Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman had a weird spring training. He played in exactly one Grapefruit league game, and that was on March 2, not long after games got underway. For the rest of his time in Florida he was totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.
That pattern usually suggests an injury and I and most fans suspected that he was hurt. The Nats insisted otherwise, however, repeatedly saying that Zimmerman was simply doing a different sort of routine. They said it so often that they convinced the reporters covering the team that it was true. Indeed, some of them even got a bit prickly about it when fans said they weren’t buying it:
It all seemed weird, but Zimmerman broke camp with the team and, about a month into the regular season, a big story came out about how it was all just a novel approach for a veteran in spring training. At that point it made little sense to continue to be skeptical. I mean, what kind of people would continue to lie about such a thing a month after the fact? Especially when, since he was playing, it turned out to be pretty inconsequential?
Based on this report from Jon Heyman today, it’s probably worth asking that question again:
While it was written that the Nats weren’t using Zimmerman in games this spring as a grand experiment to preserve older veterans, and at the least the Nats never corrected the record, the reality is that Zimmerman missed almost all spring training with a calf injury. He got at-bats on the back field in simulated games, but in those at-bats, he just got at-bats and didn’t run to first base, or certainly run the bases. It’s a little unusual this went undetected as some other teams began to wonder whether the Nats’ grand experiment – which wasn’t really an experiment at all – might be worth trying for their own players.
Why on Earth did the Nats lie about this? That’s some downright Soviet stuff right there. I hope the reporters who got duped ask the team about it.
In the meantime, Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .217/.280/.409 and has not played a game since May 9. Viva transparency.