Rob Neyer has a very good — and uncharacteristically personal — post up today about the Royals. He was a fan dating back to 1976. Then, six or seven years ago they lost him through mismanagement, contempt for their fans and overall misery. And now he wonders: is it too late to come back?
Is my love for my Royals gone, or merely dormant? I don’t know. I will be checking the minor-league stats for all those prospects Dayton Moore has assembled. Maybe that means I’m already there. But checking stats for a few minutes every week is one thing; investing three hours of baseball time every night is quite another.
When the Royals’ hot prospects begin joining the big club, I suspect that I’ll tune in, for curiosity’s sake. Will I stick with them through 2012, when they’re fighting to avoid 90 losses?
That will be the real test, and I don’t have the slightest idea. For most of my life, I was a Royals fan, that particular shade of blue coursing through every vein in my body. Today, I don’t know what I am.
I don’t know that you can come back once you’re gone. Sports mean a lot to us, but once we lose that connection — be it to a certain team or to a sport as a whole — we also realize that the connection is tied up in sentimentality and irrationality and all kinds of things that we realize, ultimately, we can do without if forced to. In some ways it’s like love: you don’t fall into it consciously, via some studied decision. And when you fall out, you can’t decide just to fall back into it again.
Which, in Rob’s case, is probably OK. He’s immersed in baseball every day and has obviously learned how to find joy in it without an active rooting interest. And of course, because of what he does for a living, he’s not going anywhere.
But your average fan can decide to move on if they find themselves in Rob’s shoes vis-a-vis the Royals. It’s probably a good thing for those who own and run sports teams to remember that there’s no law of nature that keeps us watching, rooting and buying.
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.