In a statement released Tuesday afternoon through his agency, CAA, Ryan Zimmerman told the world that he’s hanging up his cleats. Zimmerman has announced his retirement after 16 major league seasons, all of them spent with the Washington Nationals.
The 37-year-old had a valuable, lucrative and unique career. Zimmerman was selected as the Nats’ first-ever amateur draft pick in 2005 (after the franchise moved from Montreal) and made his MLB debut later in the same season. That’s practically unheard of for position players and will be even more difficult to emulate moving forward now that draft is held annually in July instead of June.
Although Zimm’s “prime” as a player spanned from the late 2000s to early 2010s, he had an out-of-nowhere rejuvenation in 2017. At age 32, he established new career highs in home runs (36) and runs batted in (108). He was deservedly the National League’s starting first baseman at the All-Star Game, which was held at Marlins Park.
With a lifetime 116 weighted runs created plus and below-average fielding during the back half of his career, Zimmerman falls short of serious Hall of Fame consideration. If only he dominated all opponents the same way he did the Marlins. In 215 games vs. Florida/Miami, Zimmerman slashed .290/.354/.514 with 41 home runs. Nobody has hit more homers against the Fish—he’s tied with Phillies legend Ryan Howard for the No. 1 spot on the all-time list.
Remember the first long ball that Marlins pitchers allowed to Zimmerman? It was a walk-off three-run shot on July 4, 2006, served up by closer Joe Borowski.
Zimmerman’s final round-tripper as part of the rivalry also proved to be his final one as a big leaguer. On September 14, 2021, he hammered a Jesús Luzardo fastball into the second deck in right-center field.
Zimmerman’s stay atop the Marlins Killer homer leaderboard figures to be short-lived. Freddie Freeman (38) could surpass him with a typical season if he re-signs with the Braves. Former Zimm teammate Bryce Harper (34) is within striking distance, too.
With Zimmerman out of the picture, Josh Bell figures to be the everyday first baseman for the Nationals in 2022. He and Juan Soto are surrounded by an innocuous lineup, and the pitching staff isn’t any deeper. Perhaps there are a few substantial moves coming on the other side of the lockout to at least give them a puncher’s chance of competing in the NL East.
Happy trails to a mighty adversary.