Uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 could force the first baseman to stare down retirement sooner then we all thought.
Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been doing a diary of sorts for the Associate Press. In his article dated Wednesday, May 27, 2020 he addressed his thoughts on playing baseball in a shortened season during a pandemic.
From all accounts of reading and listening to people that have covered the team, Ryan is one of the smartest guys you will meet. So clearly his words are very calculated and thought out before releasing this piece onto the internet. There was something in the article that caught my attention that I am not sure I have heard enough people talk about, “There need to be assurances—not 90%; 100%—about health and safety for us and our families and everyone involved.”
I do not blame Ryan for feeling this way, at all. Family is important. Keeping them as safe as possible during uncertain times is paramount. But there are no guarantees that things will be 100% safe by the time baseball could start up this summer or even when spring training convenes in 2021. What if all that Major League Baseball can do is 90% to 95% safe at the beginning of 2021? Does Ryan sit out at least the beginning of next season? Could a treatment rather than a vaccine change his mind knowing he could still contract and bring it home with him unknowingly?
Ryan is already on a one year deal this year, and 35 years old. A new contract would need to be negotiated in the offseason to bring him back among the other Viejo’s. Does Ryan wait until things are 100% safe to sign a contract? By that time, are the Nationals already starting to roll with who they have on their roster and make the choice of moving a contributing player to the minors for the 36-year-old face of the franchise?
It is crazy to think that far down the line, but it is something that this article got me thinking. It’s something that we should start talking about. Was Ryan Zimmerman’s final season in a Nationals uniform their 2019 World Series run?
It is possible that Ryan and his wife could change their mind once things start rolling later this summer or next season. It is human nature to change one’s mind, especially when there are more concrete answers to a problem such as COVID-19. I would not blame him for wanting to play. I also would not blame him for wanting to be safe and protect his family.
This goes beyond dollars and numbers and down to human conditioning. Athletes are humans too and some have the financial ability to say, “I’m taking this season off for the health of everyone around me.” We have seen it done already with WWE star Roman Reigns who has made the choice to not wrestle because it could literally kill him should he contract COVID-19.
So, hope for the best Nationals fans that we get to see Ryan Zimmerman one more time in a Nationals uniform. I know I will be hoping that. But, prepare yourselves for the worst in that we have seen the face of this young franchise play his last game in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.