Shortly after Gio Gonzalez dumped a beer on the head of the Nationals’ managing principal owner Ted Lerner, his son, Mark Lerner, stood on the field with players celebrating all around him, talking about what the NL East title meant to the organization after years of losing.
“When Commissioner (Bud) Selig gave us the team, it was a big decision on his part,” Lerner said. “First of all, our family wants to thank him for having the trust that we could do it the right way, and I hope he’s proud of how far we’ve come. But I’ve said many times, we were given this team below zero and we’ve rebuilt it from scratch.
“We always planned to do it the right way, build from within, and we’ve done that. Mike (Rizzo) has developed as fine as staff as there is in the game, and I think we’ll be successful for many, many years to come.”
In Lerner’s eyes, D.C. has always been a baseball town, just one that’s waiting to get a winning team to embrace. Now, after tonight’s events, they have just that.
“I’ve grew up here, and I knew that these fans, when there was a winner, they would be here,” Lerner said. “And obviously you could hear tonight, they’re as loud as any baseball stadium in the country. And they’ll be here for years to come.”
Ryan Zimmerman was the Nationals’ first draft pick after the franchise moved to D.C. He’s the face of the organization. He’s experienced some very low lows and tonight, he got to celebrate the first division title in team history. Afterward, however, he didn’t have much interest in getting into any personal reflection.
“To think about me and how long I’ve been here is really not even on my mind right now,” Zimmerman said. “This is just such a good night for everyone in the organization. We’ve come a long way.
“For all of those guys that worked so hard together for one goal for so long, we’ve been together since February, so to go through a lot of the ups and downs, to be around each other every single day and obviously go through some ups and downs with that and go through some adversity as a team this year, it’s very gratifying. It’s a big-time team effort.”
In Jordan Zimmermann’s first year with the Nats, the team won 59 games. They have 96 today and a division title to go with it.
“We’ve come a long ways,” Zimmermann said. “When I first got drafted and got up here, we were losing ballgames it seemed like every night. Got to give a lot of credit to (Mike) Rizzo for putting some guys together and having some good drafts, and now we’re here and we’re that much closer.”
Zimmermann said he saw something in this team back in February and March which led him to believe they’d put together a special season.
“Just the guys we had assembled in spring training, I knew we had a pretty good chance,” he said. “Obviously, Gio (Gonzalez) was a huge pickup and guys on the bench like (Chad) Tracy and (Mark) DeRosa. Right in spring training when we started playing, I knew we had a good squad, we had a veteran squad and we had a lot of young guys that are talented. We put it together and here we are.”