Ryan Zimmerman is 35 years old. Zimmerman is a 15-year veteran. Zimmerman is coming off of a World Series championship in which he played a not-insignificant role. He has three kids now, with the third just weeks old, and a mother, who, most of you know, has Multiple Sclerosis. He’s making his decision on whether or not to play another big league season — after he signed a new 1-year/$2M deal with Washington’s Nationals this past winter — based on more than just whether or not he has another campaign left in him.
“I’m still deciding whether to play,” Zimmerman wrote at the start of his latest AP diary entry.
[ed. note - “Just want you to know that Max Scherzer doesn’t like it when you ask Zim if he’s at the end of his career. See: last year’s postseason presser from October 7th in Nats Park., which is excerpted below. For context, the following took place after Game 4 of the NLDS with the LA Dodgers, which the Nationals won to force a Game 5 in Los Angeles.”]
Q. Zim, your contract’s expiring and this could be your last game before a home crowd. Did you have any extra oomph at your at-bats, especially with the home run and a single right afterwards?
RYAN ZIMMERMAN: There’s been a lot of people that think these are my last games —
MAX SCHERZER: I really don’t think these are his last games. All of you think it’s his last games.
RYAN ZIMMERMAN: The last [regular season] home game they tried to give me like a standing ovation, I mean, I feel good. I think that we got plenty to go. But I mean, other than that, I think any time you play at home, especially postseason games, that’s why you play the game. This is what you live for and, obviously, the game’s here. But then even almost more so going to LA for Game 5 and Walker Buehler versus Stephen Strasburg with [Clayton] Kershaw probably available in the pen, I mean, this is why you play the game. This is what we live for.
“I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman explained as he weighed his decision in a public forum.
“My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.”
Zimmerman discussed that possibility a few months back as well, when he and his wife, Heather, spoke about the rumored plans for a 2020 MLB campaign.
Heather was asked then if she was comfortable with the idea of baseball returning amidst a pandemic, and if she was comfortable with the idea of her husband playing.
“That’s a good question,” she said. “I would say probably no, I would probably not be 100% comfortable with it. Especially considering we’ll have a newborn in the house.”
“It’s one of those — I hate to say the word ‘sacrifice’, but it’s one of those kind of sacrifices you have to make in order for the game to be played, but we have these conversations every day. We’re so interested to see what ends up happening, because obviously outside of the players, there’s a lot of other staff that has to be at a baseball field in order to make it happen. The grounds crew, chefs or food caterers, obviously the clubhouse staff, so we’re really interested to see when and if they can get this all going, because there are so many moving parts.”
If they did start up again, and Ryan decided to play, she added, “... we’re just probably not going to see him for a few months, I would guess,” though the plans being discussed then involved so-called “bubble” leagues, with players and supporting staff gathered in one or two, or more, cities and quarantined during the season.
The talk now is for 60 games (in 66 days) at each team’s respective home parks, with travel to other cities even with the coronavirus continuing to infect people around the country.
While there has been plenty of talk of the new rules that will be in place when and if they do actually play, Zimmerman said that the baseball aspect isn’t what he’s focused on right now:
“I’m thinking more about the health and safety perspective — and the toughest part for us is going to be the travel aspect of it.
“That includes for ‘Spring Training,’ when people are going to be flying in from all across the country and from out of the country, as well. It’ll be interesting to see just how that part of it works out, with so many people going from wherever they are and gathering together all of a sudden.”
“We haven’t seen a schedule yet,” Zimmerman added, “... but I’m going to assume 30 games are on the road.”:
“I don’t know how long the trips are going to be, but it’s a significant amount of travel and staying in hotels and going places that are outside of where we’ve been allowed to go the last few months...”
But while the NHL (in two hub cities) and NBA (in the Walt Disney World Resort) are starting seasons with plans to get together in a bubble(s) and finish up their 2020 campaigns, MLB decided that playing in home parks (without fans) will work.
Zimmerman seems ... skeptical:
“We haven’t seen a schedule yet, but I’m going to assume 30 games are on the road. I don’t know how long the trips are going to be, but it’s a significant amount of travel and staying in hotels and going places that are outside of where we’ve been allowed to go the last few months.”
“And I’ll tell you this about baseball,” Zimmerman noted.
“The owners aren’t going to be traveling with us. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be hanging out at their houses, watching baseball on TV.
“We’re going to be the ones out there, if we decide to play. We’re the ones taking all the risk.”
Will all the players follow the rules strictly, just to reduce the possible dangers? No one will be monitoring them in their hotels, “... it’s not like there’s going to be COVID police on our hotel floors,” Zimmerman writes, so there are going to be some tough decisions for all the players involved to make over the next few weeks, unless the coronavirus’s continued and increasing spread makes the decision for them.
“So it will come down to the players and everyone involved and what they do with each and every second of their day.
“When you start thinking about it like that, it starts becoming a little more complicated.”