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.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?