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Desmond turns emotional after likely Nats finale

Oct 4, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

NEW YORK — An emotional Ian Desmond fought back tears as he tried to sum up 12 seasons in the Nationals organization Sunday evening following what almost certainly was his final game with the franchise.

“When I got drafted by the Expos, they didn’t know where the team would be,” Desmond said, pausing several times to compose himself. “But they couldn’t have found a better home. I’m extremely proud to say that I was a Washington National.”

The longest-tenured player in the organization, Desmond was a third-round pick in 2004 of the Expos, who at the time were owned by Major League Baseball and faced an uncertain future, with either relocation or contraction a possibility.

The franchise moved to Washington in 2005, and Desmond made his first-ever appearance in a Nationals uniform that spring, when former general manager Jim Bowden brought the then-19-year-old up from minor-league camp to play a couple of Grapefruit League games with the big leaguers. Then-manager Frank Robinson took such a liking to Desmond, who dazzled with a few highlight-reel defensive plays, he brought him north for the club’s first-ever exhibition game at RFK Stadium.

Desmond’s path back to Washington took time and patience, while the organization waited for the talented but raw ballplayer to hone his game both at the plate and in the field. He made his major-league debut Sept. 10, 2009, launching a home run that nearly cleared the left-field bleachers at Nationals Park, then served as the club’s starting shortstop over the ensuing six seasons.

Desmond remained a work-in-progress through his first two years in the majors but took off in 2012, winning the first of his three Silver Slugger Awards and earning an All-Star selection. His production declined some in the years since, bottoming out this season in the form of a .233 batting average, 19 homers, 62 RBI and a .674 OPS.

Those disappointing numbers almost certainly will cost Desmond in the free-agent market this winter. He turned down a long-term extension offer from the Nationals last year that was believed to be worth more than $100 million; it’s unlikely he’ll receive any offers this winter that come anywhere close to nine figures.

Though there has been mutual respect between Desmond and the Nationals throughout the process, both sides have all but acknowledged the odds of a deal to stay in Washington are next-to-zero.

“I think at this particular moment, there’s a lot of things to be discussed,” Desmond said. “This organization has been nothing but good to me. We’ve come a long way, a long way personally and as an organization.”

Asked what his biggest takeaway from this season would be, Desmond cited the team’s overall effort in the face of injuries, inconsistent performances and turmoil over the final month.

“We never stopped playing,” he said. “No matter what, we kept on grinding away. Obviously no one wants to sit here and play pity party, but it was a tough year. We overcame a lot. Not enough, but I’m extremely proud of the way we handled our business.”

The Nationals have been preparing for Desmond’s expected departure, leaving themselves with multiple options to fill his position in 2016 and beyond. Veteran infielder Yunel Escobar played third base this season but has spent the majority of his career at shortstop. Danny Espinosa has been primarily a second baseman and then utilityman in his time with the organization but has always been considered an elite defensive shortstop. And top prospect Trea Turner, acquired last winter, flashed his potential during his late-season call-up and likely will be a long-term answer for the club at either shortstop or second base.

Though he knows he almost certainly won’t be a part of it moving forward, Desmond offered an encouraging view of the Nationals organization as it enters a new chapter.

“I think when you have character people around, good things are bound to happen,” he said. “There are a lot of good players here, a lot of good coaches in the organization.”

  1. ArVAFan - Oct 4, 2015 at 10:27 PM

    One of two players I’ve had three conversations with (Aaron Barrett being the other, and Ian’s were a lot longer). As I mentioned, he remembered where we sit in the stadium, so he couldn’t have been faking that he remembered us between meetings. I’ll be proud to wear his #ENDNF fundraising t-shirt until I wear it out (and then it goes in the next quilt).

    Good luck, Ian, in the rest of your career, and the rest of your life. (Unless you’re batting against us. In that case, feel free to strike out.)

  2. raleighnat - Oct 4, 2015 at 10:38 PM

    You are a good man Ian Desmond. Proud you were a Nat.

  3. veejh - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:04 PM

    Wish you well, Dez. I was a fan (except for all those Ks).

  4. npb99 - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:36 PM

    He’s a good guy and was one of the faces of the franchise in recent years. But, hey, he was one of very few position players who wasn’t injured in 2015. He could have helped carry this team through the season; we really needed someone to help Harper. Instead he was a mess most of the time, horrible errors, undisciplined at the plate. Major disappointment. It’s time for a change.

  5. naterialguy - Oct 5, 2015 at 1:29 AM

    Ian set the bar high as far as a class ball player and class human being.

  6. JayB - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    Thank You Ian…you always played hard….you always set the best example of being a professional….my kids called you chuckles because you never cracked a smile on the field no matter what and I liked that for some odd reason. I am sorry that you will not be here longer, you had a chance to make a statement to the Union about what is enough money for one person to play this game and you choked on that point. One take away for me is that no matter how much talent and how professional you were you still never took the coaching to cut down the swing with two strikes….

  7. lphboston - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:23 AM

    Desmond by all accounts is a terrific guy, but there is no doubt that this team paid a heavy price for his play this year. Defensively he was a disaster, especially early on, and trying to hit 425-foot home runs every time up was just foolish. I recall a game early in the year when we had a runner on 2nd with no outs in the bottom of the 8th, and instead of trying to go to the right side he struck out on three wild swings.
    PS — If Desmond was so in love with DC, why did he turn down the $100 million?

  8. natsfan1a - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    Don’t know why, but when I watched the Desi video (on the MASN site), my computer screen got all blurry. What a class act, always played hard, and did a lot for the kids. From all reports a standup guy, too. Gonna miss him, and will wear my Desi t-shirt proudly.

  9. rabbit433 - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    Don’t cry, Desmond. He turned down $100,000,000 for a long term contract! Why? So he could make more money with another team! So, he won’t make an absurd sum of $100,000,000. He’ll make an absurd sum of maybe $10,000,000!?!? some where else. Yes, absurd for playing baseball. The point is, he could have stayed here, but for him and all players, greed wins out.

  10. janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    I actually feel in grief we won’t have Desi on our team. I wish his agent and the Nats organization had worked harder to make a deal. Who will be the team leader? Who will be the heart of the team now?

    Ian never made excuses for his errors. And he never sang his own praises for the stellar defense, nor for his years of hitting. I firmly believe his production would have better this year, had we signed him earlier. He has spent more than a THIRD of his life with this team. OF COURSE he was feeling on shaky ground that they were so willing to walk away. Ian has shown, from the beginning, that believing in him mattered.

    I will remember the classy way he dealt with Guzman when he took that role. I will remember those early years, when the “Starting Nine” kids would be on he field, and the players would run out to position. Ian always hugged his kid. Some plays where he came for no where to snag a ball and make a play. The days of Desi to Danny to Dunn. OH MY! Ian coming up with big hits when we needed them.

    I so pray for a great team, that gets and values Ian, to pick him up. I’ll have my “Ian” sign and be cheering him on, whatever his next uniform looks like.

  11. Section 222 - Oct 5, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    Desi was a class act. He also managed to stay healthy for his entire time with the team, except for that 25 game stint on the DL in 2012. How did he do that when we’re luck that any of our other regulars play 130 games? It’s not like SS is a position that’s easy on the body. The other guys ought to pick his brain about his conditioning and work ethic before he heads to his next destination.

  12. nickr26 - Oct 5, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    Desi was always my favorite player he isn’t perfect and both sides should move on it just hurts It didn’t matter what was happening he might have just struck out 10 times the day before but he would be out there signing talking with fans I remember we were talking about him as the nats captain at one point good luck desi you’ll always be my favorite national

  13. texnat1 - Oct 5, 2015 at 11:36 AM

    Good luck to Desi. Colorado might be a good fit given his power.

  14. nickr26 - Oct 5, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Any bets where desi is going to end up I say the yanks San Diego or seattle





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