Joe Torre wants baseball players to cut down on the fraternization. Why?

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From Buster Olney’s column yesterday. This seems like something from 1971 not 2011:

Before every game, position players on both teams will gather on the foul lines and do their last sprints before the first pitch, and often this leads to greetings in the outfield behind second base — hearty handshakes and hugs.

If Joe Torre, baseball’s new czar of on-field discipline, has his way, then this kind of thing will be curtailed. Torre has asked club staff members to nudge their players toward curtailing that kind of fraternization after the gates have been opened to fans.

I can’t think of a single reason why this would be a priority for anyone in Major League Baseball. What, you don’t want to show fans that it’s OK to like and respect their competitors?  That it’s more than a game and extends into personal rivalry?  Isn’t that the exact opposite that the Dodgers and Giants players tried to demonstrate back when they had their first series following the beating of Bryan Stow?

Personally, I watched some of the Cubs-Reds on Saturday and Fox had Brandon Phillips miked up for the game. I found it really enjoyable when Fukudome was at second base and Phillips was talking to him about him abandoning his high leg kick and stuff.  I like it when I see former teammates talking to each other on the field before the game.  I like to think of baseball players less as gladiators, pit in combat with one another than as people who have a great job and like one another’s company.  Is that crazy?

Maybe it is.  Maybe Joe Torre would prefer if it baseball fans perceived the game like it was professional wrestling and that guys who actually like one another really didn’t. Maybe we need to impose some sort of kayfabe overlay to all of this to give everyone a bigger bang for their buck. To make them think that the competition they’re about to see isn’t merely enjoyable, exciting and expertly executed, but deadly, deadly serious as well.

Actually, no, we don’t need that. It’s a dumb idea. Let them fraternize, Joe. The game and its fans will find a way to endure it.

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.