Giving Thanks: The National League West

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Our final installment. When this is done I’m gonna steal the pie that’s cooling in the kitchen, take it and my laptop to a locked room upstairs someplace and try to ride the rest of this holiday out with sloth and funny You Tube videos. It’s the only way to make it through, really.

What the NL West is thankful for:

San Francisco Giants: That bottles are not good conductors of electricity, thereby preventing them from being harmed by the lighting they managed to capture inside.

San Diego Padres: Low expectations. If it wasn’t for those in 2010, a lot more people would have been piling on them for that ten game losing streak that knocked them out of the playoffs. Instead, people ignored that and gave Bud Black a Manager of the Year Award. How awesome would it be if we were all graded on such a curve.

Colorado Rockies: Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Jimenez, who showed that they can carry this team when healthy. And not tuckered out. And it should only be easier for them to do so without dead weight like Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe hanging around.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Finding something to be thankful about here requires some long-range thinking, but really: look at what happened to a poorly-run, overly-indebted Texas Rangers team. It eventually got better. Maybe the same thing can happen here too. This McCourt drama could be like a purifying fire.  OK, that’s a bit much. How about Clayton Kershaw? He’s a nice young man.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Kevin Towers. His specialty is in fixing the kinds of problems the Diamondbacks have. Bad bullpens, poor fundamentals. It’s hard to imagine a better match between poor team and new executive than Towers and the Dbacks, and he could very well right this ship sooner rather than later.

That’s all I got, people. Maybe I won’t just steal the pie and hide upstairs. Maybe I’ll take some stuffing too.

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. 😉