Dusty Baker on Ryan Zimmerman, disputed PED allegations:
Washington Nationals' first baseman Ryan Zimmerman spoke to reporters for close to thirty minutes on Tuesday morning, touching on a number of topics including his health, the disputed Al-Jazeera report this winter that tied him to PEDs and his decision to file a defamation suit against the network. But before he talked openly about the report for the first time, he spoke to his new manager, Dusty Baker.
"He came in and talked to me this morning," Baker explained when he held his daily chat with reporters at the Nationals' Spring Training facility in Viera, FL.
"I just happened to walk in with him from the parking lot and he followed me into the office and I was like, hey, most people don't follow into the office unless they're invited."
Zimmerman shared his thoughts on the report, which Baker said had clearly affected the 31-year-old veteran of eleven major league seasons.
"I could see the hurt in his voice and he explained it to me -- which he didn't really have to -- but he wanted me to know what was going on and how sad and kind of angry, but embarrassed [he was] about the whole situation," Baker explained.
"Because he is a guy that really cares about kids and about other people and how they think of him and the influences that he may have on young people. He'll be exonerated."
Asked how he could help Zimmerman deal with the situation, he said there isn't much anyone can do except provide support.
"I just told him, 'Hey, man...' I don't know if I can help him. He's a believer. It's up to God to help give him the strength. All we can do is support him. Everything ends... it seems like an eternity when you're in it, but he'll get through it and he'll be stronger and better for it."
Zimmerman spoke at length with reporters later in the day, but his message was simple: Nothing that was "reported" in that documentary was true.
"None of that stuff is true," he said. "I’ve never done any of that. I’ve never even thought about doing any of that. It’s a tough spot. You do everything the right way, you work, you think something like this will never happen, and then, for some reason, it does."
"We're taking the right steps to ultimately clear my name which is the most important part and unfortunately nowadays, the public opinion is one of the things that matters the most and I trust that my teammates and the people that I guess you can say 'matter', not that some people don't matter, but the people who really know me, know the truth."
Baker on the Nationals' window of contention?:
The Nationals' "window of contention" to win with the homegrown roster they'd built over the last few seasons seemed to have closed with the departures of Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Denard Span this winter, but no one is counting them out as potential contenders this season as they prepare for the 2016 campaign.
Nats' skipper Dusty Baker was asked on Tuesday if he believed in the idea of windows of contention, and as he said, it's more about how the organization handles turnover.
"No, I don't believe that," he said of so-called 'windows'. "I don't believe when people say that, because if that was the case, St. Louis' window would have close a long time ago. A window closes if you don't replenish the the refrigerator and if you don't continue to -- I mean, we won for years with the Dodgers and we won -- we had Rookies of the Year for like seven, eight years. That's how you replenish the refrigerator, you pluck one in -- I mean, I was there when they traded Davey [Johnson] and they brought in Steve Sax. And they traded [Steve] Yeager and they brought in [Mike] Scioscia and then they traded me and they brought in Pedro Guerrero. That's how you continue."
"I don't believe in that window unless you stand pat and don't do anything," he continued. "Then that window will close. If you do it right, man, you see the same organizations win for a long time.
"And some make wholesale changes and then get rid of everybody and start that window again and that's very, very difficult. If I'm a fan, I'm upset if you do that.
"But these arms that you see out here and these catchers, and I haven't even seen the position guys. We've been good here long before I got here and they'll be good here, I think, long after I leave from here. So I don't believe in that window."
Dusty, tell us about the toothpicks?:
Dusty Baker also took a few minutes on Tuesday to talk about his trademark toothpicks and how he started the "habit":
"The toothpick came about no.1 from my dad. He always had a toothpick. If something is on your teeth, go talk to my dad. And then the second part, it came about, because I started a nasty habit after I played. I was a batting coach and we were behind and the players called it a 'rally dip' and I got a dip and it made me sick and light-headed and we scored five runs and the next day, they said, 'Rally dip!' again and then we got five or six more runs. I think the devil was in charge. And I got hooked on the dip and then I started dipping when I was fishing and dipping when I was hunting and then I'm saying, 'I only dip when I'm fishing and hunting.' I just did it like every day, and so I went to my dentist and they told me I was forming some periodontal disease and that dipping wasn't helping, so they told me to go to the Whole Foods and get the Australian chewing sticks which I have here, Tea Tree therapy and it helps me."