Even a terrible franchise needs a face.
So Brad Wilkerson just decided to retire. Good luck, Brad – I hope you saved your money. This matters Nats-wise only in that B-Wilk was (depending on whom you ask) briefly the face of the Nationals franchise.
When the Expos packed up their stuff and moved south, Bluegrass Brad definitely had face status. He'd just 32 home runs for Montreal, and a tour of Japan, in which he played first base in full Expos regalia, ensured that he'd be the last ever face of that franchise – The Last Expo.
I fully expected him to be our best player for some time to come, which tells you all you need to know about anything I have to say. Injuries led to a mediocre 2005, and then that bastard Jim Bowden traded him for Alfonso Soriano. I thought (and once again I'm admitting my dopiness here) that we were giving away a cornerstone-type player for an overpaid, overrated malcontent who was about to skip town via free agency. Turns out that I only got the free agency part of that right.
But it hardly mattered anymore, because over the course of that 2005 season, we saw our new face. The Nationals drafted Ryan Zimmerman in June, and in September he slid comfortably into the starting third baseman role. Now comes the news that Zimmerman's signed a five year extension with Washington, making this arrangement more or less permanent.
And that's good. The Nats have gone out of their way to prove that a team with Ryan Zimmerman as its best player is not a good team, but he's a very good player. You can't help but be disappointed that he hasn't made any progress offensively since his rookie year, but he's got a hell of a glove. There's still time for him to improve, but even if he doesn't, he's a real asset.
I only hope that now that they have so much invested in him, the Nationals manage to get Zimmerman a steady supply of correctly spelled jerseys.
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Written by Ryan Moore