Rookie hazing is slowly fading away

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Can I tell you my least favorite “story” — and I use that term very loosely — of the baseball season?  The late September story about how the rookies on some team were forced to dress up like Devo or Sailor Moon or strippers or something on a road trip. The rookie hazing, you know.

We usually get a couple pics of these guys and a bunch of guffaws from the writers who cover the team all year, but I just think it’s all kind of stupid.

For one thing, it’s not really hazing. True hazing should not just be stupid but should be dangerously stupid in order to earn the term. And no, that’s not an endorsement of hazing. It’s just an acknowledgment that society’s views of such things have changed over the years and “hazing” as such is stuff that we think to ban, often for good reason.  The dress up games played by baseball teams are just boring quasi-humiliations. And I say quasi, because if a rookie really owns the outfit and offers some attitude, he can make that stuff work, thus negating the humiliation. What kind of hazing is that?

Anyway, there’s a story on the AP wire this afternoon noting how even the minor dress up games are fading away. Partially because people are bored with it, but mostly because baseball teams are smart enough to realize that, more and more, rookies are key parts of the team, not just dumb kids who need to be put in their place.

All of which is a good thing. Especially if it means that I don’t feel obligated to note the lame dress up stories next month.

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. 😉