With yesterday's post, I attempted to lay praise at the feet of an unsung hero; spreading the love for an effort that some may have overlooked. There will be no such reaching for the unconventional within this entry. With apologies to Jose Bautista, there's only one storyline up for conversation.
Ricky Romero was, and is, The Man.
The trouble with writing (blogging, whatever....) about Romero is how do you weave an interesting post without resorting to the standard "famously drafted ahead of Tulo" angle? But perhaps, just now, I've spoken too soon - because it seems to me that comparison - once thought to be the byline on his eventual baseball obit - is fast fading in Romero's rearview mirror.
We need to be careful about how far we go in mocking those who continually resorted to such in an attempt to degrade the management skills of JP Ricciardi (remember him?). Make no mistake - Troy Tulowitzki is a fantastic baseball player - shortstops who's names enter MVP discussions are among the rarest and most coveted commodities in baseball. But you know what else ranks at or near the top of any GM's wishlist? Left-handed starting pitchers with Cy Young potential.
Yeah, I just said that.
A 4-1 record (voters love that) with a 2.88 ERA and 59 K's in 56 IP. I'll allow for the standard caveat - it's only May - but a review of Romero's evolution allows you to dream on him. How did he get here? From potential first round washout (parts of two unimpressive seasons in AA, middling success in AAA), to potential major league reliever (once seen as an optimistic view from scouts), to back-end major league starter......to this. And what exactly is "this"? Established big league arm for certain. Frontline starter seems probable. Staff ace - which a few short seasons ago seemed laughable - is now realistic.
Romero is entering a stage in his career where he seemingly has it all going for him. A fastball comfortably in the 90's. A knee-buckling curve that seems to improve by the start. A split-action change-up that draws comparisons to Johan Santana (oh my God). And if you're not into the whole "intangibles" thing, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs.....
"You know what?" Ricciardi said. "You need a wheelbarrow to take his balls to the mound. That's how big they are."
Indeed, Romero takes the mound with a bulldog mentality, regardless of the stuff he brings to the game on any particular day. Maybe it comes from the minor league struggles. Maybe it comes from enduring the "Tulo" taunts. Perhaps it was from Brad Arnsberg famously pulling Romero aside in Spring Training '09 and telling him just how nasty his stuff was. Or maybe that's just who he is as a competitor.
At the end of the day, maybe we shouldn't bother to over-analyze this. Ricky Romero is giving Jays fans one more reason to believe that better days are ahead (if they're not here already).....and that's pretty much all we could have asked for from this season, isn't it?