Hanley awarded diamond-studded ".342" bling

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hanley headshot.JPGHanley Ramirez won his first National League batting titled in 2009, compiling a career-high .342 batting average over 652 plate appearances.  He finished second in NL MVP voting behind Albert Pujols and just ahead of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, but on Saturday got his own little piece of hardware.

According to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria handed the young shortstop a diamond-studded “.342” necklace yesterday outside of the Marlins’ spring clubhouse.  It was a total shock for Ramirez, who expressed his gratitude after receiving the flashy gift:

“I’m gonna save it in my safe,” said Ramirez, who wore the necklace out
of the ballpark after Saturday’s game. “Once in a while I’m going to
wear it. Every time I see that I’m going to remember Jeffrey.”

It’s a wonderful story, but here’s the best part: On April 9, the Marlins’ home opener against the Dodgers, 5,000 replica necklaces will be handed out to fans.  Sure beats a magnetic calendar.

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. 😉