Gerardo Parra helped make the Nationals weird and in a good way

Chase Hughes

Championships have a tendency to make legends out of the otherwise obscure and Gerardo Parra seems like a safe bet to fall in that category. While his memory will fade over time among casual baseball circles, he will never be forgotten by generations of Washington fans.

There are some obvious names who will be tied to the Nationals winning the 2019 World Series for decades to come; names like Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto and Max Scherzer. But how far down the list do you have to go to find Parra?

Not far, that's for sure. And this is a player who had one hit in six at-bats during the entire postseason run.

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Parra signed a contract with the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo, Japan on Wednesday, ending his time with the Nationals and possibly his major league career as well. Surely, there were Nationals fans who wanted him back, and perhaps the Nats themselves had some level of interest, but Parra struck quickly this offseason to get a more lucrative contract in Japan than he likely would have received from any team in the majors.

That provides an opportunity to pause and appreciate Parra's impact on the first World Series-champion D.C. baseball team in 95 years. Before we get to his effect on clubhouse chemistry, let's first consider the fact he was actually very good on the field as well.

The Nationals brought Parra in after he was let go by the San Francisco Giants and he proved to be a crucial piece as they battled injuries early in the season to first stabilize and then take off on a run towards the playoffs.

Parra hit a grand slam against the Dodgers in his second game for the Nationals and then, from May 11 to Aug. 12, he hit .290, slugged .516 and held an .849 OPS with six homers and 31 RBI in 124 at-bats. He also started 12 games at first base despite being an outfielder by trade, back when Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams were both hurt. 

In fact, Parra officially played seven different positions for the Nats this season: first base, second base, third base, left field, center field, right field and pitcher. Yes, on Aug. 8 against the Diamondbacks, Parra faced five batters and threw 25 pitches in the eighth inning of a blowout loss.

It didn't go well, as he gave up five runs that day, but Parra's ability to step in wherever the Nats needed him went a long way towards helping them turn their season around. Really, there is an argument he is the best midseason position player pick-up in Mike Rizzo's tenure as Nationals general manager.

Parra's influence on the clubhouse, however, was his greatest asset, as our Nationals Insider Todd Dybas detailed this week. Parra helped bring more fun to the Nats with his antics. He would ride into work on a scooter, sometimes blowing a whistle. In the dugout, he would wear tinted glasses and inspire group hugs for Strasburg. And his choice of 'Baby Shark' as his walk-up song created a theme for fans that lasted through the World Series and beyond.

Those efforts to lighten the mood went a long way and Parra was pivotal in relaxing a clubhouse that needed it, especially when they had a losing record mid-year and had to dig themselves out of a hole to make the playoffs. Once they got to the postseason, they handled pressure better than any Nats team had before, and that is probably not a coincidence.

Parra became so synonymous with positive clubhouse energy that his name is likely to be invoked many times in the coming years when the Nats sign or trade for role players. People will ask 'is he the next Gerardo Parra?' And when things aren't going well and the Nats are playing tight, expect some to say 'they need a Gerardo Parra.'

Parra's impact in that way was not only unique to the Nationals, but it created a fun distinction for the city of Washington by relation. Many people view D.C. as buttoned-up and corporate, but with Parra driving the bus the Nats were certifiably one of the bizarre teams that has ever won a championship. 

There is no question Parra was a key ingredient to a special season for the Nationals and for D.C. Now he is off to Japan as the Nats ponder how to replace a guy who in some ways was irreplaceable.

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Gerardo Parra helped make the Nationals weird and in a good way originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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