At the risk of criminal understatement, it will not be a surprise when Bobby Valentine is fired after the season ends. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t surprising when the team’s GM goes on the radio and says that he’s going to be running a managerial search this winter without first, you know, actually firing the current manager.
Pete Abraham of the Globe caught this on Ben Cherington’s WEEI interview this morning:
“I’d always rather get the decision right than rush it,” Cherington said. “But what we know we need to do is hit the ground running this offseason. One of the things that, as I look back on last offseason, that didn’t go perfectly was simply the amount of time that we spent on the manager search and what that did to the rest of the offseason and I would like to spend less time on it this offseason, that’s for sure.”
Man, if it wasn’t for the fact that by doing so he’d forfeit the $2.5 million he’s owed for 2013, if I was Valentine I’d quit today. And I do it loudly and in such a way as to make clear how jerked around I’ve felt all season.
I mean, no, he hasn’t had a good year by any stretch of the imagination and yes, he has made things worse with a lot of his behavior and decisions, but the manner in which he was used and abused by this team, the front office and the media has been ridiculous. His very hiring was part of some palace intrigue between the team’s president and the GM. He’s been a scapegoat for problems that existed before he was hired and would have been present no matter who had the job. And now his boss is going on the radio and talking about his replacement before he’s even gone.
Because of the contract Valentine has no choice but to sit quietly and wait to be fired, but this really is bush league, unprofessional crap.
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. 😉