You figure that Robinson Cano signing with another team would stop the talk from New York about him not hustling down the line on routine ground balls, but nope, it’s still a hot topic. John Harper of the Daily News has an interview with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long about it today.
What’s striking to me is how much Long says to praise Cano and his work ethic. He talks about how he got in better shape, got a better attitude, put in hard work and did all sorts of things like extra cage work and training and stuff to make himself a better player with the Yankees. Yet the one thing that probably matters least in his game — appearing to run hard, or not, to first base on routine 4-3 putouts — is the thing Long, Harper and a host of other people in the Yankees Universe like to dwell on. Harper goes so far as to say it “taints” Cano’s brilliance.
I can see how it may be aesthetically annoying, but I really don’t get why people care so much. There is no hustle more false than the hustle to first on routine outs. At least when it comes from a big slugging superstar like Cano. Maybe once every 100 times not hustling down the line may cost him a base, but it’s probably also worth noting that Cano is the one dude in the Yankees lineup who hasn’t missed significant time to injury over the past several seasons.
I’ll take that mild annoyance over a pulled hamstring on a play where he was going to be out by 20 feet every time.
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.