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Desmond in depth on his struggles

Jun 23, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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Stuck in a month-long slump, shortstop Ian Desmond was given Friday night off by the Nationals’ coaching staff with the intention of giving him some rest, both physically and mentally. He was also out of the lineup initially on Saturday before Yunel Escobar was a late scratch due to a stomach bug.

Desmond is not used to sitting out when healthy. He led the Nats in games played in 2013 and 2014, and finished second on the team in 2010 and 2011.

But Desmond is batting just .222/.266/.341 through 69 games this year and has only 10 hits in his last 78 at-bats (.128) going back to May 30. He has three consecutive Silver Sluggers to point to, but it’s not early anymore with the season’s midway point quickly approaching.

“I mean, I’m hitting .220. It’s pretty hard to just sit back and just trust that everything’s gonna be fine. But I do believe I’m gonna be fine, and I believe my swing’s gonna show up and everything’s gonna be alright.”

Though the Nats gave Desmond a day off, he didn’t exactly take it off.

“Of course not,” manager Matt Williams said. “He came out for early grounders [Friday] with the middle infielders and then took more during batting practice and took his regular BP. You can’t tell him no, because they’re grown men. They can do what they want.”

Desmond understands what the Nationals are prescribing for him, that a little time off could help him in the long run. But he’s tied to his routine and some habits are just hard to break.

“I’m a worker, man. I come here every day, try to keep it as much blue collar as I can, and if you’re not performing, you gotta get better. So yeah, I mean I rested, but at the same time, I’m still trying to sharpen the tools,” he said.

Desmond said he has no plans to overhaul his swing, as it did win him those three Silver Sluggers. He may, however, make minor tweaks with the help of hitting coach Rick Schu.

“I’m married to my swing, it’s not gonna change. My swing is my swing. I’ll make small adjustments, but five, ten years ago I would’ve overhauled my swing. Those are the mistakes I made back then. I’m not gonna venture down that road again. I believe in what I’ve done,” he said.

Desmond has been in the majors for seven years, but didn’t hit his stride until 2012, his fourth season. He made his debut after spending more than five years in the minor leagues as a prospect. He is 29 years old and has seen steep highs and lows.

“I have a long history of failures and successes. Going back to my first year in pro ball. I grinded my way here, and I’ll grind my way back. Simple as that. I believe in myself. I don’t need anything or anybody to tell me what I’m capable of. I know what I’m capable of. I’ll get it back,” he said.

Williams may give Desmond more rest in the coming weeks if his struggles continue. He wants to get his usually-reliable shortstop back on track no matter what it takes.

“It’s important for him to get back to where he wants to be, and if a couple of days off does that then at the end of the year, maybe he’ll look back and say that was good,” he explained. “It’s never easy to take him out of the lineup but for the long-term health of our team and his season and his mentality, I think it’s important. It’s never easy, but a couple of day I think will be good for him.”

Desmond insisted he is not worried about anything in the big picture. This is supposed to be a temporary experiment and he is willing to try anything to solve his issues.

“I don’t care. I’m here for the Washington Nationals and I wanna win games. As long as we’re winning, I’m fine,” he said.

  1. nats1924 - Jun 23, 2015 at 6:21 AM

    Crazy, in one month from now Desi may lose his starting SS gig to Yunel or Espi – I would have never of imagined this!

    The real question is- at this rate, do the Nats make Desi a qualifying offer in the offseason? Where do the Nats put him in 2016?

    • davebinmd - Jun 23, 2015 at 2:04 PM

      The Nats won’t be putting him anywhere in 2016 because he’s not in their plans. If he signs the QO, that doesn’t means the Nats are stuck with him, having him signed, and signed affordably, will restore some trade value, so you move him in the off-season. Also incresing his trade value, any team that gets him via off-season trade could eventually get a compensation pick back for him since they’ll have him for a full season, just in case he plays well enough that he wants to test the FA market after next year.

  2. unkyd59 - Jun 23, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    “I grinded my way here, and I’ll grind my way back.”

    • natsguy - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      I grind my teeth every time I hear the grind cliche. Worse than “I’ll do anything to help the team” or “I’ll take it one game at a time”. Can these guys hear themselves.

      • bowdenball - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:36 AM

        The guy gave a fairly detailed and refreshingly honest take on his situation in the middle of his toughest year by far. And you hunt and peck through it for the cliches so you can trash him.

        If all he’d said was “I have to keep grinding” your complaint might have merit, but he said a lot more than that. You know why these guys give cliche answers to every question and try to avoid going in depth on any subject? Because every thing they utter gets over-analyzed by fans and the media. You’re contributing to the exact problem you’re complaining about.

      • Candide - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:40 AM

        Cliches are their friends. Better to say something boring (or grammatically wrong) than something embarrassing or stupid.

        Of course, it’s the embarrassing, stupid, off-the-rails stuff that’s the most fun. Which is why we all miss Ozzie Guillen so much.

      • Toot D. Blan - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:56 AM

        Why didn’t you warn Barry Svrluga?

        http://www.amazon.com/The-Grind-Inside-Baseballs-Endless/dp/0399176284

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        “I LOVE winning, man! It’s like, y’know, better than losing!”


        (Not entirely safe for all workplaces)

      • Guapo - Jun 24, 2015 at 8:42 AM

        Rayanne, that’s a beautiful name. There’s a Motley Crue song…Rayanne are you stayin’…ever heard it? Anyway, a friend of mine once said “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.” Think about that for a minute.

  3. rabbit433 - Jun 23, 2015 at 6:46 AM

    The coaching staff doesn’t want him to overhaul his swing as Desmond puts it. Desi, they want you to get your swing back to what it was. Apparently, it has unintentionally overhauled. Maybe Ray Knight can help you with it. In the mean time, you’re hurting the team. Well, we only have until September to worry about it.

  4. tcostant - Jun 23, 2015 at 7:09 AM

    Good idea, don’t consider changing your swing.

  5. ArVAFan - Jun 23, 2015 at 7:27 AM

    On the subject of Desmond, I had a chat with him last night at the Zims Foundation fundraiser at the Park. No, I didn’t ask about his hitting–this was a social conversation. He did remember meeting us last year (and before you say “sure he did,” he remembered what section we sit in, and that would be pretty hard to guess).

    Barrett said he hoped to be back “soon,” but I’m not assuming next week.

    RZimm at least wasn’t limping, Scherzer and Gio were signing stuff, and every kid got pictures with the players who were there. I apologized to Scherzer for missing his no-hitter for a memorial service, but promised to be there for his next one. He didn’t pooh-pooh the idea.

    For any of you who like non-Nats sports memorabilia, there wasn’t much competition for the hockey, football, boxing, and non-Nats baseball signed and/or authenticated memorabilia: indeed, some of it didn’t get any bids. I suspect that next year’s will be the same (and probably some of the same stuff) so if you’re interested, either go or get someone who is going to bid for you. I lost the bidding war on the team-signed baseball: after I took a look at the jewelry on the person bidding against me, I decided there was no way I was winning that one. But I did run up the price–and it’s all for a good cause, right?

    I will say it was weird walking back to the car–we had just paid for our auction item, and ending up walking through the concourse completely by ourselves. That does feel very odd.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:22 AM

      Nice to hear the report. Thanks!

    • dryw4nats - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:20 AM

      Great stories. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  6. rayvil01 - Jun 23, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    Looks like Freeman to the DL odds have just gone up:

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:32 AM

      Yes, it’s been an issue on his wrist for several days. Terdoslavich to take his place.

  7. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 23, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    Alicia Silverstone will play Desmond in the movie.

  8. alexva6 - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    I never expected him to rise to the levels he did in 2012 and 2013 so I can’t say how this will turn out. He would not be the first talented athlete to lose the ability to succeed. In his case it is not for lack of commitment or desire to help the team.

    I do think there was some special bond with Davey that helped him.

    • jpzzz - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      Alexva — I suspect the same thing about Davey. Seemed like he knew how to make Ian feel more secure. Who knows? This could be unfounded armchair analysis, but I’ve long had the same thought.

  9. veejh - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:29 AM

    “I have a long history of failures and successes. Going back to my first year in pro ball. I grinded my way here, and I’ll grind my way back.”

    Very true, but then, the Nats were so bad, that once Dez made it up, he was able to continue to play in the bigs and continue to grind. Now that we are competing for pennants, the team cannot afford to just leave him in and figure it out. At least, I hope they don’t. No one player is bigger than this team, period. I hope management sees it that way too, if things don’t get better soon.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:37 AM

      FWIW, MLB rumors is running a rumor that the Nats are talking to Arizona regarding the D’Backs IF depth. The story line is that the Nats believe they can work a deal where they get something of more value than a comp pick in next year’s draft.

      In order to have that pick, the Nats would have to make Desmond a qualifying offer. Suppose he accepted the offer? That may play into it, too, or so you would think.

      • veejh - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:44 AM

        Talk about a crushing blow to Dez if that scenario plays out (that is, if he’s traded to avoid having to give him a QO).

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:52 AM

        That’s not exactly what the article said, It speculated that perhaps the Nats thought they could get more for Desmond than a comp pick.

        I think the Nats probably saw the Arizona – Atlanta trade and checked in to see if they could join in the pillaging of the Diamondbacks. Larussa is quoted as saying the Diamondbacks think they’re only a couple of pieces away from winning, so maybe they’d want Desmond, and would give up young talent that’s farther away from being big contributors.

      • pdowdy83 - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:52 AM

        veejh, that would actually benefit Desmond. Then the team acquiring him wouldn’t be able to offer him a QO and that will make it easier to get his new contract.

      • veejh - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:55 AM

        Yeah, but still a big blow to his ego.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:33 AM

        I saw that last night. Odd. It could mean Desi might be traded.

      • nats128 - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        I agree with your “take” on it Laddie as your thinking ahead. If you give a QO to Desi he probaly does take it at $15.4 million in hopes to to work on a 1 year deal and better his stock. Thats a risk that Rizzo might not want to take and trading him now would net him something if his fear is they wont QO him after the season.

        A logical way to think about it!

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 23, 2015 at 11:00 AM

        “That’s not exactly what the article said, It speculated that perhaps the Nats thought they could get more for Desmond than a comp pick.”

        That’s what I said, too. I speculated that the possibility of Desmond’s accepting a qualifying offer might be influencing their decision. Why would it not?

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 23, 2015 at 11:01 AM

        “A logical way to think about it!”

        One of my many faults…;o)

      • masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2015 at 11:59 AM

        “That’s what I said, too. I speculated that the possibility of Desmond’s accepting a qualifying offer might be influencing their decision. Why would it not?”

        I read your post as suggesting that the article was doing more than speculating, so I just wanted folks to understand that mlbrumors was making it up just as much was we all do here. Not a big deal for me and I hope I didn’t come off as criticizing you.

      • davebinmd - Jun 23, 2015 at 2:46 PM

        As I stated in another thread: It’s not the end of the world if he accepts the QO, it doesn’t mean the Nats are stuck with him. Having him signed (somewhat) affordably increases his trade value, as does having the team receiving him in an off-season trade eligible to get a compensation pick for him if he plays well enough to leave that team via FA.

    • paulfortier - Jun 23, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      veejh – Totally agree with you

  10. natfan33 - Jun 23, 2015 at 8:33 AM

    Is he still using chewing tobacco?

  11. tcostant - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Where the hell s Davey? He is still a cosultant for this team and he is the one who got Desi to be an offense force. Fack DL him, send him to Florida for 15 days and let Davey work with him. If not that, then maybe the All-Star break in Florida.

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:12 AM

      Right now? He should be making the turn and heading to #10 at his favorite Winter Park golf course, Interlachen.

      • scmargenau - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:34 AM

        Ha

        Makes me wanna blow today off and hit the links

  12. jd - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:22 AM

    The commenteriat always has to have a whipping boy. This year it’s Desi. In the past it’s been Espi,Hairston, Stairs etc.There is always someone who is having a down year and clearly we all know what is causing it: poor training staff, bad mechanics, failure to play small ball, problems at home, player is a lazy jerk etc.

    On deck we have Stras and Gio and several players to be named later.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:35 AM

      Desi, RZim, Werth, Strasburg come to mind as whipping boys. Gio and Ramos get their fair share too.

    • scnatsfan - Jun 23, 2015 at 9:41 AM

      To be fair Desi tied himself to the post and laid out the whips.

      • jd - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        scnatsfan,

        It doesn’t matter. Some people aren’t happy unless they are miserable and/or nasty.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:18 AM

        Or breaking somebody else’s toys.

      • nats128 - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:33 AM

        I was at the Zims event also and spoke to some players about Desi. One pitcher was animated about how few people know what there talking about when it comes to Desi. Hes a leader and a silver slugger and will regain his form given time to do it.

      • adcwonk - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:54 AM

        One pitcher was animated about how few people know what there talking about when it comes to Desi.

        Hah. What does he know? (/ snark)

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 23, 2015 at 11:04 AM

        Great feedback–appreciate it.

        There was speculation in a recent comments thread here about Desi’s role as HR helmet remover–whether players were as enthusiastic about the ritual this year and speculating as to what that meant re attitudes towards Desi. Seemed silly at the time and this seems to confirm it.

  13. masterfishkeeper - Jun 23, 2015 at 10:29 AM

    Moderately interesting take at Grantland on the Nats. I think he’s too negative on Ryan, but time will tell.

    http://grantland.com/the-triangle/mlb-the-30-as-nationals-rays-pirates-disabled-list/

  14. Joe Seamhead - Jun 23, 2015 at 11:59 AM

    But this is a baseball blog called “Nats Insider” and as such it is an ongoing discussion revolving around the Nationals, mostly by Nats fans. Many of us on here closely follow baseball in general, and follow the Nats in depth. And in varying degrees, each of us follow many statistics of the game, because after all, baseball has always been a game of statistics. So when one praises, or derides a player’s performance, it is often based on some form of stats, whether from the last game, last week, of the whole year. So to my way of thinking, fans see a player putting up poor numbers and might show their frustration with the player by voicing their frustrations on here. And if stats back up their critique I don’t think of them as being any worse fans than anybody else. which brings me to Ian Desmond. [For the record,, when Desi was struggling early in his career I didn’t trash him]. Anyway, Desmond has brought a lot to the table for this team in of so many ways over the past 3-4 years. That said, this year’s team has suffered some major setbacks due to injuries to several key players: Rendon,Span, Werth,and Zimmerman, not to mention the pitching staff. During their absences Bryce Harper has really stepped up his game to help this team win, as have Yunel Escobar, Danny Espinosa, Span when he’s healthy, and several bench players. Ramos has been intermittently pretty good, and I think you have to give Rendon a pass right now. But Ian Desmond is supposedly a leader on this team, but he has been at best a very inconsistent player this whole year. He has too often seemingly left his leadership qualities in the locker room,because they have over all been MIA on the field during the absences of the other other guys. He has not been able to step up his game, and I don’t think it’s from lack of effort, or from a character flaw. I don’t know why he hasn’t stepped it up, but though the stats don’t always tell the whole story, his are awful this year, and there are guys behind him showing that they are playing better ball than he is. And when I give the opinion that I think that at this point in time that Ian Desmond should be the odd man out? It doesn’t make me any less of a fan of this team. And if he’s in the lineup tomorrow night? I’ll cheer for him every time he comes to the plate.

    GYFNG

    • jd - Jun 23, 2015 at 1:49 PM

      Joe,

      I have no issue with anything you say and I agree with you 100%. I object to 3 things: 1) Mean spirited criticism,
      2) twisting numbers to support one’s view. 3) making uneducated guesses as to causes of poor performance.

      Desi’s performance this year is clearly indefensible and would likely have caused a benching had there not been other side issues involved such as impeding free agency, no full trust in Espi etc. I don’t know why Desi is having such a poor year and I don’t really care to guess in a performance oriented industry it doesn’t really matter in the end. You produce or you don’t play.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 23, 2015 at 6:20 PM

        Thanks JD. I put a bit of energy into my post and it got Word Pressed in to the middle of the thread. I’m just glad that someone saw it.

        Mark???

  15. davebinmd - Jun 23, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    >”but didn’t hit his stride until 2012, his fourth season.”

    @Chase. 2012 was really Desmond’s third season. He got into 21 games in 2009 as a Sept. call-up but by MLB rules, his rookie season was 2010.

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