The other day we wrote about Seth Romero, the University of Houston pitcher just off a suspension for failing a drug test and for missing curfew on a road trip. The report that broke the details behind the suspension brought along some added drama as UH head coach Todd Whitting refused to talk to Houston Chronicle beat writer Joseph Duarte as a result of Duarte’s story on Romero.
While that moved the focus off Romero and onto Whitting and Duarte, the issues with Romero did not disappear. After a reported altercation with a teammate on Tuesday afternoon, Romero was kicked off the squad (supposedly permanently) by Whitting yesterday morning.
“Due to an event Tuesday, along with previous conduct detrimental to the team, Seth Romero has been removed from the Houston Baseball program,” Whitting said in a statement released to the press Wednesday. “I appreciate [athletic director] Hunter Yurachek’s support of my decision for our program to move forward without Seth. We wish Seth and his family the best of luck as he embarks on the next phase of his life and baseball career. We are fully focused on our remaining schedule and the current members of our program.”
This is a disappointing development for many reasons, primarily that Romero is a talented left-handed pitcher who was projected to be drafted high in the first round in this upcoming June MLB amateur draft. Romero was briefly suspended last season, but he supposedly came into this season with a new focus and in better shape, and his stuff looked to be very good at the start of the season. Then came the second suspension and the details behind the suspension (failed drug test, missed curfew, the photo of him in a uniform holding a bong) and his draft status, as documented by Duarte in the story that supposedly angered Whitting, started to plummet.
“As word circulated about Romero's second suspension,” Duarte wrote, “so did speculation about how it could impact his draft stock. In the most recent D1Baseball.com draft projections, Romero dropped from middle of the first round to No. 43, which would place him early in the second round. Based on the draft pool, that would represent a loss of more than $2 million, according to draft slot values compiled by Baseball America.”
There is no doubt that Romero will be drafted. Lots of Major League teams would likely commit murder if there was some way to get a hard-throwing left hander on the roster. Rangers reliever Matt Bush nearly killed a man in a drunk driving incident, but now he’s in the majors. The Tampa Bay Rays were not scared off by Josh Lueke’s dodging of a rape charge. Former reliever Steve Howe is proof that teams do not care about pitchers and drugs as long as those pitchers can get outs. And Josh Hamilton would have never gotten as many chances to turn life around as he did if he could’t drive a fastball into the stands.
But those incidents all happened after the players had been drafted and signed big contracts. Romero has yet to be drafted, and if there is one thing that MLB teams like more than talented lefties, it is talented lefties they can get on discounts because of player stupidity. Romero is lucky in that his adviser (a term used by college players to dodge NCAA rules against the use of agents) is über-agent Scott Boras, who is known for his ability to get huge contracts for his clients. But this time, Romero’s drug use, multiple suspensions, poor thought processes and inability to get along with teammates are well-known. And since Romero will not be able to return to Houston because he was kicked off the team, the type of leverage that Boras likes to employ is gone.
Romero was supposed to be the staff ace for the Cougars this season, and now the team is permanently without him. The team has had most of the season to adjust to his not being around, however. The Cougars are currently 31-17 on the season, and sit in third place in the American Conference with the end of the season quickly approaching. The team has been struggling lately, though, going 8-9 for the last 17 games, and its hopes of hosting an NCAA Regional have pretty much disappeared.
Romero also likely did some damage to the reputation of Whitting and the program after the Sunday refusal to cooperate with the Chronicle and Duarte. It wasn’t Duarte who threw the program under the bus, and while Duarte was the first to report all of the details, various details of the suspension, primarily the failed drug test and the missed curfew, were already known in college baseball circles, which means those details were also known by MLB scouts. So striking back at a beat writer is probably not the best way to respond to the problem with the player.
The Cougars have seven more regular season games and then the American Conference tournament to get through before they find out where they stand for the NCAA postseason. And Romero will find out next month just how much his actions have harmed his chances.
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