Last year I said Ricky Romero should not have been in the big leagues to finish the year.
He should have been sent down to recover from whatever mental issues were ailing him. The process should have started then, in 2012, when time was on his side.
If you look back at his numbers, without the benefit of eyes on his individual performances last year, you may be inclined to build the sterile narrative that it was the lack of run support that really broke him. But the truth is, Ricky wasn’t there.
UPDATE: (9:22 a.m. ET) The Blue Jays optioned Romero to triple-A Buffalo Thursday morning.
Not Ricky the resilient, big-league all-star. His ability to handle rough innings and recover accordingly left him. He didn’t just walk guys, nibbling and missing the plate by inches; he threw balls into the dirt in front of the plate and then stood the catcher up on balls out of the zone.
He got exponentially worse in jams, and relied on the mistakes of opposing hitters to get him out.
It was this dramatic way in which his ability left him that warranted a call for demotion. There are pitchers who have bad luck. Even long stretches of bad luck. Then there are pitchers who lose their abilities, who pitch crippled, who look lost. Those are the ones that need to go down, and Ricky fit the bill.
Finally, after a 2013 spring training of the same, the Jays came to their senses and sent Ricky down to work it out.
But the longer the Jays waited, the worse it was going to get. I think they waited far too long.
However, when they finally made the decision, I was pleased because I believed they’d surely–since it was like pulling teeth for them to actually do it — take the all the time needed to get Ricky right. It was obvious they cared about his career; they wouldn’t possibly rush him back until they were absolutely sure he was fixed. Not after all he’d been through…Would they?
You can imagine how disappointed I was at his premature return.
The call to return Ricky to the bigs was an absolute mishandling of a career on the part of the Blue Jays.
If you’re going to overhaul a player, and you know that player’s confidence is a factor, how can you, in good conscience, throw him back into the fiercest competition after only a single outing in High A?
Any baseball man worth his salt knows the true test of a pitcher is not what he does when he has his good stuff. It’s what he does when he’s got nothing.
Ricky was never put in a struggle situation before returning to the big leagues. If he had been, the Jays would have realized he was not ready. How could they not let him recreate the variables that broke him last year to see how he’d react?
Now, instead of having a guy hungry for the bigs, building a firm foundation to work off of, learning to trust the organization’s guidance during a rebuild, the Jays have a mess on their hands.
A career that despite all efforts to grind, fight, and harness the inner bulldog, could be DOA.
Instead of taking their time and fully rebuilding Ricky, the Jays paid him a great disservice.
When a player is in a fragile place, removing them from play is a traumatic, soul crushing thing. It’s a rock bottom moment. The upshot is, things can only get better. And it’s that precious ember of hope that the organization must fan into flame lest the player be lost to the darkness of their own self doubt, permanently.
I’ll say it plainly: barring some miraculous turn of events, the Jays have ruined Romero. If he makes it back to any level of consistent success with this club, I’ll be surprised.
And the worst part is, the Jays had other options. They had a stable full of triple-A innings eaters. They could have bought time. They could have done this differently.
They could have done it right.
Ricky was climbing out of a dark place only to be driven back into it. Lord only knows when he’ll feel ready or confident enough to trust himself again. Lord knows when he’ll trust the Jays again.