WASHINGTON — Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made history on Wednesday, becoming the first Nationals player to win a National League Gold Glove Award.
Zimmerman led NL third basemen in assists, total chances, total outs recorded and games started. Almost every game, it seemed like Zimmerman put on a show at the hot corner — whether it was making a diving play or charging a ball to throw out a runner.
“It’s a huge honor [to win the Gold Glove Award],” Zimmerman said. “When I got drafted in 2005, I think defense was my claim to fame and I developed into an offensive player. Defense has always been a big part of my game. I worked hard at it and I take a lot of pride in it. It is one of the best individual honors you can get, according to me.”
Zimmerman has been great with the glove since he entered the Major Leagues in September 2005, but didn’t receive a lot of recognition until this year. Why? Zimmerman said he learned to play the position a lot better.
“I know what I need to do — when to throw the ball, when not to throw the ball,” Zimmerman said. “That’s something I had to learn. I feel like anytime I touch the ball, I can get the person out. A lot of times in the past, I might go down the line, dive, backhand the ball and not have a shot at the runner.
“I’ve learned to hold on to the ball. That’s obviously better for the team. You don’t want to try to throw it everywhere and you have a runner on second and all that. I think it’s more of an understanding of the game and learning the position a little bit more.”
It was Zimmerman’s defense that made the Nationals select him in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. At the time, people like then-general manager Jim Bowden and then-scouting director Dana Brown compared Zimmerman to defensive specialists such as Brooks Robinson, Scott Rolen and Mike Schmidt.
Four years later, it’s safe to say that Zimmerman hasn’t disappointed Washington.
“He makes the impossible plays possible,” Nationals right-hander Jason Bergmann said. “He makes the plays you never expect him to make. When he makes an error, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, he made an error.’ He can get to many balls that no one can get to. It’s an everyday thing with him. Every day, he is making a great play.”
Interim manager Jim Riggleman believes that Zimmerman is Gold Glove-worthy.
“He had a great year,” Riggleman said. “He has great range, great hands. His throwing improved. The range over there is so good that he makes all the plays. If we need to get out of an inning — if it’s not a strikeout — then we say, ‘Hit it to Zimmerman.'”
While he is great with the glove, Zimmerman is aware the Nationals need to get better on defense, which ranked 30th in the Major leagues this past season. An improvement in this department would mean more wins for the franchise, according to Zimmerman.
“We had some young pitching, but I think our defense could have helped them out a little more,” Zimmerman said. “We need to take more responsibility on the defensive side of the ball and realize that if we want to start winning, defense is just as much a part of winning as hitting and scoring runs. We need a little bit more accountability and a little bit more pride. We have guys who are ready to do that.”