The Washington Nationals, yes the Washington Nationals, have the best record in the National League (52-36) and are cruising towards a playoff berth. I think the last part of the previous sentence is something I’ll be writing for years to come. The Nats are young, have tremendous depth, and most importantly have talented players. They’ve overcome injuries all season long and been consistently good due to the aforementioned depth. Their pitching carried them early in the year and now the hitting is starting to catch up. One big reason for that is the re-emergence of star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. After nagging injuries caused the worst start of his career, Zimmerman is hitting .362 in July and the Nats are averaging 4.8 runs per game this month with an 8-4 record.
Ryan Zimmerman joined 106.7 the Fan in Washington D.C. on the Mike Wise Show to talk about how his shoulder feels, how much fun he is having this season, if he feels like the old man on the team, whether he will try to persuade management to take Stephen Strasburg off his innings limit and pitch in the stretch run, and if he thinks the team needs to make a trade prior to the deadline.
On how his shoulder feels and whether he would be willing to take shots to keep playing this year:
“It’s one of those things where where it’s at in my shoulder it’s not a ligament or a tendon, it’s right in the joint and there’s just some sort of chips or something in there which pretty much every single person in a big league clubhouse has. I just dove one time and probably jarred one loose. So the Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory so it takes some of the inflammation down which helps with some of the pressure and obviously it kills some of the pain. Hopefully I won’t have to do it for the rest of the year. If it’s something we need to clean up in the offseason, it’s three to five weeks which in the offseason is nothing but when we’re in first place and I haven’t had a winning season in seven years, three to five weeks is like three to five years for me to be off the field.”
How much fun he is having this season:
“Yeah it’s been fun. I think obviously the first few years you’re in the big leagues and you’re so excited to be here that nobody wants to lose, losing is never fun whether you’re in the big leagues or little league, but as the season started to shape up and as June came and now we’re into July and we’re in first place, in the past four or five years this is when we’re talking about who we’re going to trade away and what we’re going to do so it’s exciting to be a part of and it’s fun to play meaningful games every single night into the better part of July and August coming up. It’s going to be a really fun last two months of the season.”
If he feels like the old man on the team:
“Yeah and I feel a lot of people think I’m a lot older than I am. Reporters or people will come up to me and talk to me and be like ‘man you have been here forever, how old are you?’ I tell them that I’m 27 and they’re like ‘man I thought you were 30 something.’ I don’t know if that’s a compliment or if I should take it as a rude comment. It’s funny because I was lucky enough and this organization gave me an opportunity at a young age to come up and get some experience up here and really just kind of threw me into the fire and without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. I’ve learned a lot that way, there have been some tough lessons that way but if I had to go back I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
Whether he will try to persuade the organization to give Stephen Strasburg an opportunity to pitch in the playoffs:
“It’s one of those decisions where I’m glad I don’t have to be the guy that makes the decision because I know Stephen wants to pitch but there’s a lot of information that they have that shows the year after, I mean look how good Zimm (Jordan Zimmerman) is doing this year after they did the same thing with him last year, so the truth is I think we’re going to be good here for a long time and obviously Stephen is going to be a huge part of that. They’re thinking about the future. When you’re in the playoff hunt and have a chance to go to the playoffs, and we’ve kind of put ourselves in a position to go to the playoffs, it’s tough to take your horse, number one pitcher out of there but I think it’s a little easier to do that when you have the pitchers that we have. It still doesn’t take the place of Stephen, I don’t think anyone could, but it’s one of those things where I think it’s best for the future. It’s a tough decision and I think if you asked any one of us we would all want him to pitch all through September and hopefully into the playoffs but I think it’s the right thing to do when you think about the future.”
If he thinks the team needs to make a trade prior to the deadline:
“I think we are definitely a confident team. I think our offense has been kind of banged up, we have had people in and out of the lineup all year and whenever you have that it’s hard to be consistent. Jayson (Werth) has been out for a while now, I was out for a little bit, (Michael) Morse missed the first half and then all of the sudden when everyone was in the lineup except for Jayson, we started scoring five or six runs per game. When you have guys hitting in places that they’re not used to hitting or having to do things that really they don’t do as players it puts extra pressure on them and takes them out of their comfort zone. When everyone is healthy I think our offense is perfectly fine. As far as the trade deadline, I think any time you’re a team that has a chance to make a playoff push, if something presents itself that is going to make the team better without giving up something that’s going to cripple your farm system or cripple your team in the future, I think it makes sense to do that. There’s a lot of thing you have to weigh but I think as a team we’re very confident and we think we can finish things. I think the experience is very overrated. Obviously games in September that are meaningful not a lot of us have played in but I’ve played baseball for a long time and games in April are played the same exact way as games in September. That’s the way I’ve always been taught to play. A game is a game. With teams calling up Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and the bevy of young kids that have been I guess push to the big leagues the last two or three years, I think it has changed the way the game has been played and I think that shows you how much experience matters up here. The best players and the best talent and that is usually what wins.”