Several times towards the end of the 2021 regular season, and again after he played the 1,799th game of his major league career in Game 162, Ryan Zimmerman, 37 years old, and a veteran of 16 MLB seasons, told reporters any decision on if there would be a 17th would come over the winter, when it was time to ramp back up again and start the process of preparing for Spring Training and another 162-game grind.
“It’s going to depend on how I feel after the season, depend on how I feel — December 1st honestly,” Zimmerman explained late this past season.
“If I want to start working out — and getting ready to prepare to be productive for another major league season. I think that’s the hardest part is the offseason preparation and making sure for the two months, two and a half months, before you go to camp that you’re doing something four or five days a week.”
In the end, that is what it did come down to, when Zimmerman announced his plan to retire earlier this month, as he explained in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday.
“‘It was more, ‘Am I willing to continue to sacrifice basically all the time and effort it takes to stay healthy?’ I think is the biggest thing,” the 2005 1st Round pick told the Junkies.
“Putting the hours in — in the training room, seeing the physical therapy people I see, not even at the field, at my house, or the guys that I travel on the road. Do I want to do all that stuff? Because once you stop doing that is when your production starts to dip. And ... I played well last year and I want people to remember me playing well. Not like the old guy that can barely run anymore and everyone’s saying it’s time for you to quit. So it was a fine line, and I’ve always said, once I have any doubt with the work ethic and the time it takes to prepare, that’s when I would seriously consider stepping away.”
Zimmerman put up a combined .277./341/.475 line, 417 doubles, and 284 home runs in his 1,799 games and 7,402 plate appearances in the majors, all for the Nationals.
In a different role as a bench bat and backup first baseman in 2021, the veteran put up a .243/.286/.471 line with 16 doubles and 14 home runs in 110 games.
When the Nationals’ disappointing season was over, Zimmerman took the time he needed to make the final decision that he was done.
“I wanted to make sure a million percent that this is what I wanted to do, because once you do it, there’s no going back,” he told the Junkies.
“I was leaning that way for a lot of the offseason. I just wanted to wait and make sure, and at the end of the day I think I made the right decision.”
That doesn’t mean it was an easy one.
“Any — I think any time you do something for so long, there’s never going to be a right time to step away — or I don’t want to say a ‘right time’, a time where you can step away and feel nothing I guess is the best way to put it,” Zimmerman said.
“So that was always going to be part of it, but yeah, I’m looking forward to doing a lot of things, staying involved with the organization, obviously, and we’ll see what happens.”
Zimmerman has a 5-year/$10M personal services contract with the Nationals, (part of the 6-year/$100M extension signed in 2012), which kicks in now that he’s retired.
So the Virginian is still going to be around the nation’s capital.
“It gives me an opportunity to do a lot of things, to explore a lot of those different avenues,” he said.
What exactly is that personal services contract?
“It was part of like a deferred money sort of thing,” Zimmerman said. “A lot of guys did it 5-10 years ago, so I was always going to be involved with the organization anyway, obviously this is all I’ve known, and I want to continue to help and contribute in any way I can, and I’m sure I’ll have some meetings with [Managing Principal Owner] Mark [Lerner] and [GM] Mike [Rizzo] and those guys in the near future to see what that kind of looks like.”