Red Sox fans don’t seem to be terribly pleased with the team’s current shortstop options: Mike Aviles and Nick Punto. But Bobby Valentine is kind of cool with it:
“I’ve never seen any of the guys play except for Punto a little on television. We’ve got seven weeks together, we’ll practice together, we’ll play together, that will all work itself out,” Valentine said. “I think it’s always good for guys to get a chance to work and think they have a chance to make the team so they work a little harder.”
And maybe he should be. As Alex Speier of WEEI points out in a great column today, there is no reason to assume that a team can’t win a world championship with veterans, castoffs and glorified utility guys playing at short. Happens all the time, in fact.
If I had to guess I’d say that the Sox are going to keep close tabs on any shortstop who may become available as the season progresses. But really, there are worse things that can happen to be somewhat unsettled there. Like, you know, having a lot of question marks in the rotation.
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. 😉