Lance Berkman is retiring

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Lance Berkman was said to be leaning toward retirement all offseason and now Richard Justice of MLB.com reports that the 37-year-old switch-hitter has decided to call it a career after 15 seasons in the majors.

Berkman often gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the best hitters of this era, but he was a consistently excellent hitter for a dozen years and finished among the top five in MVP voting four times.

Berkman hit .293 with 366 homers in 1,879 games and also walked nearly as many times (1,201) as he struck (1,300), posting a .406 on-base percentage that ranks fifth among all active players. He made six All-Star teams and his .943 OPS is the second-highest in baseball history among switch-hitters, behind only Mickey Mantle (.977) and right in front of Chipper Jones (.930).

He seems unlikely to get a ton of Hall of Fame support from voters, but Berkman was a Hall of Fame-caliber player who combined big batting averages with huge on-base percentages and monster power. Helluva career. So long, Big Puma.

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.