MLB

COVID-19 Is Forcing a World Series Champ to Choose Between Family and Career

Ryan Zimmerman is unlikely to reach 2,000 hits or 300 home runs for his career as his Major League Baseball playing days wind down. Unfortunately for him, the COVID-19 pandemic may also mean he doesn’t get to go out on his own terms.

Zimmerman, who earned the first World Series ring of his 15-year career last fall, is finding himself in a position in which he may have to give up baseball for the sake of his family.

Ryan Zimmerman really is Mr. National

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Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals are joined at the hip. Zimmerman played his high school and college baseball in nearby Virginia and was MLB club’s first draft choice following the franchise’s move from Montreal for the 2005 season. He’s played his entire career for the Nationals, beginning with a September call-up in his first season as a pro.

Zimmerman narrowly lost out to Hanley Ramirez for National League Rookie of the Year in 2006 after hitting .287 with 20 homers and 110 RBIs. He would hit .266 or better in each of his next eight seasons, piling up another 164 homers. However, age and injuries have caught up to Zimmerman in recent years, and 2017 was the only season in the past six in which he played more than 115 games.

Still, Zimmerman has been a big part of the Nationals, primarily as a corner infielder. He got his first taste of the World Series in 2019, becoming the first Nationals player ever to homer in the Fall Classic, and Washington went on to knock off the Houston Astros in seven games.

COVID-19 is putting Ryan Zimmerman in a tough spot

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Ryan Zimmerman’s MLB career is indisputably winding down. Zimmerman turned 35 late last season, during which he appeared in just 52 regular-season games, but he did deliver two homers and seven RBIs in 16 postseason contests.

Winning that first World Series ring by beating the Houston Astros in seven games might have made for a nice jumping-off point, but Zimmerman re-upped with the Nationals for 2020. When he did so, it was at a deep discount. After playing for $18 million in 2019, he took a $2 million offer to help the Nationals defend their title.

What Zimmerman didn’t know at the time that he signed the new contract at the end of January was the world would be greatly changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. College and professional sports began shutting down in early March, at which time MLB executives were forced to shut down spring training.

Baseball’s owners and players finally forged enough of an agreement to put the sport on track for a 60-game regular season that will begin in late July.

But the pandemic hasn’t gone away. And that means that Ryan Zimmerman’s worries haven’t disappeared either.

2020 may mean choosing between family and career

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Ryan Zimmerman has revealed that he might not help the Washington Nationals defend their World Series championship. The two-time NL All-Star made his disclosure in the latest installment of a first-person perspective he has been authoring for The Associated Press while waiting out the pandemic.

Zimmerman has three small children, included a 3-week-old baby, and his mother has multiple sclerosis, which has left her wheelchair-bound since 2000.

“There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider,” Zimmerman wrote. “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice. At the end of the day, does a player feel comfortable going to the field every day and — in my case, more importantly — feel comfortable coming home every day and feel like they’re not putting anyone else in danger?”

Unlike a lot of Americans now returning to the workplace, Zimmerman has the luxury of making his decision without worrying about finances. He’s made more than $130 million in salary alone in his big-league career, plus the prorated $750,000 he would have earned in the shortened 2020 season is likely to be picked up by the Nationals.

“I don’t want to be a pessimist about this. I hope that, whatever I decide, the season goes off well, nothing happens, nobody gets seriously sick. But there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of variables we’re not going to be able to control. That’s what we need to assess.”

All statistics are from Baseball-Reference.com.