Jeff Pearlman writes today that Ryan Dempster is a hero for throwing a baseball at Alex Rodriguez. But I’m not quite sure how strongly he feels about it. Please judge for yourself:
F**k you for cheating. F**k you for stealing paychecks. F**k you for influencing the outcomes of games. F**k you for lying. F**k you for dragging us all down. F**k you—Ryan Braun and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada and Nelson Cruz and Barry Bonds and Jhonny Peralta and Paul Lo Duca and every other guy who felt the need to inject nonsense into their bodies to help accomplish what, naturally, they could not.
But no, people aren’t irrationally upset about what a baseball player has done. And me saying that, perhaps, people have blown A-Rod’s transgressions out of proportion is totally radical and crazy and I just do it for page views. Yep.
Say what you want about Pearlman — I know a lot of people don’t care for his stuff — but he is a respected journalist within the industry who regularly publishes well-read books and has spent time at some prestigious publications such as Sports Illustrated. Maybe he’s out there quite a bit, but make no mistake: there are a lot of people who feel this about A-Rod even if they don’t put it in print.
And thus when I say that maybe, just maybe, people in the media are unfairly painting the guy as History’s Greatest Monster, I am not being hysterical.
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. 😉