Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse risks being sued by Scott Boras for using the phrase “mystery team” in referring to a Cliff Lee rumor, but he’ll take that risk to bring you the latest rumor. And the rumor is this: The Cardinals may be the “mystery team” making a play for Cliff Lee. Price suggest that the Cardinals’ 19 year-old pitching prospect Shelby Miller could be the bait.
I have a hard time featuring any play by St. Louis for Lee. For one thing, their biggest problem right now is that they have way too many holes in their lineup. Their problems are not the top of their rotation. For another thing, given the need to lock up Albert Pujols, the Cardinals aren’t in any position to give Cliff Lee a big contract after the season, which would basically make him a rental. In that case, Miller is too high a price. But if they go any lower, they’re going to get outbid by the Mets or someone else.
So I guess what I’m not really buying this one. It’s worth posting it, though, if for no other reason than to be able to revisit the old “Mystery Team” meme. We usually only get to see that in December and January. With all the hot weather we’ve been having lately, it’s quite refreshing, actually.
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. 😉