Ryan Zimmerman will take the field Friday for the 1,000th time in his career, every one of those games in a Nationals jersey. In his typical manner, he brushed off the significance of the milestone but there’s no doubting his achievement. It’s a big, fat round number for, by far, the longest-serving player in Nationals history, a budding franchise writing a new history.
“It’s what you’re supposed to do: play games,” he said on Thursday with a shrug. “I’m sure thousands of people have played 1,000 games in the big leagues. It’s just one of those things that means you’ve been playing for a good amount of time and been doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s not something not to be proud of, but I don’t think it’s something to make a big deal of, I guess. It’s nice to play that many games and to play them all in one place is cool.”
And with the six-year, $100-million contract extension he signed before the 2012 season which keeps him in Washington until at least 2019, Zimmerman will perhaps spend the rest of his career here, a rarity in professional sports. When the Nationals were at their worst, Zimmerman was at his best. He was the team’s best player through the lean, losing years and the franchise’s most marketable face, and an all-star and Gold Glove third baseman in 2009. His career, development as a player and life are intertwined with Washington and its baseball team. Since 2006, according to FanGraphs.com, he has posted the 13th best WAR (30.9) in baseball.
Zimmerman is only 28 and it’s often easy to forget that given he has been in the Nationals system since he was drafted in 2005, debuted at 20 the same season and was the everyday third baseman the following season. Despite injuries that have slowed him over the past few years — he has averaged 130 games over the past five seasons — he will hit the 1,000-game milestone in his eighth full major league season. Adam LaRoche, 33, for example, sits at 1,193 career games with five different teams and Jayson Werth, 33, whose late-blooming career was slowed by injuries, too, hit the 1,000-game mark last season.
Because Zimmerman has spent his entire career in Washington and started playing at an early age, he is far ahead of the rest of the players in the team’s records books. Cristian Guzman sits at second (550 games) for most games played as a National, according to the team. And for trivia’s sake: behind him? Ian Desmond (468 games), Nick Johnson (414), Willie Harris (409) and Austin Kearns (390).
If Zimmerman hits 2,000 games played, he would consider that far more impressive and worth celebrating. “Once you get up there, it’s a little bit more,” he said, with a laugh. “It’s cool [to get to 1,000], but at least to me, it’s nothing.”