And That Happened: Wednesday’s playoff highlights

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I turned on the Cardinals-Nats game just before 1PM. I had baseball on my television and did not leave the house — heck, didn’t leave my little den here — for the next 12 hours and change. Two walkoffs. It was absolutely glorious. I’m half-tempted to petition Major League Baseball to expand the playoffs even further so we can have even more games packing our October afternoons and evenings.

OK, maybe not. But as the man sang, it was a good day.

Yankees 3, Orioles 2: Raul. Ibanez. What else can you say? All you can do is to grab the New York papers and see which miserable misanthrope columnists decides to turn this into a story about A-Rod sucking instead of a story about a two improbable bombs from an improbable hero. That’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Athletics, Tigers 3: The Tigers took the 3-1 lead into the ninth and faced Jose Valverde. Who had absolutely nothing, and Coco Crisp hit the walkoff single. Mercy, mercy me. Detroit may be bumming at the moment, but they do have Justin Verlander, so it’s not time to jump out of a window yet, Tigers fans.

Cardinals 8, Nationals 0: Like I said yesterday, don’t blame the Strasburg shutdown. The Nats being down 2-1 has been a total team effort.

Giants 8, Reds 3: If I would have told you beforehand that Barry Zito was going to walk three dudes in the first inning and be pulled before the end of three, you would not have predicted a Giants victory. But as everything else that happened yesterday shows us, baseball is freakin’ ridiculous.  A deciding Game 5 today.

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. 😉