Ryan Zimmerman has a well-earned reputation as something of a milquetoast player who is not going to cause controversy with a quote or his actions.
That’s not to stay he doesn’t have any opinions. When it comes to the integrity of the game he’s been playing for the past 15 years in the majors, Zimmerman has some strong ones.
Zimmerman, whose Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros in the World Series back in October, was asked on Tuesday afternoon about the scandal which enveloped the Astros this offseason, when their nefarious activities from previous seasons came to light, leading to a significant punishment from Major League Baseball and a number of people connected to the team losing their jobs.
If you’ve been hibernating all winter, you can read up on the sign-stealing, trashcan banging antics that got the Astros in trouble. Suffice it to say, their actions, once revealed, cast a pall on all of Major League Baseball and called into question the integrity of their own win in the Fall Classic in 2017, though MLB came to the conclusion that there was nothing untoward in the 2019 Series with the Nationals, who did, however, go to great lengths to prepare for the possibility that questionable antics might take place.
So what did Zimmerman make of all he heard and read this winter about what the Astros did?
“Obviously, it’s an interesting subject,” Zimmerman said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, after his new 1-year/$2M deal with the Nationals was officially announced.
“I think first and foremost the integrity of our game and any professional game is the thing that matters the most,” he continued.
“Fans, people pay money to come watch us play. They watch us on TV because they enjoy the game that is created, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, and rules are put in place to guard the integrity of the game for people to enjoy it and for just the fairness of play.
“I think any time that is compromised, people should pay the ultimate price. I’m not the one to sit here and say who should be reprimanded and if it’s enough.”
MLB decided that the Astros’ manager and GM (who were both subsequently fired by the club) should be suspended for one year, while Houston was forced to pay a $5M fine and forfeit their first-round draft picks in each of the next two drafts.
“I think obviously the penalties were pretty steep,” Zimmerman said. “I think at the end of the day too, I haven’t read kind of the whole report — sign-stealing and things like that have been a part of the game of baseball for a long time, technology makes it easier. And then there’s always a line about how much you can use it and how much you can’t. I think the players and the field staff and the video people have to use kind of their moral judgement and their respect for the game to know how much is too much.”
The Astros apparently didn’t know how much was too much, and the setup they used, that reportedly included using the center field camera to read signs on TV monitors and relay them to the hitter at the plate, took advantage of available technology to give themselves an edge.
“Obviously if there is a camera in center field in real time giving people what pitch is coming, that’s obviously crossing the line,” Zimmerman said.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who’ll disagree there.”
“As far as the punishment and things like that,” he added, “I guess everyone can have their own thoughts about that, but obviously I don’t think there’s any place for it in the game, and with the way technology is going the opportunities are always going to be available.
“I have faith that I think mostly that the players would respect the game enough to not partake in that stuff, and then moving up from there, the managers, the field staff, and front office people would obviously stop it if they saw it. There’s reports that say it wasn’t handled like that in Houston. I don’t know enough about it to really comment on it, but all I can say is obviously I think it’s completely wrong and when you start messing with the integrity of the game in any aspect, it’s the greatest sin that you can do.”