Billy Hamilton has had a big impact since debuting for the Reds on September 3, going 13-for-13 stealing bases and at times totally psyching out the other team with his incredible speed. He’s also 6-for-14 (.429) with two doubles in limited action at the plate.
And yet Jeremy Warnemuende of MLB.com writes that the Reds aren’t sure if they’ll even include Hamilton on the playoff roster, with manager Dusty Baker saying:
We still haven’t decided. There’s a lot of variables here and a lot of things we have to decide. I know Billy is the topic of the day, and they’re selling t-shirts up there already. It’s just that, that’s not the focal point of where we’re going. Billy is a possible part for that. …
Who do you delete to take his place? Thing is, Billy, is he ready to handle that pressure? And not only baserunning, which he can probably handle, but is he ready to start a game, or is he ready to come off the bench and get some hits that you might need.
Whatever. There’s just no way it makes sense for the Reds to keep some extra middle reliever or utility man over Hamilton, who has a legitimate chance to change a game in the late innings. He’s a perfect use of the 25th roster spot and it’s hard to imagine Baker and company not coming around to that idea by the time rosters are due.
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. 😉