by Andrew Flax
District On Deck’s Andrew Flax helps us remember the good and the bad of the recently-retired Nick Johnson in his days in Washington.
In light of the recent announcement that Nick Johnson is retiring, we here at AOTH would like to reminisce on his time with the Nationals. When the team first came to D.C. in 2005, he was an offensive star, leading the team in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, and fWAR.
The team went 81-81 after a hot start, but finished 8th in the NL in attendance, signaling a promising start to baseball’s return to Washington. In what would become a theme in his career, however, he was often injured, playing in only 131 games. Despite his inability to stay healthy, he quickly became a fan favorite, a lone bright spot on some fairly dismal teams.
In 2006, he again led the team in OPS, despite having teammate Alfonso Soriano become the fourth member of the 40-40 club with 46 home runs and 41 steals. It was a career year for him, as he played 147 games, by far the most he ever did. He finished sixth in baseball in OBP at .428 and had an OPS of .948. The team went 71-91, signaling the beginning of a dark period for both the Nats and Johnson.
In late September, he collided with Austin Kearns and broke his leg, an injury that would cost him all of the 2007 season. Without him, the team improved to 73-89, but showed little promise. He came back in 2008, but hit only .220 in 109 games as the Nats sank to baseball’s worst record. He had a bit of a resurgence in 2009, hitting .295 in 98 games with the Nats before being traded to the Marlins in exchange for pitching prospect Aaron Thompson, who has only pitched 7.2 innings in his career to this point.
Johnson was beloved by all Nats fans, but his career unfortunately coincided with years the fans would rather forget. Now that his career has come to an untimely end, we can remember him as he was: a consummate pro who took the tough years in stride, even through his own injury struggles.