First baseman Ryan Zimmerman is proud of the Nationals' accomplishments, despite losing the National League Division Series in four of the past six years.Zimmerman's perspective carries weight, considering he's been a mainstay on the team, which has become a perennial postseason contender after averaging more than 90 losses during his
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman is proud of the Nationals' accomplishments, despite losing the National League Division Series in four of the past six years.
Zimmerman's perspective carries weight, considering he's been a mainstay on the team, which has become a perennial postseason contender after averaging more than 90 losses during his first five seasons in the big leagues.
"The easiest answer is, it's really hard to win the World Series," Zimmerman said in the podcast, Newsmakers. "I don't think [the lack of a World Series title is] because of lack of effort from the players' standpoint. It's certainly not lack of effort from ownership and the front office. They do a good job of putting a great team on the field every year. That shows in the division titles we have won and the amount of games we've won over the past five or six years. But we have to continue to build on it and learn from our mistakes."
After their heartbreaking loss to the Cubs in the NLDS last October, the Nationals parted ways with Dusty Baker and replaced him with Dave Martinez, their sixth manager since 2011.
Zimmerman loved playing for Baker, but he is happy to see Martinez get his first chance to manage in the big leagues.
"Everybody respected Dusty," Zimmerman said. "He has done so much for the game. He has done so much for us -- for the guys on the team and for the organization. A lot of us were shocked. You win 95 and 97 games and win the division twice, you don't expect managers to be fired.
"If [a change] had to happen, I'm glad they went with a fresh face and mixed it up a little bit. I talked to a lot of guys, and they are excited to see where this goes. I talked to Davey. Obviously, he has been with [Cubs manager] Joe [Maddon] for a long time. He seems to be a family-oriented kind of guy who will let us be professionals."
Zimmerman hopes to put up great numbers for Martinez the way he did for Baker. Coming off his best season since 2009, Zimmerman hit .303 with 36 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .358 on-base percentage in '17. Staying healthy was key to his resurgence. In the previous three years alone, Zimmerman dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, strained rib cage injuries, a left wrist contusion and a right hamstring strain.
"Being healthy, being able to play, there is no bigger reason than that," Zimmerman said. "You can't really put up numbers if you are not on the field. The last 2 1/2 years, I had a big problem staying on the field. Health is the main reason. As your career goes on, you learn to adapt and adjust. Being part of a great team always helps."
Zimmerman is now in his fourth season at first base, and he is getting more comfortable at the position. After switching from third base, he acknowledged he was lost at first base in 2015. The learning curve was pretty high, and he was replacing a Gold Glover in David LaRoche.
"The second year, it got a little better," Zimmerman said. "And I think each year, you learn the position more, you learn where you can take chances and where you don't take chances. You learn how to be an efficient defensive player at that position. I've always taken a lot of pride in defense.
"Being on the other side of third base, I know how nice it is to have an above-average first baseman. That's sort of my goal -- to make those guys feel confident in me to let them try and make plays or do certain things they might not do. It makes me work even harder to be that guy over there they can trust."
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @ladsonbill24.