Great, there go the Mets chances of signing Rickey Henderson and Bobby Bonilla again …
Manager Terry Collins told The Post yesterday his team rules, many of which will be unveiled today when he addresses his full squad for the first time, will include a limit on card playing in the clubhouse.
“It’s my understanding [card playing] was an issue last year,” Collins said. “They will be allowed to play cards, but there is going to be a cutoff time before the game.”
That’s from Mike Puma of the New York Post, who adds, from the “I didn’t know that” department, that hitting coach Howard Johnson apparently went ballistic on the team during a road trip last season, saying that they were paying more attention to cards than they were baseball. Of course, this wasn’t long after a bunch of “the Mets are gonna fire Howard Johnson” speculation began swirling around, so maybe HoJo was just a bit irritable.
David Wright is quoted in the article and it’s implied that he was one of the main card-playing offenders last year. He’s fine with the rule, but he plays the “if cards are really a distraction you’ve got bigger problems” card, which suggests that he thinks the rule is kind of silly.
For what it’s worth, I imagine this is like anything else: if your team wins a lot you can have virgin sacrifices ten minutes before the National Anthem and no one is gonna care. If you lose, you have to expect someone — especially a new someone like Collins — is going to single out small things that can be easily changed in the name of tone-setting.
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.