Little did I know, John Lannan was a two-time opening day starter for the Washington Nationals during a couple of the team’s rough years.
John Lannan was the definition of a crafty lefty. He gained a lot of fans for not pitching around Barry Bonds in 2007, when Bonds was going after the all-time home run record. While Bonds would claim the record later in the series against the Nationals, it wouldn’t come at the hands of Lannan.
Lannan debuted for the Nationals in 2007 and quickly became one of the most reliable starters on a team which consistently finished in the bottom or near the bottom, in the National League East Division.
He was a hard nosed, underdog-type, who came out of the 11th round in the 2005 draft, and worked his way to the Big Show in just two years. The year he broke into the majors, he had a combined record of 12-3, with a 2.31 ERA, at three levels in the minor league system.
After the initial grit Lannan showed in his rookie campaign, he was a fixture in the Nationals starting rotation. For the next four years he pitched his heart out for the team, twice leading the team in games started and wins.
Then in his sixth year he was left off the team. The offseason additions of Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez made for a crowded rotation. Even though he was the longest tenured member of the starting pitching staff, he was left without a job. Jettisoned to the minor leagues, the highest paid player to be demoted, after five years of big league service.
Lannan would ask to be traded, not obliged, and toil at Triple-A Syracuse for 24 starts, before reappearing in the majors. He would win four games for the Nationals in 2012 and be a part of the first Nats team to make the playoffs, but the relationship had soured by then.
He would be released in the offseason, and later signed with Philadelphia.
Where does the trivia part come in?
I was on sporcle the other day, the online trivia site, and entered a quiz on naming the “Washington Nationals Opening Day Starters“. Now, the quiz begins with the 1969 season and we all know the Montreal Expos are not the Washington Nationals. However, aside from the early 70s when the Expos had a different starter each year, I knew I’d do okay.
The Nationals pitchers fell in line really easy as well. That is, all except for 2009 and 2010. I could not think who drew opening day privileges those two years. Knowing John Lannan was a big part of those teams, I had forgotten they rewarded him with two opening day starts.
After spending some time in other organizations, Lannan signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in 2017, reinventing himself as a side armed specialist. While he didn’t make a return visit to the major leagues, he’ll always have a special place in the hearts of Nationals fans.
I just need to remember he was an opening day starter as well.