For more than 30 years after the Washington Senators left our Nation's Capital for the final time, DC baseball fans longed for a new professional baseball team. In 2005, they were granted their wish with the Washington Nationals. It seems crazy that it's already been 7 seasons since baseball's return to Washington, but it has. It hasn't always been fond memories though, and after the Inaugural Season in 2005, the team became a sort of forgotten organization on the national stage.
In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to recall all of the things that Nationals fans have to be thankful for. We'd love for you to chime in below in the comments section or to hit us up on Twitter to share your thoughts. Now, on to my list.
Wilson Ramos' safety: It would be remiss to not include this as the number one on the list. We shared in the terror that Nationals fans felt during Ramos' 51 hour abduction in Venezuela. It's impossible to imagine the pain that the young catcher's family felt during that horrible time. We couldn't possibly be more thankful that Ramos is safe, healthy, and ready to play baseball once again.
The Lerner Family and Mike Rizzo: Maybe I'll draw some ire for this one, but so be it. The Lerner Family has proven to be a group of capable owners that are willing to pay big bucks if sold on a player. No one knew what they were getting with the owners that purchased the Nats from MLB, but it looks like, so far, they've gotten a good deal. They've invested in one of the best modern parks in baseball and they've paid some real money to get some stellar talent onto the ball club.
GM Mike Rizzo rose to his current role after assisting former-GM Jim Bowden. Since March 2009, when he took over as interim GM, the Nationals have drafted Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Matt Purke. The first three were the top-rated prospects in the draft by Baseball America for 3 consecutive years. Part of that was from being the worst team in baseball for a few years, but that's alright. It gave the team some building years. For these reasons and more, we're thankful for the Nats Front Office.
Ryan Zimmerman: What more is there to say about The Franchise? Since arriving in the Majors, Ryan Zimmerman has been the Nationals rock during some very trying times on the field. His community involvement with groups like his own ziMS Foundation makes him an invaluable asset to the DC Metro area. Not to mention, he's one hell of a baseball player. There is no third baseman in the National League better than Zimmerman. After his surgery to start the season, Zimmerman had an off-year both offensively and defensively. He still managed a 2.5 WAR in 2011, but his UZR rating was an abysmal -3.1. We're sure this will turn around, as in 2009 and 2010 his UZR was 13.7 and 13.9, respectively. You don't have that kind of drop off without a recovery. This offseason will be a big deal for Zimmerman's future with the Nationals, as he's due for an absurdly long and expensive contract extension. We think he deserves it, and we can't wait to see it.
The Farm System: We touched on this a bit when we talked about Mike Rizzo, but the Washington Nationals farm system has gone from one of the worst in baseball to one of the best in just a few years. In the team's tenure in DC, they've put guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Stephen Strasburg, Brad Peacock, Stephen Lombardozzi, and Drew Storen through their minor leagues, and there are many more to come, like Bryce Harper, AJ Cole, Anthony Rendon, Derek Norris, and Matt Purke. The depth of this farm system is certainly something for Nationals fans to be thankful for.
A competitive baseball club: Last, but absolutely not least, Washington Nationals fans should be thankful for a competitive baseball team. It wasn't too long ago that fans across NatsTown couldn't see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The Nats had two consecutive 59-win seasons and an ever fluctuating lineup. It looked like the team may never break out of its eternal funk. And then everything started falling into place, resulting in the team's first ever 3rd place finish in the NL East in 2011. By most accounts, the team will only go up from here. This is the ultimate thing to be thankful for, and baseball fans across DC I'm sure will agree with that.
Happy Thanksgiving, NatsTown. I hope it's great a great one for you and yours. Oh, and check out our new podcast: Nats Talk on the Go!