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Shots At the Breeze... With Ryan Zimmerman

I had the chance to chat today with Ryan Zimmerman, who's currently hanging low back home in Virginia Beach. His shoulder is doing well. His fantasy team is not. Here's more from our Q&A, transcribed with quality-assured 97-percent accuracy.

Q: OK, let's just say you have the chance to make a sales pitch to a certain unnamed first baseman who's about to become $150 million richer, and you could tell him why he should play out his golden years in Washington, D.C. What do you say?

RZ: Well, I mean, it's a hard thing for me to say, because he can go anywhere he wants, and we're not at a place right now where the Phillies or Red Sox or Yankees are. And that's the hardest thing for us, being able to contend for somebody (who can go anywhere). Obviously him being from here helps a little bit. But I have no clue if they've talked to him or anything, or what's going on. I guess it's all about what you feel most comfortable.

Q: In all seriousness -- what sort of progress are you hoping to see this offseason?

RZ: Just to do something. We don't have to go out and get the best free agents necessarily. I don't think we're to that point yet, where we can be in the talks with all the best people around. But it would just be good to see something happening. I guess just being involved in the free agent talks with Teixeira is a step forward, because two years ago we wouldn't have even been involved. I just want something so we can be competitive next year. I think even this is a step forward.

Q: Do you keep tabs on offseason news?

RZ: Not really, I don't really pay attention to it. I mostly steer clear of that, but obviously the stuff you see on TV you pay attention to. Because it's thrown in front of you. But it's an interesting time -- you have the pitchers (like Sabathia), you have the Yankees wanting to go after everyone. It'll be interesting to see if the Yankees are still like the team where everybody wants to go, because other teams have made the playoffs more often than them (in recent years), and now the other teams are starting to spend money just like they have.

Q: I've heard theories both ways, whether the person batting behind you really makes that much difference. So my question -- with an ideal No. 4 guy behind you, are you a different player?

RZ: Um, you know, I don't really buy into that. I used to buy into that a lot, but I mean, you're always gonna get a certain number of pitches to hit or not hit no matter who's hitting behind you. What it really comes down to is whether you hit the pitches you have. Does it help to have legit guy behind you? Maybe a little bit. But I think through the course of the season it doesn't really influence the way guys pitch you. I think it's one of those things that gets way too much hype. If you were to take a guy who's hit No. 8 his whole life and then put him in front of Alex Rodriguez, is his average gonna jump 40 points? I don't think so. He's still the same player. I think the bigger factor is more the guys in front of you, because you want to drive in runs, and having guys on base, guys who can get on base and put pressure on a pitcher, that makes a bigger difference.

Q: I know you took a trip to Vegas recently. What's your casino game of choice?

RZ: Yeah, I play blackjack mostly, and I don't really venture off too much from that. Roulette every now and then if I get bored, but blackjack is my game.

Q: Did you come out ahead or behind?

RZ: Ahead, and any time you leave with any money in your pocket from Vegas it's a success. This was my second time going there. First time I went it was a little out of control. We went with eight or nine guys (last year) for a bachelor party, and the bachelor ended up not being able to go, because he played for the Rockies and they were in the World Series. But we all still went anyway. That was my first time (in Vegas). This time, it was a little more subdued.

Q: You know, the Nationals have 300-to-1 odds to make the World Series.

RZ: Well, like Tampa did last year... you might want to take that bet just in case.

Q: I'm forcing you to be a betting man here. Even odds on the Redskins making the playoffs. Do they get in, or are they left out?

RZ: Well, they're gonna have to be the wild card obviously, because it'll be hard to take over the Giants. I think the Giants are playing too well. So, it all depends on what happens. The NFC East is such a tough division. I think they need help from some teams in the NFC South, too. But I would say yes. What are they right now? 6-4? I think they have to win this Sunday. If they don't win at Seattle, they're in trouble.

Q: I know a bunch of guys in the Nats clubhouse got together for a fantasy football league. How is Team Zimmerman doing?

RZ: I've had some bad luck. I'm probably like fifth or sixth in the league in total points, but I'm like 3-7. Hold on; I'm at my computer. I'm looking it up right now. I'll tell you who's in first. Bergmann is 8-3, top of one division. Boone is right behind him at 6-4-1. He's in second place. See, and they have 1373 and 1345 points. And I have 1309. And somehow I'm in fifth out of sixth in our division... So I've had some bad luck. The other division, Pete Orr is 9-2. Langerhans is 7-4. Kearns is 7-4. Then it goes like 4-7 through the rest.

Q: At the end of October you had your charity golf outing (for multiple sclerosis). How are you on the links?

RZ: Actually, I'm not bad. You get caught up with best ball, so I was always playing best ball and I hadn't played a (normal) round of golf in almost a year. But I went out with a few buddies a few days ago and I shot an 82, and that was with a triple on a par 5. And it could have been a lot better. But my game is surprisingly good. I'm trying to do it as much as I can, but it's getting hard now with the weather.

Q: Yeah, I was gonna ask: When does it officially become too cold for golf?

RZ: I don't like to do it when it's below 50, just because you have to bundle up

Q: I'd imagine you have so much more free time now that the season has ended. What's the best thing you've done so far during the offseason?

RZ: You know, I think the best thing -- I haven't done too much at all. Just being home in Virginia Beach.

Q: OK, so you have more time to sit on the couch. What's the best thing you've been watching on TV.

RZ: I watch Entourage every week.

Q: Do you kind of prepare for the '09 season in stages? Are you doing anything right now? When does it really get serious?

RZ: No, I lift and work out. I usually lift three times in a week, and then sometimes I'll just run - like 45 minutes, an hour, and some core work. I'm in the gym give or take four to five times per week. You get bored if you just sit around and you start to feel worthless. So I try to stay active. But I don't really do baseball stuff until middle or late December. That's when I just start hitting in the cages once a week, because it's nice to knock the rust off a little.

Q: Arbitration time in January: What is that process going to be like for you?

RZ: I have no clue to tell you the truth. I don't think it will be that hard, but you never know. I really haven't even talked to my agent or any of the front office people yet. But I'm sure it's an exciting time for us. It's like you put in your first three years, and then get a little bit back. So it's good. You're progressing,

Q: Any talk since the season ended about a contract extension? Or is that premature at this point?

RZ: Yeah, I guess premature. To be honest with you, I have no clue what's going on. But I haven't talked with Jim or my agent since the end of the season.

Q: How's your shoulder feeling?

It's good. It's really good. It started feeling really good the last two weeks especially. Finishing the season strong gave me some confidence too, but it's felt really strong recently, even whenever I have been lifting or even playing golf.

By Chico Harlan  |  November 21, 2008; 3:12 PM ET
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Next: Teixeira Watch, Day ... Whatever


Good stuff. Thanks Chico!

Posted by: TheBorg | November 21, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Zimmerman = good people.

Posted by: faNATic | November 21, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

do NOT bait our best player into talking about gambling,especially on baseball.

In the old days, I'd sign this Kenesaw Mountain Landis!

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 21, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, the gambling aspect is not too cool. Interesting chat, though.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 21, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Zimm, you're crazy if you think having a power lefty bat behind you won't bump your average up at least 10 or 15 points.
Texy behind Zimm takes him from .275 to .290 EASY.

Posted by: ajtrue78 | November 21, 2008 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I'd think that Zimmerman would know a bit more about the quality of pitches he's seeing than you would from your couch through the fuzzy MASN cameras.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | November 21, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

hey guys, check out this article

Posted by: fanzak123 | November 21, 2008 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Yes Chico, yes.

This is what I look for here.

Like a mini-Thanksgiving meal of Nationals news.

Posted by: NattyDelite | November 21, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Who's leading the fantasy league? ORR!

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 21, 2008 9:02 PM | Report abuse

"who's currently hanging low ..."

Does this mean something different in Australia than it does here?

I mean, he didn't have THAT good of a year.

Nice to hear from him, though.

Posted by: CEvansJr | November 21, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Chico - Great interview! I enjoyed meeting you at the jersey unvieling (I was wearing the Acta jersey).

I was hoping Zim was going to mention the Get Out The Vote as he deserves the best "Moment" award for 2008 in the This Year In Baseball award.

Follow this link to join in:


Hopefully Zim will have a new piece of hardware he deserves. It was a tough 2008 so this will go down as the #2 greatest Nationals moment only 2nd to Zim's Walkoff against the New York Yankees on Fathers Day!!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | November 22, 2008 7:48 AM | Report abuse

>Does it help to have legit guy behind you? Maybe a little bit. But I think through the course of the season it doesn't really influence the way guys pitch you. I think it's one of those things that gets way too much hype.<

A perfect illustration as to why there are no 23 year old GMs. Talk about clueless.

Posted by: Brue | November 22, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

i have to agree with brue on that. compare anyone who ever hit in front of manny or bonds.

but i wouldn't call him clueless. understated is probably more appropriate. if we signed tex he would be stoked but he's smart not to get overanxious.

the man is playing black jack, not betting on sports. let him be.

i really hope to see a bump in offense from him this year. that statistical downtrend is going to be hard to dispute if it extends to four years, healthy or not.

Posted by: longterm | November 22, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

longterm, I believe that the comments (at least I know mine did) related more to Chico's raising the subject of betting on sports with Zimmerman than to the idea of what might be his casino game of choice.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 22, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

He may be a terrible GM, but he may also be sighting the numerous studies that have shown that the effect of 'protection' in the line-up is negligible.

Posted by: soundbloke | November 23, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Zim and I are of the same thought: do something Nats! Try to get better, try to get better now. Make this a team that players want to come and play for.

Posted by: dfh1234 | November 23, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

>He may be a terrible GM, but he may also be sighting the numerous studies that have shown that the effect of 'protection' in the line-up is negligible.<

Not in Zim's case. His drop off hasn't been negligible. And it's obvious he's too young to know the difference.

Posted by: Brue | November 23, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Sample size Brue

It's a myth, and the greatest effect of 'protection' is simply that people hammer it into players heads. Zimm sees the same number of good and bad pitches, and he's never had adequate cover as a National, and he always done better in the second half. There are so many different factors here but I don't buy that Zimm is the only player that needs protection.

Posted by: soundbloke | November 23, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Soundbloke: This thread on SoSH has some sources to back you up (Bill James, JC Bradbury, Hardball Times). This was talked about when analyzing the effect of trading a certain #4 hitter with dreadlocks would have on David Ortiz.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 23, 2008 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the source PTBNL. I was searching BP and came up with very little about the argument. I did come across an article stating Teixeira would ruin the Red Sox though. No I didnt. I just made it up. But I fully believe it. Or just want to believe it.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 23, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Well, poor old Ortiz is just plain broken these days.

Either way, the argument for getting a legitimate 4th hitter it has nothing to do with Zimm, we just need more power in the line-up.

Posted by: soundbloke | November 23, 2008 11:13 PM | Report abuse

TIn the next 30 days there should be a flurry of free agent signings and Trades. Many sites have made their predictions about who goes where. Here are mine:

Teixeira - Angels
Sabathia - Dodgers
Lowe - Yankees
Burnett - (upset pick) Giants
Furcal - Braves
Peavy - (by trade) Braves
Rodriguez - Cubs
Fuentes - Mets
Cabrera - Dodgers
Itzuris - Orioles
Bradley - Phillies
Perez - Dodgers (Oliver)
Dunn - Texas
Hudson - Nationals
Burrell - White Sox
Ramirez - Mets

Many of my picks are based on rumors, but some like the Ramirez to the Mets and the Burnett to the Giants are completely without even a whiff of logic. I expect some announcements this week, so I'm putting myself on record so I can make fun on myself later...

Posted by: natbisquit | November 24, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

OK, Natbis, I am game. Here are my half-assed predictions based upon my few seconds of careful guestimation and decades of idiocy:

Teixeira - Angels -- I say BoSox
Sabathia - Dodgers -- Yanks
Lowe - Yankees -- agree
Burnett - (upset pick) Giants -- upset pick Dodgers
Furcal - Braves -- A's
Peavy - (by trade) Braves -- agreed
Rodriguez - Cubs -- agreed. Woods goes to Florida of all places (why not!)
Fuentes - Mets -- agreed
Cabrera - Dodgers -- Braves
Itzuris - Orioles -- agreed
Bradley - Phillies -- Toronto
Perez - Dodgers (Oliver) -- Texas
Dunn - Texas -- ChiSox
Hudson - Nationals -- agreed
Burrell - White Sox -- Texas
Ramirez - Mets -- Dodgers

Thanks for throwing the predictions out there. The Hot Stove is so much fun.

Posted by: dfh1234 | November 24, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

you know, you could buy a fairly decent team right there. A little SS-heavy, but not bad.

Posted by: CEvansJr | November 24, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

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