Hello from a new HardballTalk contributor

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Hey there. I’m Bill Baer and I am your new HardballTalk blog contributor. I will be writing words for your eyes to read every evening during the weekend. If you’re new to my existence, I run the Phillies blog Crashburn Alley, which has been partnered with ESPN as part of the Sweet Spot network since 2009. I also contribute content to ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog directly every weekend. Elsewhere, I’ve written a book, hosted a radio show in Philly, and contributed to Baseball Prospectus.

How about an icebreaker? My favorite baseball moment, at least that I’ve seen in person, was when I was at Citizens Bank Park for a Giants-Phillies game in 2006. I got to see Barry Bonds hit home run #713 off of Jon Lieber. I wrote extensively about that night here if you’re interested.

You might be thinking, “Bill is a Phillies fan. Great, that will balance out all of Craig’s negativity towards them.” You would be wrong. Despite being a fan, I will take every opportunity to laugh at Ryan Howard’s contract, Delmon Young’s weight and racist tendencies, and Michael Young’s inability to play defense.

It is my hope that you enjoy having my perspective added to the fantastic lineup of HardballTalk writers. Please direct your hate mail to my Twitter: @CrashburnAlley.

Note: I included a picture of Domonic Brown because he has a pretty swing.

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. 😉