makes them have to shoot for the division title. In the NL, in contrast, it’s easier in any given year for any given team to make the playoffs.
The differences between the leagues are very real, but I’m skeptical that those differences have yet to result in serious impacts on the free agent market. The alleged poster boy for the phenomenon — Matt Holliday — is probably going to get a large contract from an AL team. I can’t recall any transaction in recent years where actual team sources — as opposed to armchair analysts — cited league differences as a factor in the deal or the price of the deal or anything like that.
Yes, I’m sure the teams analyze it, but I’d be shocked if a team’s front office has actually ever said “No, we just can’t do that deal. The guy’s an NL player, and at the end of the day, I don’t believe he’s worth what they’re asking for him.”
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.