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Nats have plenty to be thankful for this year

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Nats have plenty to be thankful for this year

Everyone has something to be thankful for today, and that includes the Nationals roster, coaching staff and front office.

And for the third straight year, I've somehow managed to get my hands on a comprehensive list of these fine folks' Thanksgiving blessings. I'm just that good (or creative, depending on how you choose to look at it).

So without further ado, here's what everyone in NatsTown is thankful for this holiday season...

DAVEY JOHNSON: That he said the Nats could fire him only if he didn't win the NL East in 2012 (not the NLDS).

MIKE RIZZO: That he won't have to explain to the world why he's voluntarily shutting down one of his best big-league pitchers before the end of the 2013 season.

BRYCE HARPER: That his first big-league season included way more home runs than clown questions.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN: That he never again has to explain what it's like playing for a franchise that's never enjoyed a winning season.

IAN DESMOND: That Jim Bowden and Frank Robinson actually knew what they were doing seven years ago when they touted the then 18-year-old shortstop as a future star.

ADAM LAROCHE: That the best season of his career just so happened so occur right before he hit free agency.

JAYSON WERTH: That upon jumping into a throng of giddy teammates around home plate following the greatest baseball moment in D.C. in 88 years, he might never again have to justify his decision to take $126 million from the Nationals.

MICHAEL MORSE: That Nationals fans know the words to the chorus of "Take On Me." (Or, at least, are good at faking it.)

DANNY ESPINOSA: That the Nationals have been rewarded for showing patience with a young, streaky, middle infielder before.

WILSON RAMOS: That the toughest obstacle he has to overcome this offseason is a torn knee ligament, which should feel like nothing compared to what he had to overcome one year ago.

STEPHEN STRASBURG: That the only thing he'll be shutting down in 2013 are opposing lineups.

GIO GONZALEZ: That there will always be another member of the pitching staff willing to sit next to him in the dugout during games and listen to his stream of consciousness.

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN: That after a thoroughly rewarding season he can reward himself by sitting on a frozen Wisconsin lake ice fishing for hours on end.

EDWIN JACKSON: That even after 10 seasons with seven different organizations, there are still GMs out there willing to pay him good money based more on potential than results.

DREW STOREN: That Washington sports fans place more weight on a month of dominance than one disastrous inning of relief. Unlike, say, Philadelphia sports fans.

TYLER CLIPPARD: That no one will ever question again whether he can close in the big leagues.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ: That the ability to throw a baseball 100 mph (even with location TBD) will always guarantee a steady paycheck.

JOHN LANNAN: That after the strangest season of his career, he should get a fair opportunity to pitch in the major leagues in 2013.

CHIEN-MING WANG: That he was paid about $8 million to make 16 big-league starts over the last three years (and 21 minor-league rehab starts).

MARK BUEHRLE: That he turned down the Nationals' three-year contract offer -- with no-trade clause included -- last winter and instead took four years (without a no-trade clause) from the Miami Marlins. Oh wait, he's not thankful for that decision at all.

MARK LERNER: That he's suddenly become the most successful and most popular owner in Washington.

MARK ZUCKERMAN: That I continue to be paid to perform a job that hardly ever feels like a job and have the most knowledgeable and loyal readership a sportswriter could ever hope to achieve.

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Wilson Ramos to have surgery soon, hopes to be back with Nationals

Wilson Ramos to have surgery soon, hopes to be back with Nationals

All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, a symbol of strength all year for the Nationals, a man physically imposing and tough enough to earn the nickname The Buffalo, walked into the clubhouse in Washington on Thursday with the help of crutches, his right knee still swollen from the fall on wet infield dirt that he suffered three days prior, an awkward landing that re-tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

He made his way through the locker room, as other players smiled in his direction.

One shouted his nickname: "Buffaloooooo." He smiled, a nice reminder of the support he has from his teammates, the support he will need moving forward in what could be another year-long rehab to get back to where he was just a few days ago.

"I feel a little bit more relaxed," Ramos said through an interpreter. "I've had a few days to take a step back and think about it. It's obviously very frustrating for me going through this towards the end. But all I can do is stay positive and make sure I get my rest, rehab properly and come back stronger."

RELATED: WHY RAMOS' INJURY IS DEVISTATING FOR NATIONALS' FUTURE

Ramos, 29, will take the next few days to let the swelling go down. Then, it's reconstructive surgery and after that a long recovery that will keep him away from the Nationals during the playoffs. He will watch from home as they embark on another playoff run and try to finish what he helped start. Ramos will not be able to see their mission all the way through and that, in particular, is crushing.

"I’m going to have to support the team from home because it’s going to be very difficult for me to get around with the knee after the surgery," he said. 

"It’s going to be very difficult [to watch in TV], given the circumstances. I wish I was out there helping the team as much as possible but at the same time, I gotta be a professional and a good team and support the team from home as much as I can so that’s what I’m going to do."

Manager Dusty Baker said he hopes Ramos can still help advise the remaining catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino through phone calls and text messages. Ramos has years of experience working with most of the pitchers on their staff and can be a still be a resource.

“He’s a big part of our team the last couple days when he hadn’t been in the dugout there’s a spot missing in the dugout," Baker said.

It may be the last impact Ramos makes for the Nationals, as he's an impending free agent. And with his rehab likely stretching until late next season, there are many questions about his future.

If Ramos has it his way, he'd love to be back in Washington, where he has played for seven MLB seasons.

"This organization has given me the opportunity to grow play a role as much as I have and I’m very appreciative of tall that. I would love to stay here and keep playing with this team," he said. 

"They’ve given me an opportunity in my career that I haven’t gotten anywhere else. Unfortunately, this injury happened so close to the end and it may affect whether I’m able to stay with a National League team or not, but if it’s up to me, I definitely would like to keep playing for the Nationals and play as long as I can."

Ramos has received lots of messages from family, teammates and fans in support. He's trying to keep his spirits up, knowing the difficult road ahead and the uncertainty of his rehab from a second torn ACL. 

It's not an easy situation to handle, but Ramos is happy with what he accomplished this season. He is likely to win the Silver Slugger award for NL catchers and earn MVP votes after batting .307 with 22 homers and 80 RBI.

It was a great year, he just may have to wait a while for the opportunity to build on it.

"I'm very pleased with the season and the way it's gone this year. I've worked hard to put up the offensive numbers that I did this year, especially after a disappointing last season," he said. 

"It's a very frustrating time for me as well right now, going through this situation, but all I can do is make sure I prepare right, rehab right, get stronger. I've gotta look at everything and how everything happens for a reason. I've gotta get the most positive thing that I can out of this situation and keep moving forward."

RELATED: Gio Gonzalez has plenty to work on before Nats playoffs begin

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Gio Gonzalez has plenty to work on before Nats playoffs begin

Gio Gonzalez has plenty to work on before Nats playoffs begin

Gio Gonzalez' seesaw 2016 regular season is officially in the books. Next stop: the NL Division Series where he will face the L.A. Dodgers, likely in Game 3 and possibly with one of the two teams' season on the line. Either way, it will be important.

Over the years, teams have trotted out far less accomplished pitchers in playoff games, ones with nothing close to the track record of Gonzalez. And for long stretches this season, he has been effective, like in July and August when he held a 3.16 ERA across 11 starts.

But a lot has happened since August for Gonzalez, both on the field and off of it. In his five starts since, he's given up 19 runs in 23 innings. That stretch includes his 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday night against the Diamondbacks, when he gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks and threw a whopping 100 pitches.

Just in time for the playoffs.

The Nationals have an unenviable situation without Stephen Strasburg, who is rehabbing a right flexor strain, and with Joe Ross still building his workload. They better hope the version of Gio Gonzalez they see in the NLDS is better than the one they have witnessed over the last several weeks.

“It wasn’t that good, but we didn’t score any runs either. He had a lot of pitches in a short period of time," manager Dusty Baker said after the Nats' 3-0, rain-shortened loss.

"They ran his pitch count up. They didn’t swing at very many balls and it looked like they were trying to wait on his fastball."

Gonzalez will now have to make adjustments in bullpen sessions over the course of the next 12 days. He will have to do that with a lot on his mind. Gonzalez heads to the funeral of close friend Jose Fernandez on Thursday and was pitching with extra emotion against Arizona. 

“He’s an emotional-type guy," Baker said. "I talked to him a little bit about Fernandez and he was pitching for him and for us. Just wasn’t a very good night."

Now Gonzalez will have plenty of time to grieve and recalibrate before he sees the Dodgers. Whether that hurts or helps has yet to be determined.

“It can [help]. Just depends on, not only can it reset him, but after things have subsided some… they say time heals all wounds, but some wounds take longer to heal," Baker said.

"It probably won’t really set in until after the season when he’s back in Miami and around and Jose’s not around. Hopefully, he can have a couple good ‘pens and get it back together because we’re certainly going to need him come playoff time."

Gonzalez does have some success against the Dodgers to build off of. He holds a 1.69 ERA across 32 innings vs. L.A. since 2012 and held them to one run through six earlier this season.

Gonzalez is also just ready for a fresh start.

"You start the postseason with a zero ERA. It's a new series. New way to look at it," he said.

[RELATED: Podcast: Can Nationals win without Wilson Ramos?]

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