MLB wouldn’t let the Nationals wear caps honoring the military

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The Nationals were given permission to wear a variety of military-flavored caps in batting practice Tuesday, but MLB wouldn’t let them wear them in the game that night against the Reds.  The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg asked why:

So then I called an MLB spokesman to ask what happened, and he explained that the league prefers its clubs commemorate specific causes with uniform patches or batting-practice displays, rather than the actual game hats. There are, however, coordinated league-wide headwear events, such as the white hats with stars-and-stripes logos that are worn on Memorial Day and July 4, with proceeds from sales of those caps donated to the Welcome Back Veterans program.

“We reserve hats for national tributes, where every club is wearing them on the same day,” spokesman Pat Courtney told me. “But we’re happy to work with clubs on alternatives.”

I can see the league’s point here, but as a one-time thing, it would have been pretty cool seeing the Nationals honoring the Navy SEALs and the Army with headwear that would have been far more noticeable than any uniform patch.  I have my doubts the display would have led to a serious downturn in Nationals merchandise sales.

The Washington Post has some pics of the hats here.

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. 😉