Who would be on the Franchise’s Mount Rushmore?
Until 2019, the Washington Nationals were known as a cursed team, dating back to their time as the Montreal Expos. Poor management and being a small market team doomed the Expos during their time in Montreal as it kept them from being able to afford their stars. The team moved to Washington D.C. in 2005. From 2006-2011, the Nationals had consecutive losing records. Their fortune changed and from 2012-2019, the Nationals made the playoffs five times, winning four NL East titles and one World Series title.
From 1969 to now, the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos have had their fair share of talent come and go. But, who would be on the team’s Mount Rushmore?
For those unfamiliar with the term, it is based on the National Monument. Only the four most influential players in franchise history belong on the Monument. For the criteria, I choose only players, so no managers. Apologies to Frank Robinson, who managed the two teams from 2002-2006. Here is our list of the Washington Nationals Mount Rushmore.
After the 2014 season, Washington chose to splurge on the top starter on the market, Max Scherzer. D.C. handed Scherzer a seven-year contract worth $210 million. His contract includes deferrals which is a trademark tactic of the team’s front office.
At the time of the signing in 2015, it was voted the worst by MLB Execs. Boy were they wrong. In five years with the Nationals, Scherzer is 79-39, with a 2.79 ERA, a WAR of 34.5, and 1,371 strikeouts. He has also thrown two no-hitters, tied the record for most strikeouts in a single game (20), won two Cy Young’s, and helped bring a World Series title to D.C.
Mad Max was a focal point of the team’s World Series run. In five playoff starts, he went 3-0, with a 2.40 ERA, and 37 strikeouts. In-game two of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Scherzer put on a show. He had his no-hitter bid broken up in the seventh inning. He went seven innings, walking two, giving up one hit, and striking out 11.
In Detroit, Scherzer emerged as an Ace, but in D.C., he became arguably the best pitcher of the 2010s. He is no doubt heading to Cooperstown where he will be the first National enshrined.
In 2005, Ryan Zimmerman became the team’s first-ever draft pick. He quickly made his debut that year and was a fixture on the roster since. Mr. National is the Franchise’s leader in hits (1,696), total bases (2,888), doubles (377), homers (270), and RBI’s (958). Since the franchise moved to D.C., Zimmerman hit the team’s first-ever playoff homer and World Series homer. He also hit the first-ever homer at their new stadium, Nationals Park.
Zimmerman helped save the Nationals in game one of the World Series, which set the tone for what was to come. The Nats were losing 2-0 when Zimmerman came to bat in the top of the second. The Astro’s Ace, Gerrit Cole was cruising having already retired the first five batters with ease. The crowd in Houston was raucous and rightfully so. Then Zimmerman took Cole deep silencing the crowd and showing his team that Cole was beatable. Cole went on to give up five runs for the first time since May 22. As you all know, the Nationals went on to win the World Series in seven games.
Zimmerman is also known for coming through in the clutch. He is tied with Tony Perez and David Oritz for eighth place, in walk-off homers, with 11. Jim Thome holds the record with 13. If Zim can stay healthy, he might have a shot at tying or surpassing Thome.
While injuries have plagued his career, he still won two silver sluggers, a gold glove, and was named to two All-Star teams. In his 15 year career with the team, Zim has hit .279, with 270 homers, 1,015 RBI’s, and an OPS of .818. You can make the argument for others over Zimmerman on this list, but the 35-year-old is a fixture in D.C.
Vladimir Guerrero began his illustrious career in Montreal where he played for eight seasons. He was as consistent as they come and was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy era for the Franchise. In eight years with Montreal, he hit .323, with 234 homers, 702 RBI’s, and an OPS of .978. He averaged 37 homers and 20 steals while winning three of his eight Silver Sluggers. He was also named to four of his nine All-Star teams during his time in Montreal.
Despite leaving the team in 2003, he is still the franchise leader in batting average (.323), slugging percentage (.588), and OPS (.978). Being a small market team kept Montreal from re-signing the prolific slugger. Guerrero went on to win an MVP with the Angels and was eventually named to the Hall of Fame.
Gary Carter is the franchise all-time leader in WAR (55.7) and was a fixture on the team in the 70s and early 80s. He played for Montreal from 1974-1984 and returned in 1992. Over his 12 years with the team, he hit .269, with 220 homers, 823 RBI’s, and an OPS of .796. He was known for his defensive prowess, posting a dWAR of 21.6 while with the club.
During his stint with the team, Carter won three gold gloves, and three of his five silver sluggers. He was also named to seven of his 11 All-Star teams with the Expos. He left to go play for the Mets after 1984 season. Carter ended up winning a ring with the Mets in 1986 and decided to come back to end his career in Montreal in 1992. In 2003 he became enshrined in Coopertown and was the first player to have his plaque depict him as a member of the Expos.