Sabermetricians are often told to get their heads out of their spreadsheets and to watch some baseball. The people who say that sort of thing often defer to their own eyes or the eyes of scouts when it comes to analysis. Then you read stuff like this story from Andrew Marchand at ESPN New York in which scouts are said to prefer Derek Jeter over Jose Reyes — and in one case Hanley Ramirez — at shortstop right now and you wonder what they’re smoking.
I’ll give Jeter durability over Reyes right now. But that’s all I’d give him. In no way, however, would I select Derek Jeter over Jose Reyes if I had to put together a team for the rest of 2011. And apart from the scout that Marchand spoke to, I’m not sure who would.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.
While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.
Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.
I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.
On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.