Dusty Baker won’t talk about his contract, which expires after this season

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Dusty Baker’s two-year contract expires after this season, but the Reds manager told reporters yesterday that he won’t be discussing his status in the future, saying:

What kind of factor can it be? Like I’ve said before, how many people have a one-year contract, period? You know how many times I’ve been in this situation? I’ve been in it four, five or six times, whatever it is. You just have to keep proving yourself I guess. Some people do and some people don’t. I’m one of the guys that seems like he has to, to keep proving myself. At this point, very little bothers me. I’m secure in myself, secure in my ability, secure in my family, secure in my life.

Mark Sheldon of MLB.com notes that this is the second time in three years that Baker has entered the season as a “lame duck” manager uncertain of his future. Last time that happened was 2010, when the Reds won 91 games and the division title, so it didn’t exactly hurt his performance then.

In fact, 2010 was Baker’s first winning season as a manager since 2004 and having a losing record in five of the past six seasons is no doubt part of the reason why Baker has to keep proving himself. Baker had a .540 winning percentage in 10 seasons managing Barry Bonds and the Giants, but has a .497 winning percentage in eight seasons since then.

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. 😉