The best Don Zimmer profile you’ll ever read

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Hat tip to Jay Jaffe, who tweeted this out a bit ago. It’s from Scott Raab at Esquire from 2001. He spent a couple of days with Zimmer at his home near Tampa during the 2000-01 offseason and got a true taste of the man.

The thing about Zimmer: he became something of a mascot in his later years in the mind of many people, but he was never that. Sure, he was colorful, but that whole “sweet old funny Zimmer” thing is only part of the story. He was a sure-thing shortstop prospect until he had two vicious beanings that derailed his career before it really got going. He was often thought of as a bit of a comedian when he payed, but was a gruff figure as a manager. Then the latter years as coach.

But as a person, he sounds like someone you just want to be around. A sharp guy with sharp humor but something simmering underneath that only people with true character have:

“I’m a bench coach,” Zim says. “Thirty years ago, there was no such thing–you were a coach. Now they got a title for a bench coach, which is a joke. People say, What is the job of a bench coach? I say, Very simple–I sit next to Torre on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink, and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything. I sit next to Joe like a bump on a log–that’s the way I leave it.”

The truth is this: Joe Torre doesn’t make a move without asking Zimmer what he thinks.

Just a fantastic story that, even 13 years before the subject’s death, serves as a wonderful remembrance.

2017 Preview: The National League West

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West.

The Giants had the best record in all of baseball at the All-Star Break and the Dodgers lost the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw for a big chunk of the season. Yet, somehow, L.A. won the NL West by four games. The biggest culprit was the Giants’ suspect bullpen, which they put some real money toward fixing this winter. Is it enough? Or is a a Dodgers team with a healthy Kershaw just too talented for San Francisco to handle?

Below them is an intriguing Rockies team, though probably not a truly good Rockies team. The Dbacks have a lot of assorted talent but are nonetheless in reshuffle mode following a miserable 2016 campaign. The Padres, meanwhile, are in full-fledged rebuilding mode, but do possess some of the best minor league talent in the game.

Here are our previews of the 2017 NL West:

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres

2017 Preview: The American League West

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League West

There’s not a lot of separation between the top three teams in this division. Indeed, it would not be a surprise for either the Astros, Rangers or Mariners to end the year on top. Part of that is because none of these contenders are perfect, with all three facing some big challenges in putting together a strong rotation.

Meanwhile, the best baseball player in the universe toils in Anaheim, where he’ll most likely have to content himself to playing spoiler. Up the coast in Oakland . . . um, green is pretty?

Our 2017 AL West Previews:

Houston Astros
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Oakland Athletics