Rich Men Behaving Badly

Less than two minutes after posting about the weekend series with the Royals (Feldmania And That Olt Time Religion), the latest scandal to appear out of the Rangers popped up. It seems that Roy Oswalt, who had pitched two brilliant innings in the 7th and 8th against the Royals, decided he wasn’t going to go out for the 9th inning. The big question is, which way did he mean for his statement to be taken?

Rangers manager Ron Washington said Oswalt told him “he had had enough.” It’s no secret Oswalt was not happy with being demoted to the bullpen when Texas acquired Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline. When told of the demotion, Oswalt reportedly “took it like a professional”, according to Wash.

Roy Oswalt - Philadelphia - 2010 Road Batting ...

(Photo credit: BaseballBacks)

Roy O pitched two scoreless innings of relief in the Rangers Thursday win over the Angels. He followed that up with two innings Sunday against the Royals, an outing in which he allowed no hits and struck out four of the six batters he faced. It was easy to now envision a new role for Oswalt and add a new weapon to an already formidable bullpen.

Then Oswalt told Wash he had had enough and wasn’t going out for the ninth inning for a third inning of work. It is true that Oswalt all told had now thrown over nine innings of work in three appearances over a seven-day span. Could “he had had enough” simply mean Oswalt knew what his arm could take and it had reached his limit? Or could it be his balky back was acting up again?

Maybe. Here’s the thing, though. Virtually every member of the media who heard Wash seemed to infer by Wash’s body language and/or inflection that Oswalt was being whiny and making his displeasure over his new role known.

At the time of his demotion, Oswalt told the media he wasn’t happy with the demotion and said he didn’t know what more he could do, considering the Rangers were 4-2 in his starts. This shows the difference in the way baseball fans think and the way actual baseball players think. Fans look at things like stats. We see good starts, bad starts, hot streaks and cold streaks. Professional baseball players, and pitchers in particular, are trained to look at their job as just keeping their team in the game. Stats are for contract negotiations. The real day to day job is just keeping the team in the game.

From Oswalt’s perspective, that’s what he did and the Rangers were 4-2 in those starts. What fans see is the quality of those starts and in Roy’s case, the numbers were pretty ugly. Six innings against the Tigers, giving up 13 hits and five runs. 4.2 innings against the White Sox, giving up 13 hits and 9 runs. And, in his last start, 5.1 innings, 11 hits and 8 runs against the Angels. Roy also had two quality starts and one that just missed being one because he didn’t pitch six innings, but there was no in between. Either he was great or he sucked eggs. That’s why he was demoted to the pen.

It’s OK if Oswalt isn’t happy with the move. I wouldn’t expect any player to be happy being demoted. I also have no objection to Oswalt and his agent working behind the scenes to either finagle a release or get the Rangers to change their minds and put him back in the rotation (and if Derek Holland doesn’t get it together soon, that could very well happen). What ISN’T OK is for Oswalt refusing to go back into the game as long as he is physically able to perform. To do otherwise is putting self before team and essentially telling his superiors they can’t tell him what to do.

If that’s what Oswalt did yesterday, and all accounts indicate that’s most likely what happened, it’s not only wrong, it could mean the end of Oswalt’s brief Rangers career.