Ryan Zimmerman makes spring debut

5 Comments

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made his spring training debut this afternoon against the Cardinals. The veteran underwent off-season surgery to fix the acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder, which ailed him throughout most of the 2012 season. It was particularly noticeable in the first half, when Zimmerman hit eight homers and posted a .694 OPS in 308 plate appearances. The second half went much better as he hit 17 homers and posted a .945 OPS in 332 PA.

In this afternoon’s outing, Zimmerman singled once in three at-bats but did not play the field, instead slotting in the lineup as the Nationals’ designated hitter. MLB.com’s Joey Nowak expects this to be the case going forward:

He’ll likely be in the lineup only as a designated hitter every other day, alternating with rehabbing catcher Wilson Ramos, for a few more weeks until Zimmerman builds up throwing strength.

Zimmerman kept himself in the lineup last season by getting a cortisone shot at the end of June, helping lead the Nationals to an NL East crown. He hit .381 with two home runs in the post-season against the St. Louis Cardinals. It is expected that the third baseman will be ready by Opening Day as the Nationals resume their quest for NL dominance.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

Getty Images
12 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.