Look, I like taking potshots at Ruben Amaro as much as the next guy. And I almost snorted lime-flavored sparkling water out of my nose today when one of you made a comment about how Amaro is too keeping up with sabermetrics given that he just put “Moneyball” in his NetFlix queue. Really, the possibilities of slamming the guy for doing what he’s done to a team that was one of the best in baseball a couple of years ago are endless.
But I do feel somewhat sorry for the guy after reading about his exchange with sports talk yakker Mike Missanelli today. The 700 Level has a total rundown of the exchange. First Amaro tried to argue that players don’t get worse as they get older. Then Amaro got snippy and this exchange went down:
Amaro: “You’re out of line because you’re uninformed, Mike.”
Missanelli: “Well, I look at the standings, and you’re in last place, Ruben.”
Maybe don’t go on talk radio anymore, Ruben. It’s making me feel bad.
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.