Between 1:30 and 2:00 pm EST this afternoon the Washington Nationals' new $126M dollar man Ryan Zimmerman appeared on three different radio shows, making the rounds to talk about his new 6-year/$100M dollar extension with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Mike Wise and Holden Kushner, ESPN980's The Sports Fix's Kevin Sheehan and MLB Network Radio's Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette. The 27-year-old Face of the Nats Franchise signed the second extension of his career on Sunday, agreeing to a deal that will keep him in the nation's capital through 2019 with an option for the 2020 campaign. As he explained this afternoon, the All-Star and Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award-winning third baseman thinks the Nationals can compete this season, and having been a part of the build-up since he was selected with the team's first 1st Round pick in 2005, the veteran of seven MLB seasons wanted to be sure he was here when the franchise makes its first playoff appearance since 1981 (when they were the Expos) and the first by a D.C.-based team since the Washington Senators lost in the World Series in 1933.
Is this the year for the first postseason appearance since baseball returned to the nation's capital in 2005? "We have a chance, if we stay healthy and continue to get better, to play some meaningful games in September and try and get into the playoffs this year," Zimmerman told 106.7 the FAN's Mike Wise and Holden Kushner, "And then obviously, from here on out, for the next five, ten, fifteen years, this is going to be a premier spot to play in the big leagues." Pressed for an answer about whether or not the Nationals are a playoff caliber team this year, the Nats' three-hole hitter said, "This is something that... You're trying to make me do something I don't like to do, sit down here before April and says what's going to happen in September. I wish I could tell you. I think that what I can say is that if we're not playing meaningful games in September and we don't have a chance to win in September and make the playoffs I think everyone down here would be thoroughly disappointed."
"I wouldn't have signed here, or I wouldn't have signed anywhere as a free agent," Zimmerman told 106.7 the FAN's hosts, "if I didn't think we had a realistic chance of winning a World Series at some point during my contract, and I really, really do think that we have a chance to do that. I'm not saying this year. I'm not saying next year. I'm not going to say whatever year, but I think with the way that this organization's going, with the talented young players we have here, the core group of guys, I think at some point we have a really, really good chance to do that and that's everyone's ultimate goal is to obviously win the World Series."
Asked about being the Face of the Nationals Franchise and if he was comfortable with that role, Zimmerman told MLB Network Radio's Power Alley hosts Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette that he's been very lucky with the situation he's found himself in thus far in his career. "I think most people, obviously, just like I would have been, I would have been ecstatic to play anywhere in the big leagues and to get drafted and to even have the opportunity to have a career in baseball and [be given] that opportunity. But for me to drafted by the team that was right in my back yard," Zimmerman explained, "I grew up in Virginia Beach, [went] to college at the University of Virginia and then to have a chance to play in Washington, D.C., you couldn't really ask for anything to work out too much better for me."
Zimmerman went on to say that he's comfortable being labeled the so-called FOF and feels fortunate to have had things line up like they did (with the Montreal Expos relocating to D.C., becoming the Nats and taking him with him their first pick) so that he could play so close to home and become such a big part of the Nationals' organization, but he's also been around long enough, he told the MLB Network Radio hosts that now, "We're fortunate enough, and I'm fortunate enough now that we have three or four faces of the franchise here," and Zimmerman, at a relatively young age, has become the veteran presence on a young talented team. "It's hard to believe that this is going to be my seventh year," the Nats' third baseman said, "I think a lot of people find it hard to believe that I'm only 27 still, and I find it hard to believe sometimes that I'm only 27 still."
After seven years (six-plus seasons) in D.C., the Nats finally have a team they think can compete in a strong NL East division. Asked about the Nationals' offseason moves, the incumbent third baseman said Washington's front office did a good job of giving them what they need to take on the Mets, Marlins, Braves and Phillies. "Mike Rizzo did a good job of making a trade and getting Gio [Gonzalez] over here and obviously [Stephen Strasburg] being healthy and [Jordan Zimmermann] being able to throw the whole year and our bullpen was probably our strength of our team last year and that only got better with a couple signings, Brad Lidge and some veteran guys like him and Chad Durbin coming over and we have a lot of pitching depth here which is what you need to win in this game."
In his final stop of the afternoon on ESPN980's The Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan, (ed. note - "Mr. Sheehan's usual co-host Thom Loverro is in Florida at Spring Training and apparently he's invading Jayson Werth's personal space."), the Nationals' hot corner infielder reiterated that he wanted to get the extension done and get started playing baseball, "... and be part of an organization that's really going to have a chance to do some damage here." Asked again how close they were to a postseason appearance, Zimmerman said it wouldn't surprise him at all if this is the year the Nats make a run. "I don't think it would shock me at all," the third baseman said, "I think everyone down here expects that this year."
"We're still a young, a fairly young team that has to learn, obviously, how to win those games that will get you in the playoffs," Zimmerman said, "But we're a very confident team. I think our pitching rotation can match up with anyone. Our bullpen has been the best part of our team the last couple of years and that only got better this offseason and then, like I said, with [Adam] LaRoche being healthy and myself being healthy and Michael Morse coming off his monster year and now Jayson Werth having a year and not having to bounce around and hit leadoff and second and fifth and do all that stuff because me and LaRoche were hurt. I think you're going to see an unbelievable year out of Jayson, so things are kind of starting to come together here and we think if we're not in the thick of things in September that would be a disappointment for us."
It's only April, as Zimmerman pointed out, but with the Face of the Franchise locked up long-term, Stephen Strasburg healthy, Bryce Harper on the way up and the playoffs being discussed seriously for the first time since baseball returned to the nation's capital in 2005, everyone who's followed the Nationals is going to be disappointed if the team isn't playing meaningful games come the end of September.