Manny under the microscope

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Thumbnail image for manny ramirez option.jpgA summary of Bob Klapisch’s take on Manny Ramirez:  He was totally awesome until he tested positive for PEDs, and then we all realized that he was a fraud and now he needs to prove he can still produce without the drugs. But if he does produce this season we’ll have no idea if he’s doing it legitimately or not because he has every incentive to cheat.

I may not agree with Klapsich’s particular take on PED testing, but if negative PED test results are not treated as even prima facie evidence that a guy is playing clean, I’ll agree that there’s something wrong with the system.  Or something wrong with the guys who like to throw stones at everyone. Can’t decide which.

But maybe the most astonishing thing about the column is this passage:

If only Manny hadn’t succumbed to steroids, history would’ve eventually
glossed over his other transgressions, including his abandonment of the
Red Sox in 2008. The faked knee injury could’ve been written off to the
desperate act of a player who could no longer co-exist with his
teammates. But the positive test changed everything.

I personally think that the lowest point of Manny’s career — the blackest mark against him — was his behavior in his final days in Boston. He quite obviously faked his injures, quit on his teammates and when he did play didn’t even try.  That behavior, in my mind at least, was far more damaging to baseball competition than any drug he ever took.  That Klapisch can say that such behavior pales compared to his PED use suggests to me that we have either greatly overreacted to PEDs as an evil in the game or are far too dismissive of mid-2008 Manny Ramirez-style jackassery.

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. 😉