Are the Cubs really looking at Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols? Are they just trying to drive up the price for St. Louis? Are they looking to go big or are they going to cast out every player who isn’t nailed down and start from scratch?
We’ve heard all of these things in the past few weeks. Their offseason strategy is still unclear.
But one thing is clear: it will be Theo Epstein making these decisions, not ownership. That’s what the owner himself said yesterday when talking to the Chicago press:
“Like I’ve always said, there is one person responsible for making those decisions, and one person accountable for those results,” he said. “So if (Epstein) believes strongly that’s what’s in the best interests of the team, then he’s got my support.”
Theo Epstein’s last couple of big ticket free agent signings we less than stellar. True, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are a different class of talent than John Lackey and Carl Crawford, but does he go to the well again?
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.