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Desmond savors what could be final home game with Nats

Sep 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today

For some, it was perhaps lost in the shuffle of what was an otherwise bizarre day at Nationals Park, but on Sunday afternoon there was a uniquely special moment for the Nats and their fans. In the ninth inning, with the Nats down big against the Phillies, Matt Williams removed Ian Desmond for rookie Trea Turner.

Why was that significant? Well, it was probably the final time Desmond will play in Washington as a member of the Nationals. The 28,661 in attendance gave Desmond a standing ovation and a roaring applause as he hopped to the top step of the dugout for a curtain call.

Desmond, 30, is a free agent this offseason. He is likely to sign with another team and leave the only MLB franchise he’s ever known, the franchise that drafted him as 12 years ago when he was an 18-year-old kid from Sarasota, Florida.

Desmond was actually drafted by the Montreal Expos before they moved to Washington and became the Nationals. He is the only remaining player who is a holdover from those days within the organization.

Leaving the Nats will not be easy for Desmond, if that is indeed how this offseason plays out. He has spoken in the past about how he became a man under the caring watch of coaches and officials who are still with the team, and alongside many of the players he calls teammates today.

“That was pretty special,” Desmond said of the curtain call. “It was bittersweet. I spent a lot of time here and I have a lot of special memories. Certainly that will be among the better ones.”

Desmond debuted in 2009 and in the time since went from one of the rawest prospects in baseball to one of the game’s best shortstops. He has three Silver Slugger awards on his mantle and was a key figure on two NL East-winning teams.

Desmond has made a lot of fans over the years with his ability to hit for power unlike many shortstops and his rare ability to make sensational plays on defense. He has, however, also drawn his fair share of criticism for striking out too much and committing costly errors.

Desmond knows the opinions of him are strong, but is simply thankful for those who cared to have one.

“I appreciate the emotion,” he said. “Whether you cheered for me, loved me or hated me, booed me or whatever. To invest emotionally in somebody, not everyone gets that. There’s been over history plenty of irrelevant players who didn’t get anything from fans emotionally. Positive or negative, whatever you decided to invest in me, I appreciate it and I respect it. I went out there every day and grinded it out.”

If Desmond leaves, he will do so after a disappointing season that saw the Nationals fall far short of their expectations to win a World Series. The former All-Star, though, insists that will not diminish any sort of sentimentality he feels about his time in D.C. likely winding down. Desmond does have strong feelings about the Nats and their fans, and he only sees the positives in that.

“It’s nothing bad. That’s a good sign. Just kind of embrace it and realize it feels this way because I have built some really good relationships with some of you guys, and fans, and obviously everyone in [the Nats clubhouse]. But it’s all good stuff. Everything is positive. Except the team’s situation,” he said.

  1. janebeard - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    This HAS been overlooked. I came with a sign for Ian because I knew it was the last time I would see hm in a Nats uniform. And he even saw and acknowledged the sign, which he didn’t have to do. When they pulled him and we got to cheer for him, I had no idea he was the first one to beak up the Papelbon assault on Harper. Imagine how headspinning that five minutes must have been for Desi!

    I hope Desi ends up on a team where they trust and value him. I know his numbers will come back. His leadership and character are what that clubhouse ned MORE of, not less. And that’s a fact.

    • patrickthand - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      I doubt his numbers will come back because they have been in steady decline since his best years (2010-2012). All because Desmond pig-headedly (and apparently without intervention from management and coaches) tried unsuccessfully to make himself into a power-hitting shortstop a la Cal Ripken or Troy Tulowitzki. The result is he has become an embarrassment to himself at the plate. He must hold the season record for strikeouts by a shortstop. Pitchers know if they can get Desmond to two strikes, there is about a 90% chance they can fan him.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 28, 2015 at 2:17 PM


      I’ll give him a Standing O TYVM from 309.

  2. NatsNut - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    Would it have been too sentimental to have teared up a little yesterday at his curtain call? Asking for a friend.

    (I’ll really miss you Desi)

    • natsfan1a - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:33 AM

      No, not at all. I believe it’s a quite reasonable response (sniff sniff).

      (Love you, Desi.)

      Oh, and this was fantastic:

      “I appreciate the emotion,” he said. “Whether you cheered for me, loved me or hated me, booed me or whatever. To invest emotionally in somebody, not everyone gets that. There’s been over history plenty of irrelevant players who didn’t get anything from fans emotionally. Positive or negative, whatever you decided to invest in me, I appreciate it and I respect it. I went out there every day and grinded it out.”

      • Scooter - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:13 PM

        Yup. Love that he said that.

    • dryw4nats - Sep 28, 2015 at 1:36 PM

      Wow, I have the exact same friend! 😉

  3. Guapo - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    There has been no louder critic than El Guapo of Desmond over the years.

    While I do think the Nationals will be a better team with him not playing short, I do think he deserves some acknowledgement for his time with the organization.

    Let’s hope MW is smart enough to do it right. Pull Desmond, mid-inning on a defensive substitution for Trea Turner in a symbolic passing of the torch. Give whomever still has the stomach to attend games the opportunity to deliver the proper ovation. Hopefully Paps won’t punch him in the face on the way out.

    My preference, of course, would be to do it in the top of the 1st 🙂

    • janebeard - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:05 AM

      He did that yesterday. It’s done.

      • Guapo - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:50 AM

        ah, sorry, I thought there was one more to go.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:18 PM

        There is one more to go, but if Desi doesn’t start today, the opportunity doesn’t exist. He started yesterday, and that’s when the move and ovation took place.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 28, 2015 at 8:42 PM

        We got to see Reed Johnson pinch hit, though. Thanks a lot, Matty. Don’t let the doorknob hit you.

    • NatsLady - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:45 PM

      He did that, yesterday. That’s what I meant about Williams learning–but too slowly. He got negative feedback for not letting JZimm have a curtain call (dictated by game circumstances), however, he did stage one for Desi. Unfortunately, it was the EXACT same inning after the Harper/Papelbon ruckus and more people were speculating on Harper being taken out than appreciating Desi.

  4. ArVAFan - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    Desi is one of the handful of players I’ve actually had the opportunity to spend some time with one-on-one (charity fundraisers and all that). As I mentioned over the summer, when we talked at the Zims Foundation fundraiser, he remembered me, remembered seeing me in Viera, and what section we sit in. Can’t fake that.

    I’ll be wearing his Indigogo charity campaign t-shirt until it wears out, and then proudly including it in the next t-shirt quilt.

    Good luck with the rest of your life, Desi, during and after baseball. (Except, of course, if you’re playing against us. In that case, you’re welcome to strike out).

  5. Dave - Sep 28, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    Desi’s class was on display throughout the game yesterday and afterwards. I know he probably just happened to be closest to the fight when it happened, but is anybody surprised that he was the first player to try and break it up?

    A class guy who always owned up to his difficulties on the field and at the plate. I believe he will be missed not only by fans but also by his teammates.

  6. alexva6 - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    while his play has infuriated me from time to time I can only surmise that he has been a great teammate and person from all I’ve read. if only he had been removed in the top of the next inning right after his home run.

    but hey, we had to win that game.

    • Dave - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:15 AM

      For what it’s worth, my scorebook shows that he continued to be productive yesterday after the homer. I don’t have it in front of me, but I know he had two infield hits–a dribbler along the third base line and a Baltimore chop that he beat out.

      I’m happy to say that the last game I saw him play was a good one for him.

      • ArVAFan - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:30 AM


        And you’re spot on with the scoring. That ball rolling up the third base line staying on the grass was great. Three Phillies were looking at it as if somehow staring at it would make it roll off the grass and over the foul line. The ball did not cooperate, and Desmond was on first by the time they finally gave up and picked up the ball.

      • natsfan1a - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:19 PM

        It was awesome.

        “That ball rolling up the third base line staying on the grass was great.”

  7. trfwans - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    Lost amidst all the Papelbon kerfuffle is the MW plan to remove Harper along with Desmond after they took the field in the ninth inning. This would have been yet another bad managerial move, as it would have taken away from Desmond’s much deserved moment of glory. Ironically, MW screwed up his own lousy move with an even more tone deaf performance. Or maybe that should be “fittingly.”

    • NatsLady - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:46 PM

      He didn’t plan to remove Harper. Harper removed himself the minute he saw Papelbon on the mound.

  8. Candide - Sep 28, 2015 at 11:47 AM

    As near as I can tell, Ian went on the DL once his entire career with the Nats. I noticed a long time ago, he was ALWAYS out on the field before every game, sometimes alone, stretching. I just wish any of the managers had picked up on that and issued a team-wide order: If Desmond’s out there stretching, EVERYONE is out there stretching. We might have seen a lot of guys spending a lot less time on the DL with strained obliques and pulled quads and hamstrings if they’d done so.

  9. Sonny G 10 - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:16 PM

    I have been a fan of Ian from the very beginning when he came up. I really appreciate the love he demonstrated to the kids that came to the games. He was always out there signing autographs for them. He is a model citizen and I wish him the best of luck. I will miss you, Desi.

  10. moozystar - Sep 28, 2015 at 12:49 PM

    I suspect that he will not get any offers near to what the Nats offered him this past off season. It would have been better for him and everyone if he signed. From what I have been reading he said that he did not take the offer because he felt it would be unfair to other shortstops in that it would lower the value across the board. It is this kind of thinking that gets the entire sport into trouble time and again. He could have spent his entire career here, continued to develop loyalty with the fan base and made long term impacts in the area of team leadership and culture. Now I am afraid he will just be one more player in a sport where teams have revolving doors and both players and owners take a “what have you done for me lately attitude.” I’ve been a Nats fan since they came to town and they have given my family and I many great memories but I am concerned that they are developing a negative identify as noted in Mark’s previous article. I really hope that in the off season they are able to reset and get back to what makes them a likable club by both players and fans.

    Good luck Mr. Lerner and Mr. Rizzo, I know you can do the right think, we are counting on you!

  11. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 28, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    Suspension for Mr. Paplebon.

  12. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 28, 2015 at 1:58 PM

    Good News Jane – Paps wont pitch for the Nats again…. this year.





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