We continue our look back at the 2008 Washington Nationals by talking about their starting first baseman, Nick Johnson
When you look back at the 2008 Washington Nationals, you will see some familiar faces on that team that didn’t get a chance to play much due to injury. Today, we resume our series of looking back at the first team to play home games at Nats Park by talking about first baseman Nick Johnson.
Johnson was the Opening day starter at first base, but only managed to play in 38 games due to tearing the tendon sheath in his right wrist. It was more bad luck for the then 29-year-old because he had to miss the entire 2007 season due to fracturing his femur late in the 2006 season.
Yes, Johnson’s time was short with the Washington Nationals that year, but he was able to get on base consistently. In those 38 games, he had an on-base percentage of .415 and his 20 walks in April were nine more than any player on the Nats (tied for eighth in the National League).
If you want to look at Johnson’s best game of that season in a small sample size, look no further than an April 18 night against the Florida Marlins. In that game, he was 2-for-3 with four RBI’s and had the game-winning bases clearing double in the top of the seventh inning.
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Back in December 2003, the then Montreal Expos acquired Johnson along with reliever Randy Choate and outfielder Juan Rivera from the New York Yankees for starter Javier Vazquez. Due to injuries, Johnson only played in 100+ games for the Expos/Nats twice.
After the 2008 season, Johnson played in 98 games for the Washington Nationals in 2009 and performed well. He hit eight home runs, drove in 62 runs, and had an on-base percentage of .408. That allowed the team to trade him to Florida at the deadline for left-hander Aaron Thompson, who never made it to the big leagues in Washington.
Of course, the Nats could make that trade when they had a power hitter in Adam Dunn who could also play first base. Dunn, who was the Opening Day left fielder, played in 67 games at first in 2009 when he hit 38 home runs and drove in 105 runs.
When you look back at Johnson’s career as a whole, there’s always a question of what if. If he had stayed healthy, he would’ve put up some great numbers, considering he had a career .OBP of .399.