Opportunistic baseball commentators claim that the Washington Nationals have built their team around Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
But those who actually follow the Washington Nationals know that long before Harper and Strasburg had even been molded into baseball clay, the Nationals had already begun to construct the foundation of a winning franchise.
And the cornerstone was Ryan Zimmerman.
The native of North Carolina was drafted fourth overall in the 2005 MLB draft out of the University of Virginia. He debuted later that year, playing 20 games that season.
In 2006, he was named the Nationals' top prospect by Baseball America, and then proceeded to make the Opening Day roster. He played 157 games that season, 162 the next and would never again be demoted to the minor leagues.
Excluding his debut season of 2005, Zimmerman has played at least 142 games in five of his seven MLB seasons. The 2008 and 2011 campaigns were cut short due to injuries, and he only played 106 and 101 games respectively.
Zimmerman has been the model of consistency when healthy, and to a certain extent even when not completely healthy. In each of those five full seasons, Zimmerman has hit at least 20 home runs, driven in at least 85 runs and scored at least 84 runs. His career batting average in 3882 at-bats is a respectable .287, and he won the Silver Slugger award in 2009 and 2010.
In the field, Zimmerman has been just as consistent, if not more. Zimmerman has played 975 of his 976 games in the field at third base. He has a career fielding percentage of .959 and a range factor per game of 2.70 at the "hot corner", winning the 2009 Gold Glove.
During his time with the franchise, the Nationals moved into a brand new ballpark in 2008. Fittingly, Zimmerman christened "The House that Ryan Built" with a walk-off home run on the first night at Nationals Park.
Contrary to a nascient and misguided belief, "Ryan Zimmerman is the now-and-forever Face of the Franchise." (h/t Dan Steinberg, The Washington Post) And fans always know where to look for him.