The Major League Baseball playoffs are well underway, and sprinkled around the postseason rosters are 7 players who hail from our Commonwealth.
North of the Border, the BlueJays are attempting to capitalize on last year’s success, and joining Toronto this summer in a trade was OF Melvin Upton, Jr. (Chesapeake). Upton had 7 career postseason HRs-all with the 2008 Rays, so he will be counted on to contribute and help the Jays try and bring a championship to Canada for the first time since the 1992-1993 championships.
In the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals are NL East champions for the 3rd time in 5 years. While each of the playoff teams have had some turnover, one constant remains, the last player left over from the very first Washington Nationals team-1B Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia Beach/UVA). Zimmerman has shifted to 1B in recent years, but still remains a key member of a team that is just a few hours from home.
In the City by the Bay, the San Francisco Giants will attempt to continue their even-year run of championships. They won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Since this 2016, an even year, they will try to win again. They have a solid lineup and decent starting pitching, and a bullpen that includes veteran LH Javier Lopez (Fairfax/UVA). Lopez is the only active major leaguer with 4 World Series rings, having won with the 2007 Red Sox as well as all of the Giants titles this decade.
In Beantown, the Boston Red Sox, the only other team besides SF to win 3 titles since the turn of the century, expect to be competitive in the final playoffs for their longtime franchise player, Big Papi, DH David Ortiz. All of the pieces are there for the Sox to make a run at this, and arguably their best weapon at their disposal is their starting outfield, which includes a guy who had a breakthrough year in 2016, OF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Prince George). Bradley hit .267 with 26 HRs and 87 RBIs and even stole 9 bases-the last 3 items more than double his career high-so he will be counted on to continue his breakout year in the postseason.
In the Lone Star state, the Texas Rangers fortified themselves at the trading deadline with a couple of key deals and secured their 4th AL West title in this decade. One of the keys to the Rangers late push was Closer Jeremy Jeffress (South Boston). Acquired from the NL’s Brewers, Jeffress posted a 2.70 ERA in 13 games with Texas. While he did not pick up any saves, he will be a key part of the postseason bullpen.
The 2 longest active championship droughts in MLB both made the postseason, and have role players who hail from the Old Dominion. The Chicago Cubs have not won a title in over 100 years, and this year seem poised to break through, with a bullpen that includes RH Justin Grimm (Bristol). In Cleveland, the Indians have not won a title since 1948, and have not won a pennant since winning 2 of them in the 1990s. This year, OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon/UVA) is a key role player on their bench.
We will soon see if one of our Heroes of the Old Dominion can bring home a title.
“To be a Virginian is a tremendous responsibility. So much is expected of us.”
-Nancy Astor, first woman seated to British House of Commons
In the last 15 years or so, the Commonwealth of Virginia has emerged as a goldmine of baseball talent, and while it is impressive what they have done on the field, it is also noteworthy that they have given tremendously off the field as well. The Roberto Clemente award is given every year to a player who demonstrates tremendous civic support with charitable causes.
This year’s award finalists includes 2 from our state.
Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia Beach/UVA) is up for this award for his Zimm foundation, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Multiple sclerosis, which has stricken his mother.
A’s closer Sean Dolittle (UVA) is a leading figure in supporting military families and plays a leading role in working with MLB as LGBT allies. In addition, he and his girlfriend have hosted Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving dinner at their home in Chicago.
Winner will be announced this fall.
When Major League Baseball returned to Washington for the 2005 season, in the form of the newly named Washington Nationals, fans were ecstatic, but team brass had a big chore to do. They had to, among other things, overhaul player development, which was left in shambles due to MLB ownership of the franchise. It would be a painstaking process, but one that management felt was necessary for the long-term vision of the franchise.
In that first summer in DC, the team had its first draft, the 4th pick overall, as the Washington Nationals, and Nats brass knew exactly who they wanted. The choice was clear-a 20-yr old 3B out of University of Virginia, a Virginia Beach native as well. Nats brass felt that this young player would not only have success in Washington, but could even be the face of the franchise. Just a few months later, when rosters expanded, Ryan Zimmerman made his major league debut with the Nationals.
Fast forward to 2015. Zimmerman has put together quite a resume. He’s been an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, and 2-time Silver Slugger. He is also Mr. Clutch, as he has has hit 10 career walk-off homers, just 2 shy of the all-time NL record. One of those even came on March 30, 2008, when his walk-off shot beat the Braves to christen the new Nationals Park. He remains the last player left on the team from that inaugural 2005 season, and by far the longest active tenured player with the team.
The Nationals were expected to contend for a championship in 2015, their big 10th anniversary season, with Zimmerman now moved over to 1B. While that did not even come close to happening, the season was not devoid of highlights anyway, and one of them came on the night of September 2.
The Nationals were in St. Louis to play the Cardinals, and Zimmerman hit 2 homeruns to give the Nats a 4-3 win. These 2 homeruns gave Zimmerman, now 30 yrs old, 200 round-trippers for his career. He would become only the 5th player in franchise history to hit that milestone, joining 4 Expos.
Zimmerman would only play 5 more games after that night before going down for the season with an oblique injury.
Ryan Zimmerman has hit .283 with 200 HR and 783 RBIs in his ML career.
For years, even decades, the University of Virginia has been known as a hotbed of talent for the sport of football. (Every NFL draft since the early 1980s has seen at least one NFL player get drafted out of UVA.) But make way, football, Major League Baseball is gaining steam.
As of Tuesday, September 15th, when the Orioles recalled P Tyler Wilson (Midlothian) from Triple-A Norfolk, a record 10 Wahoos appear on major league rosters. Here is the rundown of the UVA-to-MLB pipeline:
San Francisco Giants reliever Javier Lopez (Fairfax) played at Virginia from 1996-1998. He currently leads all active major league players with 4 World Series rings. (2007 with the Red Sox and the three SF titles of the 2010s.)
St Louis Cardinals IF Mark Reynolds (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2001-2004. His 236 career homers are 23rd among active major league players.
Washington Nationals IF Ryan Zimmerman (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2003-2005. In the 2005 draft, he was selected in the first round by Washington, the very first draft choice in the history of the Washington Nationals, who had just moved to DC from Montreal. Zimmerman is the last player left from the team’s inaugural season in Washington, and has clearly become the face of the franchise. His 10 career Walk-off homers are 2 short of the NL record). On March 30th, 2008, he christened the new Nationals Park with a walk-off HR to beat the Braves. In the summer of 2015, he cracked the 200 HR milestone. In his time as a National, his resume also includes an all-star game, a Gold Glove, and 2 Silver Sluggers.
Oakland Athletics P Sean Dolittle played at Virginia from 2005-2007. In 2014 he was 10th in the AL with 22 saves, and made his first all-star game.
Also currently on Major League rosters: Cleveland Indians P Kyle Crockett (Poquoson), Arizona Diamondbacks IF Phil Gosselin, Tampa Bay Rays OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon), Seattle Mariners C John Hicks (Richmond), San Francisco Giants OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford), and Wilson.
Major League Baseball, Wahoo strong!!!!!!!!
The 2015 Carolina League postseason begins this week, and the first round will include the Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians) taking on the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Should Lynchburg advance, they will play for the Mills Cup, the Carolina League’s version of the World Series. A win would not only give the Hillcats their 3rd title in 7 years, but it would extend Virginia’s dominance in the Carolina League.
Dominance, you ask? There are three VA teams in the league-the Woodbridge-based Potomac Nationals (Nationals), Salem Red Sox (Red Sox), and the aforementioned Hillcats. Since 2008, not only have all 3 teams won a title, but they have combined to win 6 of the last 7 Mills Cup titles. In 2007, the then-Salem Avalanche went to the Mills Cup finals and lost, but since then:
CAROLINA LEAGUE CHAMPIONS SINCE 2008:
All Virginia based teams! For good measure, the 2009 runner-up was Salem, and the 2013 runner-up was Potomac.
Let’s see if the Hillcats can continue our state’s dominance and make it 7 of 8 champions this time around.
10 years ago, Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia Beach) made his debut with the Washington Nationals, just a few months after being drafted in the first round out of UVA, the first draft choice ever made by the Nationals. Needless to say, it has worked out well for the franchise.
Zimmerman has had quite a stellar career resume in DC. In 2009 alone he was an all-star and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, and won the Silver Slugger award again in 2010. He holds the franchise record with a 30-game hitting streak. His 10 career walk-off homers are tied for 3rd best in NL history. He is the last player left on the team from the 2005 inaugural season.
This past week, Zimmerman added to his DC legend when he hit his 200th career HR.
Here are some splits with regards to his career HRs:
Most HRs vs a single team:
- 25, Miami Marlins
- 20, Atlanta Braves
- 20, Philadelphia Phillies
- 17, New York Mets
- 15, San Diego Padres
- 20 of his HR are vs. Inter-League opponents.
- He has homered against all NL opponents, but never against 4 AL teams: Royals, White Sox, Mariners, Tigers.
- One of his most famous walk-off HRs came on March 30, 2008, when his walk-off homer beat the Braves to christen the new Nationals park, He is one of only 3 players to ever hit a walk-off in a team’s debut in a new stadium.
- He knows how to get things started for the Nationals. 38 of his career HRs have come in the first inning, the most he has in any single inning. Second place on that list is the 3rd inning with 30 HRs.
- When the Nationals get into the dog days of summer and the playoff race starts to heat up, they can count on Zimmerman to step up his game. There are two months in which he has more than 40 career HRs-August (43) and September/October (40).
- The only opposing ballpark in which he has hit double-digits in HRs is Yankee stadium, 10.
When the Washington Nationals came into being in 2005, they were led by carryovers from Montreal (Livan Hernandez, Nick Johnson, Brad Wilkerson, Chad Cordero), trade acquisitions and FA signees like Jose Guillen and Christian Guzman. This squad gelled big time into an 81-win season and the hearts of their new fan base.
While this new squad did great for one season, brass knew they would have think long-range with regards to this franchise, so they got started in that direction that summer with the draft. The first draft choice as the Nationals would have to set the tone for the future, so they chose a slick hitting 3B from the University of VA.
10 years later, Virginia Beach native Ryan Zimmerman has grown into a leader and face of the franchise. Leader off the field with the Zims foundation to find a cure for MS. On the field, his resume includes a 2009 all-star appearance, a Gold Glove, and two Silver Sluggers. He also hit a walkoff HR in the debut of Nats park on 3/31/2008.
Now add a milestone to his career, HR #200. Zimmerman hit two homers tonight against the Cardinals, giving him 200 for his career.
Since the former Potomac Cannons lined up as an affiliate of the newly named Washington Nationals, they have played a vital role in creating a core nucleus that has made the big club competitive, hence the 2012 and 2014 NL East Division titles. Players such as Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen, Michael Taylor and Anthony Rendon have made their mark with Washington, while players such as Derek Norris, Billy Burns, and Adrian Nieto are making their mark with other organizations. This focus on player development has resulted in Carolina League championships in 2008, 2010, and 2014.
The 2015 squad is looking just as promising.
Highly touted position players Drew Ward, Wilmer Difo, Spencer Kieboom are certainly living up to their promise. 3B Ward has posted a .268 batting average with 17 RBIs. C Kieboom is batting .262 with a .397 OB%. SS Wilmer Difo batted .320 with a .386 OB% and 14 RBIs before he was promoted to AA on April 28th. Also of note, Smithfield-native CF Isaac Ballou has also impressed the Potomac faithful with a nice followup to last season in Woodbridge. Ballou has played in 27 games, batted .292, and is the only regular to not make an error so far in 2015.
On the mound, leading the rotation is RH Nick Pivetta and his 1-3 record but a 1.41 ERA. Brian Rauh went 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA in 3 starts before he moved on to AA. Highly touted RH Reynaldo Lopez made his debut with Potomac on Thursday May 7th, and dazzled, allowing 2 hits and no walks over 5 scoreless innings enroute to a win. In the bullpen, hard throwing RH Jake Johansen has struckout 22 batters in 16 innings enroute to a 2.81 ERA.
So, as you can see, the 2015 squad in Woodbridge is well stocked again. Will it lead to a 4th title in 8 years? We will see.
When Major League Baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005, in the form of the newly named Washington Nationals, it marked a return after 34 years, when the second coming of the Senators moved to Texas. MLB allowed the Montreal Expos to relocate to DC and sold the team to local ownership, who then had a tough task ahead rebuilding a franchise from top to bottom.
When the team moved to DC and the new owners took over, the new local fan base thought that it would mean lots of money spent on star free-agents to make the team instant contenders. The Lerner family had other ideas. They wanted to have long-term success for the franchise, and they believed that the best way to do that was to invest in the minor league system and player development.
One of the first things the franchise did was to jump at the chance to have one of their minor league affiliates close by, and just 20 miles away from homeplate at Nationals Park, they found that in Woodbridge, with the former Potomac Cannons, newly minted Potomac Nationals, and Potomac was all too happy to oblige. The Cannons franchise had 5 different parent clubs-Yankees, Pirates, White Sox, Cardinals, Reds-in 21 years in Woodbridge, so stability for the organization was truly welcomed.
The Washington Nationals have had some success in DC in recent years. After 81 wins in their inaugural season in the nation’s capital, the team fell on some hard times on the field, but stayed the course while focusing on player development. It has paid off, as the team has 2 NL East Division titles under its belt-one more than the total the franchise won in 36 seasons in Montreal. While both have resulted in 1st round playoff losses, the team has turned the corner and has a promising future ahead of it.
What can they attribute this to? For one thing, their relationship with their Single-A Carolina League affiliate out in the suburbs. Some former Potomac Nationals have made it to Washington. 2B Anthony Rendon (2012) is an everyday player and in 2014, his second full season in the majors, he won his first Silver Slugger award. SS Ian Desmond (2005-2007) has won 3 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards-something only accomplished by one other SS, Barry Larkin. On the mound, RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2008) has won 57 games, was a 2-time all-star, tied Adam Wainwright for the NL lead with 16 wins in 2013, and on September 28, 2014, the final day of the season, pitched the Nationals first no-hitter, an accomplishment all the more remarkable by the diving catch made by another Potomac alumni, OF Steven Souza (2012-2014), for the third out in the ninth inning to secure the feat. In the bullpen, RH Craig Stammen (2006-2008), RH Aaron Barrett (2012), and LH Ross Detwiler (2007-2008) have developed into solid contributors.
The Potomac franchise won Carolina League championships in 2008, 2010, and 2014. This bodes well for the future of the Potomac-to-Washington pipeline.
The MLB awards season is in full swing, as the 2014 Silver Slugger awards were presented yesterday. Taking home the honors for their respective positions are a pair of hitters who were instrumental to the success of the 2014 Washington Nationals, who won their second division title in three seasons. Both also passed through the Northern Virginia suburbs of their major league employers.
SS Ian Desmond (Potomac, 2005-2007) took home the honors for his position. he batted .255, but hit 24 homers, one off his career high, and did set a personal best with 91 RBIs, which was 7th in the NL. He also showed his prowess on the base paths, as his 82.76% stolen base rate was 10th best in all of the NL. This was the third straight Silver Slugger award for Desmond, and he becomes the first NL SS to win three straight since HOF SS Barry Larkin won 5 in a row from 1988-1992.
3B Anthony Rendon (Potomac, 2012) took home his first Silver Slugger award, just two years after playing in Woodbridge. The 24-yr old Rendon had his first full season in the major leagues, and wowed Nationals nation. He batted .287 with 21 HR and 83 RBIs, and led the NL with 111 runs scored. His 66 extra-base hits and 176 total hits were each 5th-best in the NL. He had a 6.5 WAR, good for 4th in the NL. Rendon established himself as a major presence in the Nationals lineup, so much so that it will allow Washington to move Ryan Zimmerman to 1B and allow Adam LaRoche to depart via free agency.
Ian Desmond. Anthony Rendon. Past Potomac Nationals. Future infield of the Washington Nationals. And now, Silver Sluggers.