Brad Ziegler is, well, a little different.
There’s his submarine delivery.
There’s his baseball card collection.
There are his opinionated tweets.
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The son of a preacher, the 37-year-old reliever is one of the Marlins’ new additions, an unorthodox reliever Miami is counting on to unnerve hitters and get outs.
He’s done a good job of that during his nine seasons in the majors, the reason the Marlins handed him a two-year, $16 million contract after falling short in their bids to sign either Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.
Ziegler owns a career 2.44 ERA and has been the toughest pitcher in the majors to homer against since he broke in with Oakland in 2008. Ziegler has given up an average of 0.35 home runs per nine innings since then.
Next on the list is Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw: 0.54.
But there’s more to Ziegler than raw statistics.
Take his Twitter account. Not that Ziegler is the second coming of Logan Morrison, whose risqué twittering rankled Marlins front office executives when he was a member of the team.
But Ziegler isn’t afraid to use it to speak his mind. USA Today has called him “the unofficial social conscience of Major League Baseball players.”
“I haven’t done anything recently, have I?” Ziegler said Wednesday.
That depends on one’s definition of recent.
In 2014, after the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $52 million contract — less than two months after Peralta completed a 50-game suspension for his lengths to the Biogenesis doping scandal — Ziegler had harsh words.
“It pays to cheat,” he tweeted. “Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.”
He’s called out Ryan Braun, saying the Brewers star should come clean on PED use, called for a boycott of Rolling Stone when the magazine pictured Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, and taken shots at LeBron James.
He doesn’t believe PED users should be in the Hall of Fame and for the longest time refused even to take Major League-approved vitamin supplements.
“There’s been times where I’ve held back,” Ziegler said. “But, at the same time, there’s also times when I feel strongly about something and feel a need to say something. I understand there’s always going to be backlash. There’s going to be backlash no matter what I post.”
Ziegler said he’s even caught flack from fellow players about tweets.
“I’ve had some that have definitely reached out to me, and kind of hammered me about it,” he said. “But I’ve had way more support than negative reaction. There isn’t anything I say that everybody’s going to agree with. I can live with that because I know i’m not going to please everybody, and it took a long time to figure that out.”
Ziegler said he’s had backlash even when tweeting about baseball cards. Yes, baseball cards.
Like a lot of kids, Ziegler collected them in his youth while growing up in Kansas and Missouri.
“I played with them,” he said. “I’d lay them out on the carpet and try to get the entire Kanas City Royals starting lineup. Bo Jackson in left field. Willie Wilson in center field. Danny Tartabull in right field.
“Then I’d grab the cards from another team, put them in their batting order, and use a tiny little ball. There was never a routine out. Someone would hit a ball in the gap and the player (on a baseball card) makes a diving catch. Or a guy (on a baseball card) gets thrown out going to second.”
Nowadays, Ziegler has narrowed his focus, collecting only the cards and signatures belonging to Hall of Fame players. It’s one of the reasons why Ziegler said he never refuses an autograph, even from fans who mail him their requests.
“I’ll sign for everybody,” Ziegler said.