Ryan Zimmerman explains why more veterans will matter
The times that make baseball players, really, are the moments in between. The afternoons before night games, the winter workouts, the morning weight-lifting during spring training. During those times, Ryan Zimmerman is usually apart from most of his teammates, maybe with one or two of them. That's what works for him. He built his success on finding a routine and taking care of what he needs to do, and he expects his teammates to do the same. Or at least he believes, in a perfect scenario, they should do the same - find what works for them, and then do it every day.
This season more than any other since he's been in Washington, Zimmerman thinks, the Nationals should have a team full of players capable of handling their business without the need for coaches or Manager Jim Riggleman to look over them. Zimmerman has talked about this with Riggleman. On Wednesday morning, Riggleman met with Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond to determine standards and policies for the clubhouse. Riggleman wants to give the players the freedom to choose their own brand of order. Zimmerman wants the same thing.
Zimmerman called this Nationals team the first he's played on that's "more of a veteran team." The Nationals brought in Werth, Rick Ankiel, Jerry Hairston, Matt Stairs, Alex Cora and others. John Lannan can hardly be considered a young pitcher anymore. Desmond's not a rookie anymore. Nyjer Morgan turned 30. If the Nationals lose this year, youth will not be a plausible excuse.
Yesterday, I spoke with Zimmerman briefly about the change in the makeup of the Nationals' clubhouse.
How important is having more veteran players?
"It's very important. We don't have to worry about making sure guys are ready. Everyone knows what they need to do individually to get ready to play the game. That's what you want on your team. As much as you will help other guys, it's better when you have guys that know what they need to do and just go ahead and do it, and when it's game time you're ready to go.
Have you had that since you've been here?
"We've had it, but not as much we have this year. This is the first year where we have more of a veteran team. I think Jim can feel comfortable letting us do that now. It's good for us, and it's good for him, too."
Does it help that Riggleman is in his second year, so you know what to expect him and vice versa?
Yeah, I guess. I think the past years haven't really compared because we have a more veteran team this year. In the past, he had to make sure that the younger guys were ready to play and had the best chance to succeed. Now, he can kind of just let us help him with that and he can go and not have to worry about - not baby-sitting, but not have to worry about making sure everyone is ready. He can just relax and worry about the game, what he's supposed to worry about. He can concentrate on that stuff.
What do you mean when you say 'get ready'?
The more you play, you get a routine. That's the hardest part. You don't know what to do when you're younger. You'll see young guys out there with the coaches taking groundballs. Maybe me or [Adam] LaRoche, it's not important to go out and do that, because we know what we do every single day to play. Those guys are still learning. They've had some help the last couple years, and now they're to the point where they have their own routine with that stuff. That's the point you want to get to, where everyone on your team does their own thing individually to get ready for the game. And once the game starts, it's your team.
This year, will it be easier to make the clubhouse the way it should be?
This is the most veteran guys we've ever had. So that makes it a lot easier to not worry about what other people do. You worry about yourself, and you get ready to play.
FROM THE POST
Danny Espinosa is set to take over at second base for the Nationals with a healthy hand and his first major league experience under his belt.
One note left on the cutting room floor, researched for me by Nats p.r. maven Bill Gluvna: Espinosa had 28 home runs and 25 steals last season, majors and minors combined. Chris Young and Carlos Gonzalez were the only two other players in all of professional baseball who also went 25-25.
| February 24, 2011; 7:15 AM ET
Categories: Morning brushback
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