Rob Neyer has noted on several occasions that baseball is penny wise and pound foolish, usually as it relates to paying and generally looking after minor leaguers. A big part of that is nutrition, which we hear about once a year or so when minor league meal allowances are reported. It’s not much money and the food it buys is pretty pathetic. Basically, any nutrition plan that all but explicitly calls for regular runs for the border is suspect.
There’s an interesting report from Zach Levine in the Houston Chronicle today about the consequences of such a lazy approach to feeding the prospects. The upshot: They lose weight and with it power as the season progresses.
Not that this is all baseball’s fault. I mean, we are dealing with boys between the ages of 18 and 22 and if there’s a demographic that makes poorer choices than boys that age I have yet to encounter it. Christ, even my son will eat an apple once in a while. You pull a bus full of broke minor leaguers into a Krystal’s parking lot and you got yourself a full-fledged natural disaster on your hands.
I realize that on any minor league team there are, like, four guys the organization really cares about with the rest constituting roster filler, but you’d think that baseball teams would want to pay closer attention to this stuff and make sure their investments aren’t eating chalupas and chili fries all the 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.