There is a reason sports are so full of type A personalities, arrogant SOBs, and dumb jocks. As much as we bemoan them for their lack of social graces, it’s a survival skill in this job — a defence mechanism against situations like the plight of Ricky Romero.
Ever notice how the player who truly doesn’t care about what you think stops and tells you so? No? Didn’t think so. Focusing on yourself may make the sensitive feel snubbed, but there are some jobs in this world where you need to be so self focused nothing penetrates your wall of ego.
I commend Ricky for telling the world, in his recent interview with Shi Davidi, that he’s going to harness his inner big-leaguer and own the fact he’s done things no one else has. I appreciate the bravado, and his better-than-this spirit in announcing that he’s going to get his swagger back and prove where he belongs. But, it rings a bit hollow to me, considering the circumstances by which it comes, agreeing to a press conference to tell the media he’s not going to let things outside his game affect his game.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an incredible amount of respect for Ricky Romero. I also have an incredible amount of sympathy. I know that’s the last thing he wants from me, but I can’t help but feel it. It’s suffocating when the forces around you, perceived or real, define you as something you are not on such a massive scale that you feel any of your own words to the contrary are powerless.
And Ricky's words may just be. Powerless over us, and powerless over him as well.
People ask me how long I think it will take Ricky to bounce back from what's troubling him. Longer than the week or two he speculates, that's for sure. Even though I suspect the Jays will jump at the chance to call him back up, I think they should stay their hand. His demotion was a must -- a must to make the team better for this present season, and a must to get Ricky right for the next season of his life.
Ricky was left on the operating table to bleed out, a decision as much his as the team's. Ricky wanted to walk it off. He wanted to recover through sheer guts and desire. He didn't want anyone to operate, or even talk of sickness. And so the Jays, respecting all he'd done, watched him slowly wither away until it was too late to do anything but lie to him.
It was bad medicine. If it was really a mechanical issue, it should have been addressed last season. If it was really a physical issue, the Jays should have thrown him on the DL -- his performance certainly warranted it. If it really was a mental issue, he should have been demoted until he compartmentalized the issues into manageable boxes. Instead, they saw the success and trusted he would figure it out. He didn't, and now the damage may be irreparable.
The Jays now have a major-league pitcher in A ball, one given every possible opportunity to fix himself; one espousing bulldog worthy quotes; one that may never recover.
Yes, there are those pitchers who have come back, but there are also those who have not -- bulldogs who have tangled themselves up in their own leash and chocked to death.
It's gotten to the point that even when Ricky tells us all exactly how he feels, he still faces so much interpretation, analysis, and speculation his words seem to disassemble into molecules.
But that's the nature of this profession -- you're always going to be subject to analysis. And in this business your results are always more powerful than your words. It's tragic, really. A definite failing of the sport that players should have their voice replaced with their ability to produce. But that's the price you pay to be at the top. To be known by all is to be defined by all, and it's humbling when you realize what little control you have over that definition.
Even if Ricky says he doesn't care about what others think of him, he does. It's a wonderful, beautiful, human trait that will absolutely get him killed on the baseball field.
Ricky is mad that he was demoted. Good. Anger is a wonderful distraction. Let him be mad. Encourage it. Piss him off until the only thing he can think of is making it back to the bigs and showing everyone who doubted him they can go to hell.
In the end, it may be the only way to save him.