"Ryan Zimmerman — this guy is something very special," Howard said in a statement. "I've met him three or four times, and you don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know this guy is the ultimate professional, the pro's pro. Besides his outstanding athletic ability, he carries himself with dignity on and off the field. He has tremendous presence, and he is class personified.
"If he continues putting these kind of numbers up for another six, eight, 10 years, this young man is going to walk into Cooperstown, New York, and into Baseball's Hall of Fame. He is the epitome of what organizations look for in their personnel: quiet, unassuming, but the aura about him is one of dignity and class. You want to know how I feel about it? Nobody is happier for him than me. The sky is the limit."
Zimmerman, 32, hit his 23rd home run of the season in the third inning of Sunday's game against the Colorado Rockies. He has spent his entire 13-year career with the Nationals franchise.
Howard played for the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise from 1965 to 1972. He held nearly every franchise record when his contract was sold to the Detroit Tigers midway through the 1972 season. The 6'7" outfielder made four All-Star teams in Washington and earned the nicknames "The Washington Monument" and "The Capitol Punisher."
Earlier this month, Zimmerman set the Nationals franchise record with 235 home runs. The previous record was held by Vladimir Guerrero, who set it while playing with the Montreal Expos.
The whole thing is a bit messy when it comes to setting records, so Zimmerman ending Guerrero's and Howard's respective reigns will make everything easier for historians going forward.