An ignominious end to a nominious career
Sergio Romo, born to Mexican parents in Imperial Valley, had baseball in his blood. His grandfather and father both played in an amateur league in Mexico, and Sergio would too, pitching in Mexicali at age 14. Just a kid facing down adults, he’s said that the experience “helped create a lot of backbone in this smaller frame.” But unable to get scholarship offers from four-year colleges, he had to play at a junior college instead. And despite his lineage, he wasn’t drafted until pick number 852, in a round that doesn’t even exist anymore.
Relying on that backbone, he converted to a reliever in the minors and at age 25, he fulfilled his promise to his father by playing Major League Baseball, debuting for San Francisco on June 26, 2008. He retired all three batters he faced, including two via strikeout.
It was the beginning of a storied career with the Giants, where he struck out more than 500 batters including the postseason. Most memorably, he struck out the side in the 10th inning to secure the final outs of the 2012 World Series.
2012 was one of three championships he’d win with the Giants, where he also notched 84 saves, transitioning in and out of closer duties. Despite owning a fastball that only ever barely eclipsed 90 mph, he holds an 69 ERA- for his career as a Giant, which is 14th out of the 436 men who’ve pitched at least 50 innings for San Francisco.
Sergio Romo, Slider (HP view) pic.twitter.com/7CjIuj3vP3— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 8, 2017
After leaving San Francisco, he let his ERA- rise to just 87 for his career and added 288 more strikeouts and another 53 saves. All told, he’s pitched in 15 seasons for seven teams, and has appeared in 815 games, second among active pitchers. Along the way, he pioneered the role of Opener while he was with Tampa Bay.
All the while, he’s taken on a larger-than-life persona, never shying away from expressing himself and encouraging others to do the same. One of my personal favorite quotes of his is when he told Ken Rosenthal: “I’ve always been proud of the person I was—nitty-gritty, always finding a way to fight and battle for what I believe in, for who I wanted to be.”
He took that spirit into the clubhouse and mentored pitchers across baseball, stressing the importance of keeping things loose, remembering it’s a game, and competing like hell. Glowing profiles followed him around the league. Marlins reporter Andre Fernandez wrote about Nick Anderson’s career getting off the ground thanks in part to Romo’s mentorship.
A profile by Twins reporter Chip Scoggins included the lines, “Teammates received a full dose of Romo World in this training camp restart. If he’s not ribbing players from the bullpen, Romo is pulling them aside to learn more about them. And not just surface how-ya-doin’? conversations. He wants to go deep, especially with young players who sometimes aren’t sure how to respond when he asks them, ‘What about you makes you you?’”
To A’s reporter Jessica Kleinschmidt, he said, “We do our job on and off the field, it kind of speaks for itself in the services so I’m thankful for the conversations that I have with these young guys and these guys that they feel that I can do to their, you know, positivity.”
But then he signed with Seattle. If the Giants had Even Year Magic, the Mariners have a Doom Loop. And the Mariners Doom Loop is insatiable. It’s swallowed worse men than Sergio Romo, and it’ll swallow more. Amidst all the cries for blood after a deeply embarrassing homestand, Sergio Romo’s was one of the heads that rolled. When he was DFA’d this morning, it brought an end to a season in which he somehow managed to give up six home runs to just 11 strikeouts. It may have also brought an end to his career.
And that’s why I bring all this up. We could choose to remember him for his 8.16 ERA with Seattle, since that’ll always be the bottom line to a Mariners fan. But it was just 14 innings, and he deserves to be remembered for more than that. Even in his brief tenure in the Northwest, we got a glimpse of his leadership and good humor.
When Flexen got pulled after holding serve against the mighty Astros, but the Mariners were getting destroyed by Justin Verlander, Flexen needed a pick-me-up from Sun Hat Award Winner Sergio Romo pic.twitter.com/CQUkTudp3h— Action Zach (@RealZachMason) May 17, 2022
gotta keep your head on a swivel pic.twitter.com/vioHvrwGor— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 3, 2022
The one time I got to see him on the mound in person, he gave up three home runs in the now-pitcher-friendly Camden Yards. But what I’ll remember more is that he was the mayor of the pregame rituals. In both games I attended, he and Paul Sewald stood outside the dugout as everyone finished their routines and headed in, high fiving and giving encouraging words. This season has been a downer: an unmistakable, canonical example of the Mariners Doom Loop, and Sergio Romo’s pitching has been one of the reasons why. But there have also been good things, and Sergio Romo’s presence has been one of the reasons why.
So happy trails to you, Sergio. I hope this isn’t the end because you deserve better than to have your final MLB memories be those of the Doom Loop. We’re sorry.