Last week Scott Merkin of MLB.com wrote an article about Mark Buehrle’s passion for animal rights and Buehrle made some comments about Michael Vick, including stuff like “I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt” and “everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”
His comments predictably generated a lot of attention and MLB.com mysteriously removed the quotes from Merkin’s article after it was published, but today Buehrle had no problem standing behind what he said:
No, I said it. It’s an old story. Again, we are not bringing drama inside and past history stuff. So, I said it, meant it. It’s over, and we’ll move on.
In the wake of Buehrle’s initial comments our NBCSports.com blog-mate Rick Chandler noted that Buehrle hunts deer, ducks, and even bears. Here’s how Buehrle responded when asked about that:
Hunting is a sport. There are hunting stores out there. If that’s illegal, shame on my dad and my grandpa and his grandpa. It’s kind of been brought up throughout the history of America. The last time I knew dogfighting was a sport was never. Again, that’s all we need to comment on that. We’ll concentrate on baseball.
To be pro-hunting and anti-dogfighting is obviously a widely held stance, but I’m not sure simply relying on tradition as the main reason is much of an argument. Many people don’t think the distinction between killing animals and killing animals for “sport” is quite so clear and to say something is acceptable because it’s been happening for a long time isn’t necessarily convincing, since dogfighting and similarly frowned-upon activities involving animals being hurt or killed aren’t exactly new things.
Putting all that aside, I applaud Buehrle and his family for their work with animal rescue groups and I also applaud Buehrle for standing by what he said about Vick. Whether or not you agree with him, it’s obvious he meant what he said and too often public figures simply decide to disown or apologize for their comments when scrutinized even if their beliefs were represented accurately. If you said it and you believe it stand by it, and Buehrle is doing that.
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. 😉