Ken Davidoff of Newsday just got back from the owners meetings and he decided to go all listy: the five best owners in baseball and, of course, the five worst owners in baseball.
I don’t have any disagreements with the best-of list. The results pretty much speak for themselves at the top, and I agree with his choice of Mike Illitch on that list. Everyone complains about cheap owners. Well, the Tigers don’t have the kind of cash flow or market size as do the Yankees and the Red Sox, but Illitch spends his money on the team anyway because he realizes that the point is to win games and have fun, not to optimize one’s estate plan or whatever.
The surprise on the worst list is Drayton McLane. I mean, I know that the Astros are a mess right now, and a lot of that is because he seemed content to play puppet master to the overmatched Ed Wade, but I’m kind of shocked that makes him worse than Jeff Loria, for example.
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. 😉