Mitch Albom has made a boatload of money telling stories in recent years. Way more than he’s made writing and analyzing about sports. So while sports is his day job, it’s not at all surprising that he’s big on inserting dramatic narrative into things. For example, from his column yesterday, talking about why the Red Sox beat the Tigers in the ALCS:
The Tigers were simply beaten by a faster, more defensive, more opportunistic team with a finer bullpen and — and this is important — better karma. You didn’t realize until you got to Fenway and saw the B Strong carved into the outfield grass and hanging on the Green Monster wall, how much the Boston Marathon bombings six months ago gave unity and purpose to this team and city, kind of like the New Orleans Saints and Hurricane Katrina or the New York Yankees and 9/11.
This week a lot of reporters who don’t spend a lot of time covering baseball will ask the Red Sox about the Marathon Bombing and their beards and all manner of other things that make for better stories than they do baseball analysis. And it’ll be fine because the World Series draws reporters to the game who don’t normally cover baseball so, for them, that angle is new and fresh.
Not sure what Albom’s excuse is. Not sure how, in this day and age, a reporter is able to get away with claiming that “karma” and some external “unity and purpose” had an “important” bearing on the outcome of a sporting event. But good for Mitch all the same.
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. 😉