Nationals: Mr National Returns In What Is Likely His Last Hurrah

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals celebrates a run against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals celebrates a run against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Ryan Zimmerman returns for what might be one last run.

When the Washington Nationals played their first season in 2005, I was nine years old. Before they moved to D.C., I rarely watched the MLB, unless the World Series was on, so when D.C. finally got a team, I was ecstatic. Fast forward to the end of the season and Washington’s first-ever draft pick, Ryan Zimmerman made his debut. Washington had drafted him number four overall in March and a few months later he was finally called up. This seldom happens in the MLB, but Washington decided Zimmerman was ready immediately and sent him to the show. He went on to appear in 20 games, hitting .397, with six RBIs, and an OPS of .988. Washington collapsed in the second half, finishing the year 81-81 and missing the playoffs. But I didn’t care. Instead, I was enthralled with this 20-year-old third baseman who had quickly made an impact.

During the 2006 season, Washington only had two players worth watching, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman. At the start of the season, Zimmerman took over as the starting third baseman and proved his 2005 callup was no fluke. In 157 games, he hit .287, with 20 homers, 110 RBIs, and an OPS of .822. Most Nationals fans will remember the 2006 season for Soriano becoming the fourth player to join the 40-40 club. Instead, I remember it as the season the legend of Mr. National was born.

On Fathers Day of 2006, the New York Yankees were in town and my eyes were glued to the TV. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, New York was up 2-1 and Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound. He started the game and was on a roll, so he came back out to finish what he started. With one on thanks to a Marlon Anderson pinch-hit single, the stage was set for Zimmerman. All it took was one pitch for him to launch his first career walk-off homer and show just how clutch he could truly be. Zimmerman has gone on to hit 11 career walk-off homers, which has him tied for third all-time and only two behind Jim Thome.

Now the franchise leader in hits, total bases, doubles, homers, and RBIs, Zimmerman has had a stellar career in the Nations’ capital. In 15 years with the team, he is hitting .279, with 270 homers, 1015 RBIs, and an OPS of .818. As the years passed, Zimmerman set multiple milestones, all but cementing himself as the face of the franchise. It should come as no surprise that he hit the first playoff homer in Nationals history and the first World Series homer in franchise history.

After helping the team win the World Series in 2019, Zimmerman opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID. At this point, no one knew if Zimmerman would ever play again. After mulling retirement, it was reported today that the legend himself re-signed with the team on a one year deal. No longer the player he once was, it is reassuring to know that Zimmerman is still on the roster. His presence in the locker room cannot be understated. Thanks to the Josh Bell trade, Zimmerman will mostly be coming off the bench. Number 11’s return has helped strengthen the bench and will be pivotal in pinch-hitting in crucial spots. He will also be leaned on to help face lefties. Over the last three seasons against lefties, he has a slash line of .351/.418/.637. Likely his last season before hanging them up, it is time to send the legend off in style.

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