Earlier this month Albert Pujols stuck up for Mike Scioscia amid speculation that the Angels’ awful start could put his job in jeopardy and now owner Arte Moreno has given the manager a vote of confidence.
Moreno replied “right now, zero” when asked by Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com what the chances are of Scioscia being fired, which is in itself is a pretty interesting response if you’re into reading between lines.
Here’s more of what Moreno told Morosi:
Mike has zero problems, OK? This is his 14th year. Mike goes beyond what he does on the field. He’s a good person. He’s a good person in the community, a very good baseball guy. You don’t have to ask me. You just ask other managers, other baseball people. Look at 14 years’ worth of productivity. Look at his record. …
You know what? To me, if you’re going to let someone go, you’re letting someone go because you don’t believe their performance is what your expectations are. If everybody on the team was hitting .300, and the pitchers were undefeated, and all our relievers had done a good job and we’d made no errors, we wouldn’t be in this conversation. Right now, in Mike’s job, I have no questions about Mike.
Couple things. One, it seems like not a great sign when, in trying to talk up the manager, the owner brings up his being “a good person.” Two, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to dismiss criticism of a manager by saying, basically, if the players were performing better this wouldn’t be an issue, which flipped around seems to suggest managers shouldn’t receive praise for teams with players performing well. Can’t have it both ways.
Whatever the case, Scioscia is under contract through 2018, so to fire him Moreno would be eating a ton of money.
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.