Rob Neyer wrote a whole book once fact-checking and, in many cases, debunking long-told tales of Major League Baseball. You really should own it, even if you don’t care much about the particular baseball legends he debunks. The process of doing it — of taking on baseball’s exceptionally weighty folklore — is worth it in its own right. Some may say part of baseball’s charm is that it lends itself to myth-making and tale-telling, but it’s also the reason why there is so much damn misinformation and misunderstanding floating around.
Today Rob takes a look at “42” and at Jackie Robinson in general and asks whether the facts on the ground about Robinson’s base running match his reputation as a speedy, disruptive terror on the base paths. Short answer: nope. Not particularly.
Go read it to see why that it is. And why — and this one may ruffle more feathers than merely taking on Robinson’s base running might — go see why Neyer thinks it’s entirely possible that Robinson — purely on the baseball merits — may not have been the most deserving candidate for Rookie of the Year in 1947.
Taking on stuff like this doesn’t make Rob too many friends. That would bother me if I thought he cared all that much about such things. But regardless of how that all breaks out, stuff like this is among my favorite kind of baseball writing.
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.