From the New York Times, a pretty stark portrayal of a night at Citi Field during this lost, lamentable September, from the perspective of a Mets fan. It’s a good article, explaining to the rest of us what Mets fans have long felt and how they approach fandom of a team that disappoints far more than it rewards:
“It’s all about loyalty and knowing what it means to lose,” he says. “We’re not like the Yankees; the expectation to win a championship isn’t always there. If you win 26, you just get greedy” … What’s our choice? To root for the triumphalist Yankees is to describe an impossibility, like walking through Manhattan chanting: “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!” Instead, we adopt the mien of Scottish highlanders facing the English army — loss is assured, but let’s go out with panache and a touch of humor.
My team has won for a long time, but as I’ve written many times in the past, there is a lot of, well, not enjoyment to be had watching a bad team day-in, day-out, but certainly something satisfying. It helps you come to a more mature relationship with sports. Forces you to assess the entire enterprise of watching a game.
What is it we really want from this team? Can we still love sports if winning is not an option? I came down firmly on “yes” some 25 years ago, and learning to truly commune with a losing team has, I think, made me enjoy the winning much more. I think Mets fans, especially Mets fans too young to remember the mid-80s, get that more than almost anyone.
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.