Bob Ryan has one of those stream-of-consciousness observation columns today. His last observation:
Has any team, anywhere, at any time in history, ever messed up a valued prospect as badly as the Yankees have Joba Chamberlain?
I’ve asked that question before. And it sure seems like Chamberlain was jerked around like crazy in going back and forth between starting and relieving as well as having strange workload rules and all of that. I have to think that the Yankees would do things differently with him if they had to do it all over again.
Still, it seems odd that they’d do what they did in the first instance. The Yankees are a lot of things, but they’re not a dumb organization. It makes me wonder if the injury he suffered in 2008 was more serious than anyone has let on. Makes me wonder if the team doesn’t have far more serious doubts about him than “his stuff playing up better out of the pen” or however they’ve put it recently as they’ve absolutely eliminated the possibility that he will ever start for the Yankees.
I guess what I’m saying is that, while I don’t like how the Yankees have handled Chamberlain these past couple of years, I’m not prepared to say that they simply “messed him up” like Ryan says. It has to be more complicated than that, doesn’t it?
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. 😉