The heat is already on Jerry Manuel

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Jerry Manuel.jpgIt’s a month and a half before the games start and the tabloids are already poised to pounce:

David Wright, Jose Reyes and now Johan Santana all have said they expect the Mets to win the World Series. The Mets are turning the page on an injury-plagued 2009 by making one bold statement after another. That means the pressure is on Jerry Manuel like never before.

The manager has to produce. The Mets must get off to a good start.
Manuel will offer up his State of the Mets address today with his first
formal press conference of the 2010 season. He has made it clear the
Mets have to get off to that good start.

I’m not the world’s biggest Jerry Manuel fan, but to the extent this Mets team has had problems recently, I figure them to be about 50% injury-inflicted, 35% front office-inflicted and 15% on Jerry Manuel, if that.  Fact is a manager doesn’t make nearly as big a difference as most people like to pretend he does, even if he is the first to get the blame when things go sideways.  A manager’s primary job in my view is to manage the clubhouse, diffusing the strife and keeping everything on an even keel. You have to fire the skipper when he loses the clubhouse, but beyond that, personnel and health mean a lot more to a team’s chances at success than the manager.

I don’t doubt that Manuel will get fired if the team starts poorly, but unless players are fighting one another or something, that poor start won’t really be Jerry Manuel’s fault.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.