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Sergio Romo’s Sendoff Was Almost Perfect

Relief pitcher Sergio Romo #54 of the San Francisco Giants reacts after getting out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the MLB game at Chase Field on April 8, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Unlike most one-day contracts that just require an old athlete to dress up, do a presser that's as tedious for the subject as for the supporting actors, sign a contract that immediately gets tossed, and then go back home lamenting the day he wasted getting one last ovation, Sergio Romo did it up right. The 15-year veteran reliever for the Giants, Dodgers, Rays, Marlins, Twins, A's, Marlins and Blue Jays agreed to a one-day deal with San Francisco, which raised all manner of skeptic's hackles, but he would do his day properly—in uniform, coming out of the bullpen and actually pitching.

For that, we flint-hearted few can forgive all the other narcissistic touches, including his walkup song, "El Mechon" from Banda Sinaloaense, which Romo chose as his entrance music 12 years ago because he wanted, in his words, "some Mexican slap."

Romo came in in the top of the seventh inning of last night's exhibition game against Oakland (nice touch, that) to try to hold the A's from increasing their 11-2 lead. At that he failed, walking Connor Capel and giving up singles to Ryan Noda and Carlos Perez before being removed by designated hook Hunter Pence before a standing ovation. It was a cool moment all around for people who traffic in that sort of thing.

But there was also a delicious moment of mall-cop misanthropy for the rest of us, because Capel walked on three pitches. Romo was nicked for two balls before he threw his first pitch to Capel because he took too long to finish his warmups, a development so funny that even the Giants broadcast crew broke out laughing in full comprehension of the silliness of it all.

The home plate umpire, Nic Lentz, surely felt like 17 different flavors of arse fricassee doing it, but his job is to enforce even the pettiest of rules because at his level of experience and the concomitant need to not cross his own superiors, he isn't allowed a lot of forgiveness even if neither the Giants, A's or the 30,254 fans who endured an exhibition game just for this moment thought it entirely appropriate for the scene.

If the Giants wanted Romo's moment to last, they could have petitioned the Eye of Sauron back at the MLB home office and secured the approval of the A's, who would have cheerfully granted it. As it was, Lentz was left hanging, not knowing whether his humor-deficient bosses would get the value of the moment, and while Romo could have blamed the rules and their tools for having to work so quickly from the stretch, he seemed too pleased with the moment to care.

And this is the moment in which he could have become the greatest one-day contract player ever but let the moment pass because, he was too moved to move. As Pence took the ball from him and the cheers from the stands and both dugouts swaddled and elevated him, he could have, had he not been overcome by the narcotic of 30,000 people honoring him with one final standing ovation, yelled and gestured obscenely at Lentz as he walked off, until Lentz had no choice but to throw him out of the game in which he had already been removed. Romo would have been in the wrong, absolutely, but the burst of comedy would have been more than merely perfect.

In that moment, he could have doffed his cap, the one with all the autographs of all the children who'd asked for his autograph that evening, not just as the retiring gunslinger but as the ennobled miscreant going fingers up to The Man. He could have walked off the field not just a hero, but a revolutionary hero at that, with "El Mechon," the hyper-tempoed anthem turned full battle cry, blaring in the background. It would have been the most exquisitely bizarre theatre, making a memory that the nation rather than just the Bay Area could share.

Sadly, we all thought of this far too late. Romo's moment was tender when it could have been uproarious, and that's probably better for him in the long run. He did 15 years for eight teams and got to go out on his best terms, even if they were slightly artificial. And in the end, we could have all shared in the moment on multiple levels—those who like Romo and happy endings, those who can go either way with Romo but hate the new rules, those who are meh with Romo but detest authority even when it is in the right, and those who just prefer chaos, even if it is only performative.

As it was, anyone who had a problem with Lentz for obeying his corporate masters and adjudicating the rules as they have been given to him rather than as he might have liked can get stuffed. He could have gotten the memo ahead of time instead of being left alone to do his harsh duty. And Lentz himself? He may not have fully enjoyed having to be the hall monitor at an awkward moment, but he comes off way better than Randy Rosenberg.

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