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Slumping and with a heavy heart, Desmond comes up big

Jun 25, 2015, 12:00 AM EST

Ian Desmond knows one swing will not solve all of his problems and break him out of his worst offensive funk in years. After all, it wasn’t even a hit.

But given the circumstances surrounding the night, his slump and the team, Desmond’s walkoff sac fly to beat the Braves on Wednesday sure seems like it was just what he needed.

Time will tell of course, but Desmond had driven in just three runs in his previous 21 games. He had just four hits in his last 41 at-bats.

“It helps. It’s been a while since he felt like he contributed, so tonight he did that in a big way,” manager Matt Williams said. “So that’ll help. It helps relax, it helps calm, it helps see the ball, all those things. So it was a good at-bat by him. Nice to see him come through for us there.”

“Extremely happy [for him]. He’s been in a little bit of a slump lately,” Jordan Zimmermann said. “Hopefully, this gets him out of it and he’ll come back tomorrow and get a few hits.”

Desmond wouldn’t give himself much credit for the sac fly, as he knows that alone won’t set him free.

“It felt good to win,” he said. “It felt good to drive a run in there. We still got a lot of time to play.”

Desmond, though, did take issue with the notion he hasn’t been contributing despite his slumber at the plate and troubles in the field.

“Contribute? I won’t take that. Whether I get hits, or whatever, I feel like I bring something to the team every day. I feel like I contribute. The box score may not say that. I know what I bring to the team,” he said.

“I try to be a professional and handle my business the right way. I try to get better every day, whether I’m doing well or I’m doing terrible. I still try to come to the ballpark and contribute to the team and to win.”

Desmond feels he brings value to the Nationals by the example he sets, and he’s not the only one saying it.

“It’s great for him. He’s come to the ballpark every day. He hasn’t hung his head,” Clint Robinson said.

“Whatever struggles he’s going through, whatever is being said off the field about him by everybody, he hasn’t listened to it. He still comes here and is the same person every day. He’s a great example for anybody who is watching for how to conduct yourself as a professional. He’s the gold standard in my opinion. To see him come up in that situation and come through, I’m very very happy for him.”

Desmond came up big for the Nationals despite playing with a heavy heart. The Nats are mourning the loss of bench coach Randy Knorr’s wife, Kimberly, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 45. Knorr was Desmond’s first professional manager back in 2005 with the Low-A Savannah Sand Gnats.

Desmond fought back tears during his postgame interview when asked about Knorr, who is currently away from the team to be with family.

“I can’t say, words can’t describe it. This guy has been there for me since I was 18. We’ve been through a lot together. That was awesome, but… I mean, I’d do anything to be able to go and give him a hug,” he said.

  1. Jfmii - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:09 AM

    Professional and a good man

  2. rmoore446 - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:27 AM

    He is a good man and a fine professional. Oh, I groan when he swings at strike three on a pitch in the dirt. But I remember how Espinosa turned it around this year after years of wandering in the wilderness. I’m pulling for Desmond and its way too early to write him off.

  3. lphboston - Jun 25, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Not buying that one medium-deep fly ball has turned his season around. He’s chasing lost money, just like gamblers do at a blackjack table. Last night 0 for 3 with a strikeout, and another error in a one-run game. Short-term they are better with Espinosa at SS. Long-term? Who knows?

    • unterp - Jun 25, 2015 at 6:50 AM

      it was a moment. good for him, sorry for his loss…

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 25, 2015 at 7:41 AM

      Not buying that one medium-deep fly ball has turned his season around

      Since you apparently didn’t bother to read the first sentence, here it is again, as a public service:

      “Ian Desmond knows one swing will not solve all of his problems and break him out of his worst offensive funk in years.”

      • lphboston - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:04 AM

        The whole tenor of the story was that a corner has been turned. I disagree. Desmond is playing desperate. He had his chance to cash in but turned down $90 million. He will not get anything near that now, because every team in the league has seen that the Nats are a better team with him not on the field.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        Actually, to me the whole tenor of the story was that Desmond is persevering in the face of a slump and personal loss, and that his teammates praise him for his dedication and spirit. You could see the sadness in Desmond even during the chocolate sauce/bucket/Gatorade shower, and then his postgame interview talking about his feeling for Coach Knorr and his wife, taken untimely at the age of 45. The closest thing in the entire article to “a corner has been turned” was MW offering “it’ll help” – while also saying “it was a good at bat … nice to see him come through there” while not making any prediction about the future. JZim said “hopefully this gets him out out of [his slump]” but makes no predictions. What do you expect him to say about his teammate? “He’s a lost cause, I can’t believe they sent him up there with the game on the line but somehow it worked?”

        To take a moment like that to exercise your mind reading abilities and throw negativity around is not a choice that I would have made.

    • janebeard - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:38 AM

      I truly think for Ian it’s about being believed in, not just the money, that a signed deal would represent. He has always done best when he had someone in his corner. But the way he has been grinding through even in this hard time is quite something.

  4. ArVAFan - Jun 25, 2015 at 6:53 AM

    Nice to wake up to the Nats having the longest active winning streak in the majors. Doug, let’s see what you can do tonight–I’ll be there to watch in person. Presuming, of course, that they get the game in before the Metro closes.

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:38 AM

      It’s a 4:00 game.I think they’ll get it in.

      • NatsLady - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:04 AM

        Depends on the length of the rain delay(s).

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:29 AM

        The Braves only have to get to Pittsburgh for tomorrow, so they can wait quite a while to start, if it looks like that will let them get it in. Forecast seems to be calling for heavy thunderstorms starting about 4 PM and lasting into Saturday, though.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:34 AM

        Looking ahead, if it does get rained out today, ATL is back here once more, for a four-game set just before Labor Day. So if they had to make it up, they could plug a doubleheader into that. Probably not the Nats’ first choice, but possible.

  5. laddieblahblah - Jun 25, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    Great win for the Nats, and you could see how happy his teammates were for Ian Desmond. He is a first pitch swinger and Aardsma gave him a hanger over the outer half, allowing Desmond to extend his arms and get the barrel on the ball. No hitter could ask for a better pitch to elevate and drive to the outfield. Aardsma made a serious mistake. If he sees first pitch hangers like that for the rest of the year, Desi could hit .350.

    But he won’t. And he won’t.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:00 AM

      I’m telling you, the Baseball Gods had new angel wings via Kimberly Knorr on that pitch from Aardsma for Desi. Off the bat I’m thinking off the wall but def a GW Walk off RBI.

      I’m so stoked for Desi. This guy deserves this and for a moment you know that Randy Knorr got a smile on his face momentarily to pause his grieving.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        +20

      • janebeard - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:39 AM

        + 100

  6. Guapo - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:22 AM

    Good for Desmond. He needs to hit because his fielding is atrocious.

  7. rayvil01 - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    Was listening to MLB radio yesterday concerning Desmond. Jim Bowden seemed to think that the Nats will shop him. What’s interesting to me is the flexibility this bunch has in the infield. Espi can play all four spots. Robinson and TyMo can play 1st. Rendon can play 2B and 3B. Escobar can play 2B, SS, and 3B. And, Trea Turner is coming next year. You can mix and match a lot.

    Bowden’s thinking was that Rizzo wants to get something for Desi. He may be getting nervous about a QO because Desi might take it. If he leaves things as-is they may have to let him walk at the end of the year with no return. My guess is that they are going to give him every possible chance to get going before the trade deadline. After that I would think the patience is going to wear out unless he snaps out of it.

    • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:57 AM

      How much/big/long must the QO be?

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:20 AM

      Honest question, not snark–

      How seriously do others take Bowden’s speculations? Do you give them any more credence than you do to things that commenters write here?

      I have a hard time taking him seriously, given his track record and the fact that he’s paid to run his mouth these days. But maybe I should.

      • Toot D. Blan - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:25 AM

        I give absolutely no credence to what any commenter writes here (including myself) so Bowden would have to get more than that. Not more, but some.

      • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:46 AM

        It comes down to the commentors and there credibility. You have some commentors like Peric who was rarely right and some who clearly possess insiders knowledge.

        Not naming names but one commentor here said that Andrew Stevenson would sign for $749,500 rounded up to the nearest $1,000 on a slot value of $1,058,100. He signed yesterday for $750,000. Now unless this person is a good guesser, he had to have direct knowledge of the negotiations.

        Yes, we are lucky to have some people here with incredible insight, knowledge, and keen observation skills.

        Toot D. Blan aka Feelwood can never seem to give anyone credit here becuz he just never has anything to say.

        Ive learned more about baseball here from Mark and commentors to the point where I have websites referenced to learn the game better and while I stopped a long time a go from posting during the games I still follow a long and learn.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:53 AM

        Good points,128.

        I didn’t mean to suggest I give no credence to commenters here – there are definitely people here whom I respect and from whom I learn things.

        With Bowden, I really just wondered if folks think he still has meaningful contacts in the Nats FO, or insight into how Rizzo thinks, that would give any reliability to his predictions or to his claims about what is happening behind the scenes.

      • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:23 AM

        I think Bowden still has a relationship with Rizzo and can call him for a some tidbits but Rizzo hates leaked information and I dont think he will give Bowden anything. I read here that others said even before Bowden that its prudent to shop Desi. It doesnt mean he will be traded but shop him becuz thats smart baseball.

        Where Bowden got caught up is that bold prediction that Trea Turner would be the new shortstop on August 1st. Even if Desi was traded, you still have Esco and Espi who can play SS, Rendon, Espi, Uggla, and Esco who can all play 2nd and Esco, Rendon and Espi who can all play 3rd. All I think happens if Desi was traded is Uggla becomes the next guy up on the depth chart and your infield starters are Rendon, Esco, Espi and the platoon at 1st. Does Trea Turner get called up for extra depth to sit on the bench on August 1? Doubtful unless theres an injury. You want that guy playing every day until the AA season is over. Will he be a September callup? Yes.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:37 AM

        On Bowden and his musings, I can’t think of a single story or idea that he broke concerning the Nationals in the past couple of years where he was right. Rizzo plays his cards extremely close to the chest (as he should) and therefore most of the commentary about the team is wildly inaccurate, consisting of wishful thinking or agenda serving by other teams and/or player agents. It’s now been years since Bowden was a part of the organization, and I’ve seen nothing to indicate that he has any special sources or insight to the organization.

        Also, think it through. By all accounts Desmond is incredibly popular and respected by the players in the clubhouse with him. That counts against moving him because of team disruption (unlike Nomar Garciaparra, who was reported to be a malcontent in the Red Sox clubhouse when they traded him midseason). That doesn’t mean you don’t make a move for the right return, of course. But Desmond has done a good job of shafting his trade value. At this point he’s a struggling player who is pretty expensive ($11M this season) – and if he’s traded during the season, the receiving team would be barred from extending a QO, so they couldn’t even hope for a compensation draft pick. So there’s very little chance of getting anything in return even if they wanted to risk the disruption to team chemistry and move him. The Nats are more likely to get a revival of Desmond then they are to get anything from trading him.

        As for the QO, Desmond is unlikely to accept it – but I don’t think the Nationals would really mind if he did. While expensive, it would only be for the one season and thus wouldn’t really preclude them from seeking extensions with other players (Storen, Strasburg, Ramos, and longer term Harper, Rendon). But even as he’s completely shafted his value so that his chances of a nine figure contract are utterly gone, Desmond is likely to get at least an offer along the lines of 4 years for $44M, which would be well more than twice the guaranteed money from the QO.

      • ITGSOT - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:20 AM

        As of a couple years ago, Rizzo’s DC residence was an apartment subleased from Jim Bowden. That might still be the case, I don’t know. And Bowden’s crony Squire Galbreath is still a part owner of the Nats. You better believe that Bowden has more and better access to the inner workings of the team than any of the windbags clogging up this site. Just because he does a lousy job interpreting the meaning of the information he gets doesn’t negate the access he has. The windbags here SOOTBLAN so much that they’re bound to get something right every now and then. Blind squirrel and all that.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        Thanks to everyone for the answers.

        I think John is right about the ultimate measure–what of significance has Bowden gotten right?

        His track record would seem to compare unfavorably to the blind squirrel.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:45 PM

        Rizzo moved out of Bowden’s old place very quickly. I know this for a fact, because it’s the same building I live in.

        Of course, their suite was several floors above my unit and several times larger. I don’t run in that tax bracket 🙂

    • infideljack - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:29 AM

      Also Uggla plays 2nd and the others are flexible to accomodate if needed.

      • rayvil01 - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:51 AM

        Completely forgot about Uggla. Good point. I wish he’d get more ABs.

  8. adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    I only heard the play — and only saw the replay once — but what I *thought* I saw was Ian taking a controlled swing — rather than swinging from the heels, shoulder flying open, etc. — on that pitch. If so, that’s progress. If not, oh well.

    What did others see on that?

    • virginiascopist - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:02 AM

      Yes, I also thought it was a controlled swing, certainly not what we’re used to seeing from Desi lately.

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:35 AM

      Go look at the replay. Desmond most certainly kept his feet flat on the ground with very little stride as he swung in a controlled manner.

      Maybe, just maybe he’ll look at that swing and a light bulb will go off in his head.

      Desi is a quality human being but man, is he a stubborn sob when it comes to his at bats.

      • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:38 AM

        (I’m here at work, no videos come through our internet, which is why I was asking. I saw the replay once late last night after I got home)

        Thanks for the confirmation, guys!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:44 AM

        Or go ON in his head.

        Just saying.

  9. adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    Nats have moved up to 5th in NL in BA (3rd in runs/game) and up to 7th in team ERA.

    A personal pet peeve of mine is walks. They don’t call them “free passes” for nothing. I am thrilled that the Nats lead the NL in fewest BB/IP. The Nats are 13th of 15 NL teams in allowing hits/inning — but you can still get a decent ERA if you severely cut down on the walks. Which is exactly what the Nats do. (Oh, and 2d best in fewest HR/inning).

    • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      There was so much damage down to ERA in the first 1/3 of the season that the relevance will probaly be the monthly ERA team stats. 7th is fine but #1 for every month remaning has to be the goal.

  10. nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    “rayvil01 – Jun 25, 2015 at 8:53 AM
    Was listening to MLB radio yesterday concerning Desmond. Jim Bowden seemed to think that the Nats will shop him.”

    I was listening to that to and while I dont buy the Trea Turner starting at SS on Aug 1 like Bowden says will happen I do believe that the Nats would be foolish not to ship Desi for a trade altho they would have to get some good value back for him.

    Like Natsjack said, will the lightbulb go off in Desis head that controled swings are whats needed. He didnt need a 500 ft HR in that situation last night just 350 feet and he got it.

    • jd - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:19 AM

      Nats128,

      They are not getting a ton for a Desi rental. Other teams pay attention as well and the defense is at least as alarming as the lack of offense. Desi’s reputation around baseball is that of an erratic fielder. I am convinced that Rizzo shopped Desi around last off season fearing (reasonably so) that Desi may lose value if he keeps declining.

      I fully understand that Desi means more to the team than his performance alone but I am convinced that Rizzo knows that Desi’s time in DC is coming to an end.I have never seen Turner play but his numbers suggest that he’s not far off and it wouldn’t shock me if he makes an appearance in the big leagues this year.

      Finally, waiting for Desi to have a controlled swing is like waiting for Godot. It’s not happenning, he’s had a good career so far swinging hard and he said himself that he won’t remake his swing, that it’s too late in his career to do that and I think he’s right.

      • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:25 AM

        I think your right but it doesnt mean Bowden is wrong. They will shop Desi just like Rizzo did with JZ and Strasburg were rumored in the offseason and when he didnt get the package in wanted in return in took them off the market.

        It costs nothing to shop a player, doesnt mean you have to sell him.

      • jd - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:32 AM

        Nats128,

        I think they might though. If they find a partner who will give them something of value like say Brad Ziegler it may well make sense to pull the trigger now. I think the QO option is too risky now because Desi will almost certainly take it and I am pretty sure that the Nats start 2016 with Turner at short.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:40 AM

        My hopes for Desi are rapidly diminishing, but I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

        He could still heat up for the remaining three months of the regular season, and if he performs well in the small sample size, anything can happen environment of the playoffs (fingers crossed!), he could rejuvenate his chances on the FA market.

        I would still not be in favor of re-signing him (and don’t think Rizzo will). But it would make a QO a good move for the Nats.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:44 AM

        No player has ever accepted a QO, and I don’t think that Desmond would be the first. For a couple of reasons. First of all, Desmond has said that setting precedent and supporting other players is important to him, which to me indicates that he would lean free agency. More importantly, unless his season gets worse rather than better Desmond would get much more guaranteed money in a multiyear deal than he would by accepting the QO. Even though his chances at a nine figure contract are gone, he would get at a minimum something like a 4 year/$40 million (a lower AAV than his current salary) – which would be about 2.5x the amount of guaranteed money of the QO.

        I think that Rizzo would field calls on Desmond, but at this point the chances of getting any kind of a return for a three month rental of a struggling player who is expensive ($11M salary) and as a traded player would not even permit a QO/comp draft pick are essentially nil.

      • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:51 AM

        “therealjohnc – Jun 25, 2015 at 10:44 AM
        No player has ever accepted a QO, and I don’t think that Desmond would be the first.”

        At some point someone is going to be the 1st but I think the way you said it makes sense. Desi blew it big time by not taking Mr. Lerner’s $100 million. While he did talk about “setting precedent and supporting other players is important to him”, I never bought that. I think he felt he could do better than $17 to $18 million a year that he was offered. Now like you said a team will pay him a much smaller deal unless he dramatically turns his season around.

      • letswin3 - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:09 PM

        John, maybe I’ve read your analysis wrong, or don’t fully understand the scope of a QO, but I’m fairly sure your math is questionable. This offseason QO will have to be for about $16 million for ONE YEAR, and you’ve reckoned that Desi would get 2.5 more than that in free agency at somewhere around $40 million for 4 years. Those numbers assume a future value of about $10 million per year, so that’s certainly not 2.5 times more, and why would the Nat’s want to offer 1.6 times more than his perceived one-year value (and hope he doesn’t accept) in a risky move to gain a possible draft choice? And if he accepted, the Nat’s would also get another year of Desi’s poor fielding and declining bat, while giving him a 60% raise.

      • therealjohnc - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:49 PM

        letswin3, I was speaking of guaranteed money:

        Guaranteed money from a QO (estimated): $16M
        Guaranteed money from a 4 year/$40M contract (not discounting to present value): $40M.

        40/16 = 2.5

        Present value constructs would depend on how the deal is structured, but because it’s only a 4 year deal and not a 14 year payout deal (looking at you, Max) the impact of depreciating future dollars to present value is not going to be substantial.

  11. nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:04 AM

    rayvil, speaking of MLB Network Radio, there morning show is The Leadoff and they finally have tackled the thorny issue of MLB Umpire reviews.

    I didnt know that 1 MLB crew that isnt working a series goes to NY to become the 4 man crew reviewing the tape in NY.

    Last night the Dodgers / Cubs game ended on Denorfia hitting the ball in the corner and tried stretching it into a double and the ball beat him by plenty but it appeared that the tag was put on his chest clearly after the hand got in. He was called out on the field and they wouldnt reverse the call.

    Joe Maddon after the game questioned the integrity of the system and wants “4 nerds” reviewing the video instead of 4 umps who he doesnt feel is impartial.

    He makes some great points and the call-ins and the honest conversation from the radio hosts was fascinating

    • rayvil01 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:30 AM

      I missed it. Sounds like good stuff. I have wondered sometimes if the people in the booth are more concerned with accuracy or saving their bud’s ego/reputation. Maddon is spot-on. Get some guys in there who aren’t part of the fraternity.

      • nats128 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:38 AM

        I had no idea these were working umpires. I always thought or assumed this was a independent group of analysts that MLB hired.

        Any one else have any info on that its actually umpires.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:20 AM

        They’ve always said these were MLB umps, which does make sense in that they need someone who knows the rules as they are currently applied, including the approved rulings, and the umps are (supposedly) all trained approximately equally well on those points. It seems to me that having a rotating crew of umps is a good idea on the field, but in the NY booth (the only one of those there is), it would make for inconsistencies in outcomes.

      • ITGSOT - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:37 AM

        You should pay attention to other than the windbags here and you would have known. This was said in all the coverage of replay when it was instituted, and is frequently mentioned on the MASN broadcast. FP has even been mounting a crusade lately to have MLB make the names of those umps public just like they do the four working the game.

  12. npb99 - Jun 25, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    Good for Desi, and this comment isn’t about him in particular, but it always seems to me that the RBI guy and the guy who got on base and then scored should get something like equal credit. Instead it’s almost always the RBI guy who is hailed as the hero, and too little focus is given to the other hitter, who got on base and scored.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 25, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      Or the guy who worked a walk from 0-2 to push the runner to third with one out.

      Just saying.

      • adcwonk - Jun 25, 2015 at 12:01 PM

        + 4 ! 😉

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