Sammy Sosa is busy posting weird pictures on Pinterest and working for a needle-free injection company, but one thing he won’t be doing is going to this weekend’s annual Cubs Convention in Chicago.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports that Sosa was not invited, even though the Cubs did invite much lesser former players like Todd Walker.
In all 70 former players and coaches will be in attendance and the Cubs declined to give any explanation for why Sosa won’t be among them, but Sullivan writes that “Sosa has been estranged from his former team since the end of the 2004 season when he walked out of the clubhouse during the final game.”
Apparently no fences have been mended despite nine years passing and an entirely new regime taking over the front office.
Sosa played 13 seasons for the Cubs, winning an MVP in 1998 while hitting .284 with 545 homers and a .928 OPS in 1,811 games. While in Chicago he led the league twice in both homers and RBIs, and three times in both runs and total bases. But hey, Todd Walker!
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.