WASHINGTON — Ryan Zimmerman has a sterling reputation around MLB.
The biggest fan favorite in Nationals franchise history, Zimmerman is generally regarded as a pretty good person, one who plays the game “the right way.”
For this reason, it was fairly surprising when hordes of fans in San Francisco booed the Nationals first baseman after replay reviews confirmed he took a pitch to the wrist in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game between the Nationals and Giants.
In defense of the San Francisco crowd, it appeared Zimmerman swung at the pitch — you can clearly hear fans in the background yelling “He swung at the ball!” — and if you only heard the sound but couldn’t see it clearly, it certainly sounded like it hit wood, as commentator FP Santangelo remarked.
“That sounded like bat, and that wasn’t bat, and that’s not good.”
But MLB managers are unable to challenge whether or not a batter swung at a pitch, so even if the umpire missed the call, there’s nothing that can be done about it after the fact.
It also looked as though Zimmerman reacted to being hit somewhat late. A split second passes between the sound of contact and Zimmerman flopping to the ground, but the replay shows him grimace immediately.
Replays confirmed the 31-year-old Zimmerman did in fact take the pitch off the wrist, and when the call was announced in stadium, boos rained down from the stands.
Zimmerman, not pleased with his pain being met by boos, reacted by tipping his helmet and waving to the fans, something anybody who’s watched him play over the years would be surprised by. That kind of snark is something one would expect out of Bryce Harper or Jayson Werth, two guys who are happy to express themselves publicly, and are much more used to being booed.
“I was fired up when I got hit. That’s not something I normally do,” Zimmerman said after the game. “The one thing I never do is fake something like that. I have too much respect for the game.”
“I’ve never seen Zim do that before,” Santangelo said of the helmet tip.
“Well you know he had to be hearing some unordinary things to be prompted to do that,” chimed in play-by-play man Bob Carpenter.
“He’s worried about a broken wrist, and he’s getting booed by fans, so I can understand the frustration, absolutely,” Santangelo responded.
For the record, one Giants fan clarified the fans were not booing Zimmerman but rather the umpires.