Retiring a number is the greatest honor a club can bestow upon a player. It’s a message to the world that no other player could represent that number in the way the honoree has. It’s a sign of respect from the franchise; it says they’ve been so impactful that no one can wear those digits on their pajama tops again.
But how much of an impact must one have to take that uniform out of circulation? I’ll answer that question in relation to our home club: The Washington Nationals.
#11 Ryan Zimmerman
Is there a better way to start this list than with the obvious choice? Ryan Zimmerman has been a team staple for a decade and a half. He leads the franchise all-time in hits, doubles, RBIs, and home runs. He’s Mr. National, the elder statesman of the franchise. And save for 41 games in 2005, (Jeffery Hammonds and Junior Spivey, who knew?) there’s never been another National to wear the number 11, and I’d be willing to bet there never will be.
#31 Max Scherzer
Whenever Max Scherzer decides to hang up his cleats, (which might not be any time soon, they call him “Mad Max” for a reason) it’s almost certain that he’ll be the first National elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his tenure here, he’s had two Cy Young awards, two No Hitters, a 20 strikeout game, and a World Series ring.
Max was brought to DC on what many called a foolish contract, yet as we enter the final year of that contract it could be argued that he’s been underpaid. The man has worked through blood, sweat, and tears for this club. He’s been our Ace for years; even as he’s battled injury and age he never fails to give maximum effort. He deserves to have his number retired because there will never be someone as good, or as dedicated, as #31.
#37 Stephen Strasburg
After signing a then-record 7-year/$245 million contract that includes a No-Trade clause, Stephen Strasburg will likely be a National for life. Such a feat has only been achieved by the likes of Ryan Zimmerman (and hopefully Trea Turner and Juan Soto one day). After being the top prize in the 2009 draft, Strasburg was labeled as the second coming of Walter Johnson.
Despite injury history, he’s been a force to be reckoned with over the past decade. Furthermore, Stras has been extremely dominant in the postseason, with an ERA of 1.46 and a strikeout/walk ratio of 8.88. His October heroics culminated in 2019, becoming the first pitcher to go 5-0 in a single postseason and being named World Series MVP. The #37 shouldn’t be worn by a Nat after Strasburg, at least not until someone goes 5-0 again.
#47 Howie Kendrick
Howie Kendrick actually started his Nats tenure wearing the #4, before moving on to the #12 in 2018. After the departure of Gio Gonzalez however, the number Howie had worn the majority of his career became available. Howie was only a Nat for four years, with inconspicuous play much of the time, and was never the face of the franchise.
Arguably the two most influential hits in Nationals history came from the player with a #47 on his back. His NLDS Game 5 Grand Slam pushed the Nationals over the hump, winning the team their first playoff series and bringing them one step closer to the World Series. His go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the World Series allowed the Nationals to win DC their first World Series in 95 years. Surely that has to count for something, right?
#88 Gerardo Parra
Gerardo Parra (now a National again) was a phenom in DC. He brought good vibes and a great clubhouse presence to a Nationals team that was struggling to put it together. His walkup song brought childlike joy to a city that often takes itself too seriously. He’s been credited more than once for changing that 2019 team. Hell, the Nats World Series ring has a cartoon shark on it because of him. Laugh all you want, he was important. And maybe this is just me looking through rose-tinted plastic sunglasses, but when a player’s good energy turns a 19-31 record into a championship, then maybe you should rethink their value beyond the stat line…
So who do you think should have their number retired by the Nationals some day? Follow us and let us know what you think on Twitter @HalfStHighHeat.