Competitors squawk, but MLBPA unlikely to punish ACES for Biogenesis clients

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I reported yesterday that, despite the fact that the majority of the players disciplined in the Biogenesis scandal are (or were) represented by the Levinson brothers’ ACES agency, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA was unlikely to take any disciplinary action against the agency. The reason: there is no evidence suggesting that the agency was aware that its players were utilizing Biogenesis. Rather, it was a former consultant, Juan Carlos Nunez, who served as the vector between the clinic and the players. ACES was censured by the MLBPA for its failure to supervise Nunez and Nunez has been fired.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish writes today, however, that competing agencies are not happy about this, and quotes many of ACES’ competitors calling for it to be disciplined. They are skeptical of the claim that Nunez was some rogue and all claim that, even if the union doesn’t do anything to punish them, they will lose clients through natural attrition and the sense among players that ACES was a bad actor in the Biogenesis affair.

Which, OK, everyone is entitled to an opinion on this. And yes, it looks pretty bad that one agency was so well-represented.  But I’ll observe that these are competitors to ACES talking and there is nothing that brings out sports agents’ teeth like some blood in the water.

Most fans don’t pay attention to the back-and-forth between agents that goes on, but those who do know that every time one agency is in the news for something even remotely negative, other agents come out of the woodwork to pile on. Ask Paul Kinzer about the coverage he got when he got into a public tiff with Francisco Rodriguez. Ask Scott Boras when he had clients still unsigned late into spring training in the past couple of years. There are always stories quoting competing agents when that stuff happens, talking about how the guy in the spotlight really isn’t doing his clients right. With the implicit statement that his clients should and will shop around for new representation. For cryin’ out loud, we now have (quasi) agents recording dis tracks about their perceived competition. It’s a brutal business.

None of which is to say that the ire at ACES isn’t natural and even understandable. They aren’t likely to be penalized by MLBPA over it all, but one can see how it other agents might be bent out of shape.  It is to say, though, that I’d be way more surprised if ACES’ competitors didn’t come after them than to see what they’re saying now. That would be truly unusual.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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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.