Hey guys, Bud Selig says he’s gonna retire after 2014

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I’ve been asked before why I often suggest that Bud Selig is disingenuous about things like, say, the fans’ appetite for instant replay, the status of the committee working feverishly on solving the Athletics/San Jose problem and the state of baseball’s finances and stuff.

At bottom, it’s a general credibility problem. Caused by stuff like this:

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig insists he will retire after the 2014 season when his contract ends … He said “nobody believes it” but he’ll be done in 2 years, despite sentiment he’ll stay until 2016 to pass Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the game’s longest-serving boss.

It’s his right to keep the job as long as his employers will have him. And, despite our dissatisfaction with the way he handles some things, I would argue that he has been an excellent commissioner overall. At least when measured by his performance at the job he was hired to do as opposed to do the job that fans like to fantasize the commissioner has.*

But really, this marks the 3,405,265th time Selig has claimed he will retire.  I wish him no ill will whatsoever when I say this — indeed, I intend it as a tribute to his effectiveness in the job, popularity within the game and his still-sharp skills and tenacity — but if I had to bet my 401K on any future development, “Bud Selig dying in office” would be high on the list of candidates.

*Really. It’s not the commissioner’s job to be some sage and noble George Washington figure. It’s his job to be a steward and promoter of the game who makes money for the owners (and indirectly the players) and keeps them from fighting with one another. But even with the job being that basic, so many have failed one way or another.  Fay Vincent was well-intentioned but feckless. Peter Ueberroth hatched a criminal conspiracy. Bart Giamatti, sadly, didn’t get a chance to really do anything. Bowie Kuhn was a retrograde defender of the reserve clause and helped sow nearly 30 years of labor strife.  It’s a low bar to hurdle when it comes to running baseball, but Selig has really cleared it by any measure.

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. 😉