In a recent sit-down with MLB.com, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman answered questions on a wide range of topics, from his oblique injury to his future with the Nationals.
MLB.com: How weird has this season been for you and the Nationals?
Zimmerman: Every season is different. We had some injuries. We haven't been able to get going. That's the great thing about baseball: every season is completely different. But we are going to keep fighting until the end and see what happens.
MLB.com: How shocking was it that you missed so many games because of the oblique injury?
Zimmerman: It took a lot longer to get back. That's part of it. With those things, you can't rush back. If you rush back, you are just going to be out within a week after you come back playing. We had to make sure we had it right. Unfortunately, it took a little bit longer than we thought. But I'm happy about the way I've played since I've been back.
MLB.com: As you were recovering from the oblique injury, I texted you and asked you about a calf injury that you allegedly suffered. You denied that you had such an injury. How did that story come out? I was not the only one that approached you about the calf injury.
Zimmerman: That's a good question. Who knows how it got out there. It's in the past. I don't have to worry about it. I'd rather not talk about it.
MLB.com: Does it seem hard to believe that the Nationals are not going to the postseason?
Zimmerman: There is still some time left. We are going to play the season out. Until then ... it's not over until it's over. We are going to come out every day and try to win the game and see what happens. That goes to show you how far we have come as an organization. If we don't make the postseason, it's a disappointing year. I'm pretty proud being part of an organization that has those expectations every year.
MLB.com: Were you shocked that the Nationals traded away players like Daniel Murphy?
Zimmerman: I've never been in [management's] position. The Lerner family, [general manager] Mike Rizzo and all of those guys have done an excellent job with giving us a competitive team every year. Unfortunately, no one put them in that situation [this year] but us. If we would have played better, we would not have been in that situation.
So they have to make decisions for this year and obviously for next year as well. It's hard for me to sit here and judge what they do, because I've never been at that position. The simple answer is, we should have played better. We put them in that position. People always try to blame other people. At the end of the day, we are the ones that go out and play. If we played better, then we have a chance.
MLB.com: You've had several managers over the years. What do you think of Dave Martinez?
Zimmerman: I think Dave has been great. He is a first-time manager. … I'm sure he would tell you he would do some things differently. But as far as handling people in the clubhouse, he has a positive, upbeat attitude every day. I appreciate his honesty. He is going to tell you good things, bad things. His communication is really good. The results haven't been good, but the results come from [the players]. He has done a really good job staying positive. He hasn't changed. He came into Spring Training and told us he would be this way. Stuff kind of hit the fan a little bit, but I respect him because he stayed the same. He comes in every day and wants to win. I think he did a really good job.
MLB.com: Is it time to rebuild?
Zimmerman: There is no rebuild here. I don't understand it. If you look at our team, the third baseman [Anthony Rendon] is really good. He is back. The shortstop [Trea Turner] is really good. He is back for a long time. I have another year with an option. … We have a pretty good 19-year-old kid [Juan Soto] that came up this year and he could be around for a while. We have another 21-year-old kid [Victor Robles] who was called up in September that is OK. We have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. We have a closer [Sean Doolittle] with an ERA under 2.00. If we are going to rebuild, that's a pretty good start.
MLB.com: How impressive is Soto?
Zimmerman: Everybody talks about his strike zone, but it's the way he makes adjustments, the way he handles situations, the way he has worked defensively ever since he has been in the Major Leagues. It has been fun to watch. He has a chance to be really good -- his work ethic and the way he goes about it. It's fun to watch.
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MLB.com: Soto is 19 years old.
Zimmerman: Everybody gets caught up in the age. It is impressive. I don't want to downplay it. Baseball is baseball, whether you are playing in High A or Double-A or the Major Leagues. If you are mentally mature [enough] to handle it, your physical tools will take over. I think his mental maturity is off the charts.
MLB.com: As far as your contract status goes, you have a year plus an option left with the Nationals. How much do you have in the tank?
Zimmerman: My body feels great. Last year, I finally stayed healthy and I showed what I can do. This year was frustrating after missing all that time. Since I've been back, I've been a very productive player. So I think the goal is to try to be on the field as much as I can next year.
A lot of it is being smarter, too. I talked about it with the guys, the training staff and Davey. I take a lot of pride in defense and try and dive all over the place. It might be time to stop doing that stuff. It's easier said than done. But the key for me would be to stay on the field and be able to play my 140, 150 games. I think if I can do that, offensively, I can put up numbers to help this team win.
MLB.com: Beside diving, what are the other things you have to watch out for?
Zimmerman: At the end of the day, you still have to play baseball, so you can't completely cut it out. It's about being a little bit smarter. It's hard for me to do because I was always taught to play the game one way, and I think there is only one way to play the game. If it means playing another couple of years and being able to be productive and helping the team win, that's more important. It took me 13 years to learn it.
But at the end of the day, I have two, three, four years left. I'm not ready to go home. I feel I've worked hard enough and my body is in good enough shape where I can still be productive and help the team win.
MLB.com: Will all that be in an Nationals uniform?
Zimmerman: It would be weird to play anywhere else. Myself, [agent Brodie Van Wagenen], the Lerner family, Mike and all of them -- we've had great dialogue the entire time, so if there is a way for me to be here, I'll be here. Obviously, I realize I'm not going to be worth $20 million a year or things like that. At some point, if you want to be here, you have to make some sacrifices. I'm not going sit here and say I'm willing to play for the league minimum, but for me to play here would be the ultimate goal, to finish my career here.
MLB.com: Not only do you have your own career, you have your mother and your own family. How much will that play in you staying here?
Zimmerman: I'm been very lucky to be in the situation I've been in. I grew up in Virginia Beach, went to school at the University of Virginia and played in D.C. for the better part of 14 years, with my parents being four hours away. It's been a very special place growing up here. I came to D.C. as a 20-year-old. Now I'm married and have two little girls. Like you said: I have my own family. This community in D.C. has been special to me. It would be really weird to play anywhere else.
MLB.com: I can't see Ryan Zimmerman playing anywhere else.
Zimmerman: I don't envision myself chasing anything anywhere else, either. I'll continue to work my butt off, be in shape every year to play and help this team win. When it comes time I can't do it anymore, then it's time to go home.