When it’s time, it’s time.
Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman spent months weighing his decision to retire from baseball before making his official announcement on Feb. 15. Even after all signs pointed to a universal DH being instituted in the National League next season, the 37-year-old was leaning toward walking away.
The state of Washington’s roster played a part in his final choice, but the biggest factor was putting his body through another year of being a professional athlete. In his first public appearance since his retirement became official, Zimmerman told 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday he could no longer commit himself to the grind and physical toll of six-month baseball season.
“‘Am I willing to continue to sacrifice basically all the time and effort it takes to stay healthy?’ I think is the biggest thing,” Zimmerman said. “Putting the hours in in the training room, seeing the physical therapy people I see, not even at the field, in my house or the guys that I travel on the road [with]. Do I want to do all that stuff? Because once you stop doing that is when your production starts to dip.
“I played well last year and I want people to remember me playing well. Not like the old guy that can barely run anymore and everyone’s saying it’s time for you to quit. So it was a fine line and I’ve always said, once I have any doubt with the work ethic and the time it takes to prepare, that’s when I would seriously consider stepping away.”
Zimmerman spent his final season as a part-time player, backing up Josh Bell at first base while providing some right-handed power off the bench. He was an effective hitter too with a .756 OPS and 14 home runs in 110 games. The Nationals were ready to offer him a roster spot even though the team is retooling its roster and prioritizing youth development.
However, Zimmerman has endured more than his fair share of injuries.
He first suffered a small labral tear in his left shoulder in 2008. Then an abdominal strain cost him 58 games in 2011. Pain in his throwing shoulder the following year eventually led to arthroscopic surgery, which deteriorated Zimmerman’s throwing ability and forced him to move to first base. A hamstring strain, fractured thumb and plantar fasciitis limited him to 156 games between 2014 and 2015. He played even fewer games (137) from 2018-19 thanks to an oblique strain and more plantar fasciitis.
After opting out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zimmerman returned in 2021 and turned in his first campaign without a trip to the Injured List in four years. He would’ve had the chance to do so again in 2022, but instead left D.C. with 17 years’ worth of memories that concluded with a respectable final season and an emotional standing ovation.