The Face Of The Franchise

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John Dever is the Senior Director of Media Relations for the Washington Nationals. As a team employee in close contact with the players, coaches and front office throughout Spring Training, he will bring an inside look at the happenings in Viera in Dever’s (Almost) Daily Diary throughout February and March.

*Yesterday’s contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman really was a benchmark moment for your young franchise. I am not going to delve into the financial specifics, that is not my duty or intention here. But what I can tell you that there is not a player in this game more deserving than Ryan Zimmerman. He endured a list of mental and physical challenges these last seven seasons that would. But through thick and thin, Ryan’s demeanor and professionalism never wavered. He’s a rock.

Zimmerman at his extension press conference.

Ryan is also adamant about seeing this project through. He wants to create magical moments, win big games and end DC’s October baseball drought, which dates to 1933. I think he knows that the toughest times have been weathered and to leave after 2013 would have been silly for all parties involved. The bottom line is that the Face of Our Franchise is here for a LONG, LONG, LONG time. A hearty CONGRATS to him, and to our fans too!

And there is more good news: Ryan is “only” 27 years-old. I think we lose perspective that this is one of MLB’s finest young players for two very good reasons:

  1. He came to us in Sept of 2005. In this world of ours, which is predicated on the immediate, that was a long time ago. Did Facebook even exist then? (answer: yes it did, but one could only join if of high school or college age)
  2. Upon joining our ballclub at the age of 20, Ryan was instantaneously the most mature player in the clubhouse. I think his maturity quotient is that of an average 50 year-old. He is just unflappable. I think that is why, when the moment is right, he’s the guy every Nationals fan wants at the plate.

*One last thought on the extension. I don’t think there is any important person in the current equation that does not want to see Ryan finish his career as a Washington National. And by that I mean Ownership, Baseball Operations, Ryan, his family, his representatives and most importantly the Nationals ever-expanding Fan Base. Everyone understands that baseball in Washington is best served with Ryan Zimmerman manning the Hot Corner. Enough said.

Bryce Harper took batting practice yesterday for the first time in camp.

*On Sat., Davey was asked if he had watched Bryce Harper take his first official batting practice of the spring. Davey scoffed and said that was not on his “to-do” list. Well, Davey was subsequently asked, what was on that to-do list? Davey’s reply was that he wanted to spend some time with Tony Beasley, who will serves has Triple-A Syracuse’s manager this season (and was Double-A Harrisburg’s skipper in ’10). Davey then opined about the mutual trust and understanding that must flow between a big league manager and his Triple-A equal. I thought that Davey offering was quite insightful.

*Look for Mark DeRosa to focus on 1B, 2B and 3B this spring. And oh-by-the-way, judging by Sat.’s BP session, Mark’s wrist is healthy. Rockets galore.

*Not a shocker, but upon being asked what Davey expects from Chien-Ming Wang this spring, his answer was “to be in our rotation.” Short and sweet from the skipper.

*I may have talked about this last spring, and if I did, please forgive me. But as I watch Bryce Harper make his way, I often wonder who can best relate to him right now? Some might say LeBron, but I think that is a bit extreme. Others might offer Stephen Strasburg and they have a legit point. But Stephen was a three-year college pitcher who played for a Hall-of-Famer in college. Lots of similarities, but different nonetheless.

In my mind, there is another former phenom in this Space Coast Stadium clubhouse who weathered similar ups and downs as an extremely young professional. Remember Rick Ankiel? Our center fielder for much of 2011 and vying for a similar role in 2012. Well, grab your nearest time machine and let’s jet back to 1998. That summer, he led all minor league hurlers with 222 strikeouts. In a 2-year span from ’98-99, he was named the best pitcher in both the Midwest, Carolina, Texas and Pacific Coast leagues by Baseball America. Then in 2000, he won 11 games and posted a 3.50 ERA in 31 games/30 starts for the Cardinals as a 20 year-old rookie. Yep, Ankiel can empathize with Harper’s current plight.

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