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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez both showed public support of Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross’s decisions to opt out of playing in 2020’s COVID campaign.
“I don’t hold anything against those guys. They have family. I know Zim, I love him to death, Joe is a big part of this organization, they all are.” – Davey Martinez on Zimmerman and Ross opting out
“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” Rizzo said in a statement on their decisions last summer.
“We are one hundred percent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”
“I don’t hold anything against those guys,” Martinez declared. “They have family. I know Zim, I love him to death, Joe is a big part of this organization, they all are.”
That doesn’t mean they weren’t missed. “I missed [Ross] last year,” Martinez said this winter, after a disappointing 24-36 finish for the Nationals in the 60-game season.
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“We could have used him last year, but for me, he did what he felt was right and I back him on that, but I’m glad he’s going to be back with us, and like I said, he’s got every opportunity in the world to be — whether it’s the fifth starter, whether it’s the fourth starter, who knows, but he’s going to get every opportunity to do that.”
Ross was under team control, of course, so the Nationals knew they would have him back, while Zimmerman, who’d signed a 1-year/$2M for the 2020 campaign before opting out of the season, became a free agent at the end of the year, but expressed a desire to return to the only team he has known as a professional, which he did, officially, last week, signing on again to a 1-year/$1M contract for 2021.
“Obviously, watching them play, I want to be out there, I kind of want to be with the team. But I made the decision and have to go with my gut instinct. And that’s what I did.” – Joe Ross on opting out of 2020 season
Do either of them regret the decision to sit out last season?
“I wouldn’t say I felt like I made the wrong decision,” Ross told reporters in early December, before the 27-year-old and the club avoided arbitration, and agreed on a 1-year/$1.5M deal for 2021.
“There was a lot of — like you saw with the Marlins and certain teams where a lot of major kind of breakouts happened and altered their season. I think at one point early, maybe within the first month, they had played maybe 12-15 less games than other teams and it’s just kind of a weird thing. So, no I wouldn’t say I second-guessed it.
“Obviously, watching them play, I want to be out there, I kind of want to be with the team. But I made the decision and have to go with my gut instinct. And that’s what I did.”
“I don’t know if there’s regret,” Zimmerman, 36, said earlier this month of opting out of what would have been his 16th season in the nation’s capital over what he said at the time was concern for his family, with a newborn child then on the way, and his mother, who has lived with multiple sclerosis for years, both cited as factors in the decision.
“I definitely think it was the right decision,” he explained. “The biggest thing for me when I made that decision was kind of the unknowns and the situations was still so new and fresh.
“A lot of people have kind of asked me, ‘Well, not much has changed?’ but I think that’s kind of wrong, I think a lot of things have changed.”
Having dealt with the pandemic for well over a year now, and having gone through a 60-game schedule with healthy/safety protocols in place, Zimmerman said, the league and clubs know more about what it takes to do things as safely as possible.