The off-season is almost over. Less than three weeks until Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers report to Viera. To celebrate this fact, we here at DistrictOnDeck will commence a countdown of sorts pointing out interesting facts about numbers.
We continue today with number 11 and something a little different.
There are some numbers that are synonymous with a particular player. For the Washington Nationals, lets face it, there is no other player that is thought about with the Number 11. And no, I’m not talking about Jeffrey Hammonds or Junior Spivey but the first draft selection since the team moved to Washington, Ryan Zimmerman.
Oct 12, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) reacts after hitting a two run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of game five of the 2012 NLDS at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
I remember my initial thoughts surrounding Zimmerman when he was drafted. Full disclosure, at that time I still considered myself a Nationals fan. It was before I became disenchanted with the Jim Bowden era and decided to test the waters elsewhere. I remember being happy because Zimmerman was one of the top prospects available (and in retrospect, the top half of the 2005 MLB Draft might go down as one of the best in history – an amazing fact considering three of the top 10 busted out, and others have been dealing with injury). Another part of me was bitter. Not because the team was in Washington, but because the budgets that held back the Expos for years no longer did. It was a turnaround year for the franchise. That year brought John Lannan, Justin Maxwell, Tyler Moore and Craig Stammen along with Zimmerman. They were all significant parts to rebuilding the franchise.
Zimmerman leads the team in all significant hitting categories since the team moved to Washington, and he is definitely Mr. National. He has dealt with injuries which may very well affect his career numbers and status among the all-time greats but he will always be the first superstar of the Washington Nationals. For a team trying to rebuild an identity, that fact cannot be taken lightly. For him to be a part of last year’s team is fitting in every single possible way. And I can only imagine those of you in and around Washington can only feel this more than I do as an outsider who hasn’t been to Nationals Park (or RFK Stadium, for that matter).
Zimmerman still has work to do to become the best third baseman in franchise history as Tim Wallach‘s longevity and contribution to the Expos is often overlooked by his former teammates Andre Dawson, Gary Carter and Tim Raines and Vladimir Guerrero who came after him but his franchise career numbers beat almost all of them.
I would be shocked if Zimmerman’s number 11 is not retired by the franchise and that is even if he doesn’t get another hit or home run. There will probably never be another player in the franchise who wears that number 11, and there shouldn’t be. The team can be in Washington for 100 years and no player will have the impact that Zimmerman did beyond hits and home runs and wins. He made the team Washington’s own.