Nationals: A Look Back At Gio Gonzalez’s Time In D.C.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 09: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on August 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 09: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on August 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Another former National’s cornerstone has ridden off into the sunset.

From 2006-2010 Washington was by far one of the worst teams in the league, losing an average of 95.6 games per season. Then in 2011, the tide slowly started to change for the bottom dwellers, with Washington finishing the season 80-81. With the team’s young core finally starting to blossom, Mike Rizzo decided to pull the trigger on a trade that would help turn Washington into perennial contenders. He landed a 26-year-old lefty by the name of Gio Gonzalez.

At the time of the trade, Nationals fans had no idea what winning felt like. Washington had missed the playoffs every year since arriving in D.C., never finishing higher than third in the N.L. East. Outside of Stephen Strasburg who was recovering from Tommy John surgery, Washington had lacked a truly dominant starting pitcher. John Patterson had his moments, but injuries ruined his promising career. Occasionally Livan Hernandez put on a show, but he was inconsistent during his tenure in the Nations Capital.

At the time of his arrival during the 2011 off-season, he was coming off of his first All-Star campaign, which saw him go 16-12, with a 3.12 ERA, 197 strikeouts, and a 3.64 FIP. Despite his success with Oakland, Gio exceeded all expectations during his first year in D.C. The lefty was instrumental in Washington winning their first-ever division title, finishing third in NL Cy Young voting, and winning the Warren Spahn Award. Gio ended the season 21-8, with a 2.89 ERA, 207 strikeouts, and a 2.82 FIP, setting career highs in wins, ERA, strikeouts, FIP, and bWAR.

While Washington came up short in the playoffs, Gio helped put Washington on the map and showed to the baseball world that they had arrived. Over his seven years with the Nationals, Washington won an average of 91 games and four division titles. With Washington, he went 86-65, with a 3.62 ERA, 1,215 strikeouts, and a 3.45 FIP.

Gio’s infectious energy instantly made him a favorite in the clubhouse and amongst the fans. The South Florida native gave it his all on the field and wore his heart on his sleeve. However, inconsistencies were the story of his career. When he was on, he could locate his curve with ease and strikeouts would come by the bunches. But when he was off, it would tend to get ugly. Sadly, Nationals fans may remember him more for his postseason futility. In six NLDS starts with Washington, Gio was unable to record a win, finishing with a 4.78 ERA.

During the 2018 season, Washington had started to free fall out of playoff contention, and the front office decided to cut payroll. Gio was shipped out to Milwaukee in the midst of a small firesale, that also saw Brandon Kintzler and Daniel Murphy traded away. At the time of the trade, the Brewers were already in D.C. for a three-game series, so the lefty walked across the diamond to join his new team. In his introductory press conference with the Brew Crew, Gio gave a heartfelt goodbye that will never be forgotten.  “It was emotional,” he said. “It definitely is. … I grew up here. I had my family here. My wife. My kids. Just sad to see it end.”

He arrived in Milwaukee with his 4.57 ERA, but finished strong with the Brewers. In five starts down the stretch, he went 3-0, with a 2.13 ERA. Gio re-signed with the Brewers on a one-year deal for the 2019 season, before signing with the Chicago White Sox for the 2020 season. Chicago was the team that drafted him, bringing him full circle. Gio struggled to the tune of a 4.83 ERA and was looking for a new home after the season ended. Then the 35-year-old signed a minor league deal with his hometown Marlins. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

On Wednesday, the veteran decided to hang up his cleats and announced his retirement on Instagram. “I gave it one last fight, unfortunately, my body wasn’t keeping up with my mind…” Gio said as part of his farewell. The lefty will always be remembered for helping put Washington on the map and for that, thank you.