The Nationals have existed for 18 seasons now, but to date there’s only one Hall of Famer who played for them: Ivan Rodriguez.
And though 13 former Nats players have appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, the vast majority of them were never really thought of as Nationals: Rick Ankiel, Brad Lidge, Matt Stairs, Aaron Boone, Paul Lo Duca, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Stanton, Royce Clayton, Vinny Castilla, Lenny Harris, Carlos Baerga and of course Jonathan Papelbon.
You can make a case for Adam Dunn and Livan Hernandez having made a name for themselves as Nationals, but Dunn still is thought of more as a Red and Hernandez is forever linked to the Marlins team he helped win a World Series title.
This year, though, we finally get a legitimate former National on the Hall of Fame ballot: Jayson Werth.
Though he debuted with the Blue Jays and Dodgers, then won a championship with the Phillies, Werth wound up spending the entire second half of his career in Washington. He’s fifth all-time in games played (808), plate appearances (3,427), hits (781) and RBIs (393) for the Nationals, fourth in runs scored (450), sixth in home runs (109).
And, of course, he was one of the true faces of the franchise’s ascension from perennial cellar-dweller to perennial contender.
None of that, mind you, makes Werth a Hall of Famer. He probably won’t be receiving any votes from the 400 or so tenured members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who have until Dec. 31 to submit their ballots, with results set to be announced Jan. 24.
But Werth is worthy of making the ballot in his first year of eligibility. There are 28 players under consideration this time, 14 of them holdovers who received at least 5 percent of the vote last year and haven’t surpassed the maximum 10 years’ period of eligibility: Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte, Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu, Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter.
That leaves 14 newcomers on the ballot, with Werth joined by Bronson Arroyo, Carlos Beltran, Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andre Ethier, J.J. Hardy, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, Jhonny Peralta, Francisco Rodriguez, Huston Street and Jared Weaver.
Of the first-timers, Beltran appears to be the only one with a realistic shot at getting elected this year. Of the returning candidates, Rolen, Helton and Wagner are the only ones who surpassed 50 percent support on last year’s ballot. So, we could be looking at a small Hall of Fame class in 2023.
When, though, will we see a former Nationals player with a real shot at induction? It’s still going to be a while.
The next prominent National to make the ballot probably will be Ryan Zimmerman, who won’t be eligible until 2027. And as important as Zim was to the franchise, he doesn’t have much of a case for Cooperstown.
After that? Well, it’ll probably depend on how much longer Max Scherzer keeps pitching. Whenever he does finally decide to call it quits – and he’s still signed with the Mets through the 2024 season – start the five-year clock and then count down the days until he is elected on his first ballot and (hopefully?) enters the Hall of Fame with a curly W cap on his plaque.
Until then, we’ll just have to be satisfied perusing each year’s ballot for anybody who appeared in a game for the Nationals at some point.