Ryan Zimmerman announces retirement after 17-year career with Nationals

The face of the Washington Nationals franchise is hanging up his cleats.

Ryan Zimmerman, who has been with the Nationals since the franchise’s first season in Washington in 2005, announced his retirement Tuesday. 

After 17 years spent entirely with the Nationals, the two-time All-Star made the announcement via his agency, CAA Sports, on Twitter. 

From being the team’s first-ever draft selection after the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington to helping lead the team to a World Series title in 2019, Zimmerman was a stalwart for the Nationals organization — both as a leader and in the lineup. 

“When we first met, I was a 20-year-old kid fresh out of the University of Virginia — the very first player ever selected by the newly created Washington Nationals in the 2005 draft. I had no idea how unbelievable the next 17 years of my life were going to be,” Zimmerman wrote in a letter addressed to D.C. fans. 

“We have won together, lost together and, honestly, grown up together. We lost 100 games (twice), we won 90 games (four times), we moved into a new stadium, we failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs (four grueling times) and, of course, we experienced the magical World Series run of 2019 that no one will ever forget. Through all of the achievements and the failures you always supported me, and for that I will forever be grateful.”

Zimmerman ends his career with 1,846 hits, 284 home runs and 1,061 RBIs. 

“For 17 seasons, Ryan Zimmerman epitomized what it meant to be the face of the franchise,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “Ryan always carried himself with class, honor and respect and played the game for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.”

“It was truly an honor to manage and share a clubhouse with Ryan Zimmerman,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said in a statement. “He was a fierce competitor but also a calming presence when we needed it most.”

After being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft, it didn’t take long for Zimmerman to make it to the bigs. With just 67 games of minor-league experience, the 20-year-old was called up and made his debut on Sept. 1. In 20 games that September, Zimmerman quickly lived up to the hype, hitting .397 and smacking 10 doubles.

For the next eight years, the third baseman was one of the most consistent and dependable players in baseball, posting six 20-plus home run seasons and five 80-plus RBI campaigns. 

In 2006, he finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Two years later, he opened Nationals Park with a bang, smashing a walk-off home run in the first game at the new stadium in 2008. 

Zimmerman then emerged as one of the game’s best third basemen in 2009 and 2010, earning MVP votes and winning the Silver Slugger Award in both seasons. He smacked 33 long balls with 106 RBIs in 2009 and followed that up by hitting a career-best .307 in 2010.

Despite his early career success, the new team was still struggling. From 2005 to 2011, the Nationals had two 100-loss seasons and didn’t have a single winning season. But that changed in 2012 when the team finished atop the NL East and made the playoffs for the first time as the Nationals, starting an eight-year stretch in which they made the postseason five times. Zimmerman once again earned MVP votes that year after hitting .282 with 25 slams. 

The next four years, though, were a downturn for Zimmerman’s career. After a solid 2013, he dealt with multiple injuries over the next few seasons, only playing 156 combined games in 2014 and 2015. Things didn’t get better in 2016, as Zimmerman slumped his way to the worst season of his career with a .218 batting average. 

However, Zimmerman had a renaissance in 2017 at 32 years old. He made his second All-Star Game, hit .303 and posted career-bests in home runs (36) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.930).

Then, in 2019, Zimmerman and the rest of the Nationals reached the pinnacle of the sport. His biggest hit of that postseason came in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. The Nationals were up against the wall in a win-or-go-home game, and Zimmerman came through with a three-run homer in the fifth inning en route to a 6-1 triumph. He also smacked a solo home run in Game 1 of the World Series, a 5-4 Nationals victory over the Astros. 

“There’s not a team that I would’ve wanted to do this with more than these guys,” Zimmerman said during his World Series parade speech. “We’re 2019 World Series champs, and nobody can ever take that away from us.”

His last appearance at Nationals Park will be remembered by the standing ovation fans gave him during the team’s season finale last year. Martinez pulled Zimmerman out of the game before the eighth inning, providing Nationals faithful the opportunity to give Mr. National 17 years worth of appreciation.

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