I dare not wade into the intricacies of the National Football League because I am mostly ignorant of them. But, I offer two Deep Thoughts:
1. If the Major League umpires are storing up some really, really bad call — like a Galarraga-Joyce-esque call — now would be an awesome time for them to make it, because I don’t think anyone would notice; and
2. Based on past comments, I’d guess the union/anti-union sentiment around these parts runs about 75-25% anti-union. And that may be a generous assessment of the size of the pro-union contingent. With that in mind: does anyone in that anti-union majority care to defend Roger Goodell’s hard line against the regular NFL referees this morning? Remember: they’re not on strike. They’re being locked out because the most successful league in professional sports decided that they’d prefer not to negotiate a pension issue that represents almost inconsequential money to the league, relatively speaking.
Yes, I know this isn’t baseball. But my ability to ignore everything that goes on in other sports is only so great. And it’s worth noting that what most of us consider the most egregiously bad call in recent baseball history didn’t even decide the outcome of a single baseball game, let alone over 6% of the outcomes of two teams for an entire season like that doozy last night did.
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.