Rolen, La Russa bury the hatchet

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A near-death experience can cause a guy to reassess his life and seek reproachment with enemies. A ball to the side of the head is less dramatic, but maybe it can have the same effect:

Scott Rolen tried to put an end to his feud with Tony La Russa stopping by the Cardinals manager’s office Monday in his first trip back to Busch Stadium since his trade almost two seasons ago . . . He said he hadn’t spoken with La Russa since being sent to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus in January 2008, a deal made when relations between the two soured after Rolen was benched during the 2006 postseason.

I’m no Tony La Russa fan. Though I respect him as a manager and can’t deny his success, he grinds my gears to no end. I think his particular brand of bullpen usage has done way more damage to baseball than good, I’m peeved by the fact that he’s all-too-willing to accept the “genius” label, yet is all-too-willing to play dumb when someone asks him about steroid use in his clubhouses, and I can’t stand anyone who wears sunglasses at night.

All that said: Rolen was the jerk in that little feud. He couldn’t hit a lick with that bum shoulder in 2006, and if I were in La Russa’s shoes, I would have benched him too. Cardinals won the World Series that year, by the way. Why it took nearly three years for Rolen to get over that is beyond me.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉