What’s going on with Ricky Romero and his 5.75 ERA?

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Ricky Romero showed a steady progression in his first three seasons, as his ERA went from 4.30 to 3.73 to 2.92 with similar improvements in walk rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He emerged as a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Blue Jays last season, making his first All-Star team at age 26 and throwing 225 innings with a 2.92 ERA. And now he can’t get anyone out.

Romero failed to make it out of the second inning last night against the A’s, walking six batters and coughing up eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.75. It was the fourth time in his last six starts that Romero has allowed six-plus runs and in his last dozen starts he’s allowed 59 runs in 64 innings with nearly as many walks (38) as strikeouts (43).

His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, although Romero’s average fastball velocity of 91.1 miles per hour is pretty close to his career mark of 91.5 mph. Despite that similar velocity batters have teed off on his fastball, with Fan Graphs showing the pitch being worth 12.5 runs below average compared to 15.5 runs above average during the previous two seasons. And that negative mark for this year doesn’t even include last night’s clobbering.

I’m not smart enough to explain why, but Romero’s fastball is getting knocked around this year after previously being an excellent pitch and suddenly the young left-hander the Blue Jays thought would be atop their rotation for years to come thanks to a $30 million contract extension is a complete mess.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.