Lots of teams teach English to Latin players. Not too many teach Spanish to the English speakers. The Padres do, however, and it seems like a great idea:
“It’s something I thought was important to make us efficient when
dealing with players when we’re going to the Dominican or with our
players who are just coming here and don’t have command of the English
language yet,” Smith said.
“It shows that as an organization that we’re making an effort
to reach out to these kids. Language is a major issue. I’m asking for
two hours a week for maybe nine hours this spring. It’s a beginning,
it’s a start. Our guys have been receptive to it.”
I’m sure there are some people out there who will drag out the tired old “well, they’re the ones coming to the U.S., so why should we learn their language” argument, but it’s dumb one so please don’t.
For one thing, team employees are more of a constant than any specific ballplayer is, so it makes sense that the former learn Spanish to communicate with a perpetually-changing cast of players rather than simply rely on the players learning English.
But beyond that it seems like the mere effort to teach Spanish would have some cultural/chemistry benefits. I stumbled through French and Italian for a few weeks once while traveling, and though I’m pretty sure I mangled it beyond recognition, the folks I spoke with usually appreciated the effort. Sure, they laughed, and most of the time they saved me by speaking a much better English than I did their own language, but I think I got along better with everyone simply because I tried.
It may not be a significant thing, but given the relatively meager outlay of time in energy it takes to pick up some phrases and at least get your feet wet with a new language, even a modest uptick in team culture and morale would make the effort worth it, no?
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.