With his home run on Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, Ryan Zimmerman solidified his place as the Washington Nationals’ franchise home run king. The career-National passed Vladimir Guerrero as the top home run hitter in club history, knocking his 235th blast and 20th of the year. This includes not just the franchises tenure in Washington, D.C., as it also includes their time spent as the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 2004.
Zimmerman had a stellar first-half this year, making his second All-Star team, and still batting well over .300. He was hitting .435 on May 7, and still batting .365 on June 15, making an early-case for MVP. Since then, he has struggled to barely hit over .200, and his record-breaking homer is his first since he hit two blasts on June 13.
Since making his debut during the Nationals’ inaugural season in D.C. in 2005, he served the face of the franchise before the arrivals of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. When Washington was in its darkest times, losing 90 or more games four times from 2006-2010, Zimmerman was their lone bright spot. An All-Star in 2009, he has won two Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, and has received MVP votes in three separate seasons.
While the Expos/’Nats have never been to, or even won a World Series, they still have a history of great players, and even a few Hall of Famers. Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines are all in Cooperstown as Expos, and Vladimir Guerrero should join them next year, hopefully sporting an Expos cap as well. That’s four Hall of Fame position players who now rank below Zimmerman on the franchise homer leaderboard. Raines was never a home run hitter, so his 96 homers only ranks 15th for the team. Carter and Dawson rank fourth and third, respectfully, with 220 and 225 long balls.
Now that he is the franchise home run leader, does Zimmerman have a case for making the fictional Mount Rushmore of the Expos/Nationals? If we limit the selections to only Nationals, he would probably serve as the George Washington of the monument, ranking above Harper, Strasburg and players like Anthony Rendon or Jordan Zimmermann. Now, combining Montreal and D.C. makes his case a little trickier. His 35.8WAR ranks sixth all-time in franchise history, just 1.0 win above Vlad Guerrero. Carter, Raines and Dawson are the top three, and easily make the mountain. By WAR, fourth and fifth on the list are Steve Rogers and Tim Wallach, who I would put behind both Zim and Vlad. I would probably choose Guerrero over Zim for the last spot, but a few more years of production from Zimmerman could make his case impossible to ignore.
Many Nationals fans do not consider the Expos apart of the Nationals’ franchise history, either believing the team began play in 2005 with a fresh start, or believing that the previous incarnations of Washington, D.C. baseball should be combined with the history of the new Nationals. Hall of Famers Joe Cronin, Goose Goslin, Walter Johnson and Sam Rice would make a case for a D.C. baseball Mount Rushmore, as wood non-Hall of Fame greats like Frank Howard and Joe Judge.
Zimmerman will one day have his number retired by the ‘Nats, but until that happens, let’s appreciate how important he has been for this franchise, as he is now their greatest home run hitter in history.
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