Muhammad Ali to visit White Sox camp

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The Greatest is going to go visit the Chisox:

Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali visits with the team tomorrow, addressing his “Athletes for Hope” foundation, which asks that players give their time rather than money.

“It’s a great inspiration for a lot of people,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said after the White Sox’s 12-1 win over Arizona. “I met him before, a few times. A lot of kids are in camp and they will have a chance to meet, I don’t want to say one of the greatest boxers in history, but one of the greatest men ever born in this country. Those kids should be proud to meet him, and to the White Sox organization, it’s an honor to have him in camp.”

I only wish that Ali wasn’t slowed by Parkinson’s. Could you imagine if 1970s-era Ali and current-era Guillen were able to jaw at one another at full speed?

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. 😉