The Change of Scenery Theory

The big question in Blue Jay land over the past few days has been what to do with Romero. Do you send him down to the minors as Dirk Hayhurst recommends, shut him down for the year, simply just skip a start, or else continue to work hard and see what happens.

Yes, Ricky’s last start was among his worst (8 BB vs. Tigers), but before that he was starting to make some progress with a couple quality starts albeit far from his usual self. We’re talking about a guy who for three straight years since he got to the Bigs, has improved his numbers each and every year. We’re talking about a guy who many considered (including myself) or at the very least started talking about Ricky being a legitimate #1 starter as Kenny Ken Ken Rosenthal did yesterday on Sportsnet590. What to do with Ricky probably has no right answer, but let’s debunk this theory on why and if a change of scenery may help by looking at a few examples in pro-sports.

Exhibit 1) Hanley Ramirez

From looking at his stats since he became a Dodger, obviously he’s been on a tear, and when he compares the Dodgers to the Marlins, he references the winning atmosphere in LA, the fans that are actually in attendance, and this:

The differences extend from the coaches to the players, as Ramirez said the Dodgers play great as one unit that enjoys playing together. He noted the energy, fun and cohesiveness in the team’s dugout and clubhouse. “I think those guys make me better,” said Ramirez.

Exhibit 2) MLS soccer player Julian de Guzman

“To be honest, being here (Dallas) reminds me of the times I played in Spain where they enjoy playing football and that’s what they look to do,” de Guzman told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a pleasure being a part of this once again after three years in Toronto, which was a bit different.”

Exhibit 3) Aaron Hill

As for Hill’s struggles in Toronto, one Bluebird Banter writer blames Jays’ hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, however I hardly think the entire responsibility falls solely on him. AZCentral.com reported the following on Hill at the end of the 2011 regular season with the Dbacks:

He didn’t feel as much pressure to perform and he felt a renewed passion for the game. “I think having the team make the trade, being in first place, in a playoff run, believing in (Johnny) Mac and I to come over and help them, finish it out, that gives you a lot of confidence,” Hill said. “These guys welcomed us from Day 1. I’m amazed how unbelievable this clubhouse has been, how much fun they have and how easy it’s been for us to make the transition. “It’s been a blast. It really has.”

True enough, Hill did have the pressure to be one of the Blue Jays offensive weapons, and when he went to Arizona, he simply wasn’t. He was just a piece added to an already strong group of players that had the team in a playoff hunt.

Kirk Gibson adds:

“Sometimes the change of scenery helps people. He hit all those home runs that he’s been struggling to find up in Toronto and he came up into different environment and look what they’re playing for over there. They’re chasing the Yankees, the Red Sox and Tampa Bay in a very tough division. So what are you playing for? Now you come over in a different environment and its way different not only because of the environment but because the way we do things.”

Clearly, Gibson is making light of the fact that it’s hard to compete in the A.L. East versus how his team is fighting for the post-season. I don’t know what specific ‘way’ Gibson is referring to here, but Hill also adds in another CBC article:

“You could definitely look at my situation and say a change of scenery has worked out great. I came to a team that was winning and having a lot of fun. It’s definitely helped me relax … I’m having a blast.”

So does winning produce fun, or does fun produce winning? I’d tend to think the former would make more sense because you can’t have much fun while you’re losing games.

Now earlier this year, Fangraphs had a good piece on this theory and how ‘examples of it working out are few,’ but you can look at their list and argue that all of those players are playing on losing teams except for Angel Pagan. Evidently, a change of scenery has helped the players I’ve mentioned above for these main reasons:

  1. The pressure is off – a different environment lets you start over and get away from the pressures you put on yourself. It lets you refocus on the basics which may often help.  I’d also like to point out that it takes 25 guys for the team to perform well, so ‘trying to do too much’ simply won’t cut it.
  2. Have fun – yes winning absolutely helps with this, but at the same time, one can’t take failure too seriously. They have to have faith in themselves when they face hardships and the confidence to know they’ll bounce back. It also helps to have teammates that also enjoy playing the game. Can you imagine being around somebody who complains about having to play a game today?
  3. Winning – it produces good chemistry and a relaxed atmosphere which ties into the two points above. One also has to consider the message from the organization itself. Are they trying to win? Are they backing it up with dollars and showing that they’re committed?

As for Romero, clearly he’s not having fun, he’s feeling the pressure and the Blue Jays aren’t winning right now. 3 strikes are against him, so what’s the answer? Aside from freaking out and resorting to a change of scenery approach, Blue Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu once said this to Aaron Hill: “You create your own environment” thereby putting responsibility right in the lap of the players. Personally, I think it’s up to Ricky to try and figure this thing out.

(Images via Paul Sancya/The Associated Press; AP/Ross D. Franklin)

 

 

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