So what happens if a whole team dies at once?

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I’m not being singularly morbid here — George or Kramer or someone asked Keith Hernandez what happens if a team plane crashes on an episode of “Seinfeld” once — but I have often wondered what happens if disaster strikes a ballclub.

Thankfully, Maury Brown has gotten a hold of a couple of fun documents fans don’t have ready access to — Major League Baseball’s rules and Baseball’s Constitution — which govern that kind of thing, as well as the business relationships between the teams and the Commissioner’s Office and other logistical matters as well. A lot of the subjects covered by these docs are things that are generally known, but it’s neat to have it all spelled out and available for browsing purposes.

Like the plane crash thing.  Which, because that’s a little too real for me, let’s pretend is a shipwreck instead. Like, the entire Kansas City Royals went out for a pleasure cruise on Lake St. Clair while visiting Detroit and went down like the Edmund Fitzgerald or something. Help us Rule 29!

If a common accident, epidemic illness or other common event (referred to in this Rule 29 as an “occurrence”) causes the death, dismemberment or permanent disability from playing professional baseball of

(1) at least five players on a Major League Club’s Active, Disabled or Suspended Lists during the period beginning with the opening date of such Club’s championship season through the conclusion of such Club’s playing season (including any post-season series); or

(2) at least six players on a Major League Club’s Major League Reserve List during the period beginning with the conclusion of such Club’s playing season (including any post-season series) up to the opening date of such Club’s next championship season

then this Rule 29 shall apply and the affected Major League Club shall be a “Disabled Club.”

It goes on to explain that the “Disabled Club” gets a mourning period in which everyone gathers at the musty old Marine Sailor’s Cathedral or whatever, games are suspended, the Commissioner and the union agree whether or not it makes sense for the team to continue the season and, if not, schedules around the team’s absence.

They’d then have what is referred to as a “Restocking Draft” or a “Rule 29 Draft” in which teams would protect a certain number of players and the stricken team would basically become an expansion team, roster-wise.

It’s really detailed, actually and worth a read if you’re into cold hard tragedy being rendered in the antiseptic language of legal procedure. I can’t imagine it was much fun being the guy who had to come up with that and draft it and everything, but I guess I’m glad it’s there.

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. 😉