Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Ian Desmond Mid-Season Report Card

Rookie shortstop Ian Desmond is one of Our Washington Nationals most versatile performers. Whether making the acrobatic defensive web gem or providing a clutch hit at the plate, Desmond has proven to be a fan favorite in 2010. But his athletic style and hard play has not been perfect. He's prone to making fielding errors and, as of late, has struggled with his bat. Our Manager Jim Riggleman and Quality Control Coach Tim Foli discussed their views on Ian's play yesterday on Nats320.

Today, we go directly to the source. The African Queen and I recently sat down with Ian Desmond in Washington's dugout to discuss his play over the first three months of his rookie campaign.

The Ian Desmond Mid-Season Report Card--as graded by the player himself.

With that, here is that conversation with Ian Desmond:

Nats320: We’ve been talking to Jim Riggleman and Tim Foli about you. As the mid-season of your rookie year in the big leagues approaches, how do you see your progress?

Ian Desmond: I am getting better. I am not to where I want to be, or I think I can be--by any means. But I feel comfortable. I feel I am contributing to the team. I am helping out in the wins that we do have. But overall, I feel good.

Nats320: As a rookie, what has been the toughest adjustment to playing Major League baseball--for you?

Ian Desmond: Probably the schedule. Up here, everything seems to move a lot faster than in the minor leagues because you are traveling to big cities. In the minor leagues, you are usually not playing in front of a whole lot of fans. It’s a pretty slow paced life style. Here, you are thrown right into the middle of the spotlight. Everything is fast paced because everything you do is scrutinized.

Nats320: Do you find yourself still getting nervous out there on the field?

Ian Desmond: (Pausing then shaking his head) No. Not nervous, but I am anxious for the game. I get excited to go play because I love my job. I don’t get nervous, it’s more getting amped up to go out and do my job every day.

Nats320: From the minor leagues to here, what is the difference in the game?

Ian Desmond: In the minor leagues it’s easier to believe in yourself because if you are doing well, you are doing well. But here, everyone does well, so you have to realize there are going to be days where you get beat by the pitcher. And that’s because he is really good. There is nothing you can do about it that day. No one on the team was able to solve him. But it’s hard for me to accept that. I have trouble giving people credit even though sometimes in life--you have to.

Nats320: Does that make you press more sometimes?

Ian Desmond: Nothing about pressing. When it comes to me, I am just patient. I know if I go 0-4 (at the plate), I still took a step in the right direction. I learned something that day. I really believe that everyday I am getting better and we shall see how it turns out in the end.

Nats320: When you were climbing your way through The Nationals Farm System, the word on you was about your fielding, always about your fielding. But your hitting seems to have taken a greater leap--especially at times in the clutch. Has that surprised you?

Ian Desmond: No, because I have had a lot of at-bats in those situations throughout my career. Being a prospect in the organization, they put you in situations where they want you to succeed, or fail. And you learn from those. Because of that, I have been in many of those situations previously. I’ve failed a bunch, but exceeded a lot also. I just know that every time I go up there I am just going to try to give my best at-bat--regardless of the situation or men in scoring position. I try to do my best every time.

Nats320: What then are the corrections you feel you need to make over the second half of this season?

Ian Desmond: One thing for sure, is being more patient at the plate. I really need to trust the fact that my pitch will come in the at-bat. I just have to wait for it. Right now, I am getting a little bit jumpy. But I do feel like I am getting a little more comfortable. And as I get more comfortable, the comfort at the plate will come.

Nats320: How about your errors in the field. Are you working to overcome that propensity?

Ian Desmond: No, not really. I think my defense is pretty good. I can’t really get caught up in errors because I play a different style than a lot of people do. I get to a few more balls than others. Errors are errors. As long as the team is winning and playing well and I am not costing the team games--I am not really concerned about them.

Nats320: We just asked Riggleman and Foli exactly that about your fielding skills. You might have upwards of 30 or more errors by the end of this season, but over a period of time those totals will come down and that has more to do with knowing where to be and what to do under every situation that is presented.

Ian Desmond: Yeah, that’s true. It’s getting to know the big leagues. Still, there are guys I don’t know how fast they are. What their tendencies are? You can look at video and charts all you want--but in the game, it’s all different. It’s reality. So, once I learn the league and get a little bit more comfortable. When I know the fields and the tendencies of those fields, I think I will be fine.

Nats320: We’ve always liked your attitude especially after you’ve not played well. Take that game in Houston earlier this year when you had three errors--you seemed to just move past it.

Ian Desmond: It’s frustrating when that happens, but what are you going to do? I try to picture myself doing it right in my mind as opposed to beating myself up over it all night long. Oh man!! Replaying it in my head. I try to play it right in my head a couple of times and it is over.

Nats320: By not over thinking any mistake, you hope not to take away your acrobatic and athletic style. Is that right?

Ian Desmond: I don’t really look at it that way. It doesn’t really bother me. I have been making a lot of errors for a long time. I'm used to it (laughing). You guys are the ones who need to get used to it (everyone laughing). I just think my teammates appreciate that I play hard. If they mind the errors, no one has really said anything to me. I don’t know. I feel, they feel, comfortable with me out there.

Nats320: Are you any more comfortable trying to catch a ground ball one handed than two?

Ian Desmond: Equally comfortable.

Nats320: We are asking that because we’ve noticed at times you tend to not get your body in front of a hit ball.

Ian Desmond: Well, a lot of times that are a lot harder to field than what you see on the TV (chuckling). But I feel the balls I need to get in front of, I get in front of. And those ones that are hot shots, you’ve got to play them off to the side. That’s the only way to do it. That’s the only way I know how to do it. I am open to suggestions though, if you or anyone else, has other ideas.

Nats320: I don’t know if you are a person that sets goals. But whatever your goals were before and during spring training--now since we are halfway through the season--have you reached any of those goals as far as what you wanted to accomplish in 2010?

Ian Desmond: I made the team. That was a big goal. And I am working on the other ones.

Nats320: And what are they?

Ian Desmond: Can’t tell you (laughing). But I will let you know at the end of the season.

Nats320: Fair enough. What then do you need to improve on over the course of the 2010 season?

Ian Desmond: Really, it’s just being more patient at the plate. When I become more patient at the plate, that is going to give me more confidence and comfort throughout my entire game.

Nats320: What is it like in the clubhouse with Stephen Strasburg now here? With all the excitement he’s provided for the fans--how has he affected the guys on the team?

Ian Desmond: It’s been great. We are like a family. It’s just like we got another brother. It’s nice. We are good.

Nats320: We hear this a lot. You’ve mentioned this a lot, Ryan Zimmerman too. Why is this team so close?

Ian Desmond: I really don’t know. It’s just that we’ve got a certain group of guys that just happen to mesh together. It also because Mike Rizzo brought in a bunch of gamers. He brought in guys that want to win ball games. Everyone has the same goal in mind. We are all looking at each other as men saying: Hey, we’ve got the same goal in mind. And let’s get together on it and see how far we can take it.

Nats320: It seems like everyone likes each other?

Ian Desmond: That’s true. When everyone is thinking on the same page, it’s easier for everyone to get along. But when there are individuals out there that don’t want to be part of the team--it’s a negative effect. There is no drama with this team. We just go out and play ball. And Jim Riggleman has been consistent (in his demeanor). As a baseball player you want to be consistent as you can and it’s good to have your skipper be like that--without drama.

With that final answer, The Ian Desmond Mid-Season Report Card ended. Imminently likable, Washington's rookie shortstop has a good head on his shoulders. Yes, any player will need to be talented and patient to be successful at this game of baseball. But you also need smarts. Every player needs to be comfortable in their own skin. Ian Desmond carries a sharp head on his broad shoulders. He's got the mind set to push himself to the top level of this great game. Every person Sohna and I have talked with about Ian Desmond says the same thing--a player you can't wait to see play after he's fully developed his game.

Despite his 20 fielding errors so far in 2010, Desmond has produced solid rookie campaign numbers for a young man that has yet to put it all together. There is a distinct possibility Ian will hit 10 home runs and knock in 60-70 runs while batting .265 over the course of the full season. The Ian Desmond Mid-Season Report Card grade is incomplete, but there is plenty of production worth looking forward to over the final 79 games of 2010.

Ian Desmond Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Doctor Joe said...

Thanks for the great Desmond interviews. I am not seeing this kind of coverage from the mainstream media in town. I know there are many who appreciate what you are doing even if we don't always leave comments. Like the members of the Nationals staff, I am also impressed with some of Desmond's baseball skills. What REALLY bothers me is his somewhat flippant attitude about the errors. This is not Little League where you tell Johnny to shake it off and you'll do better next time. This is the big leagues. The routine plays need to be made - EVERY time. Do you recall one of Earl Weaver's quotes about why he moved Cal Ripken to short. I'm paraphrasing, but it was something to the effect of, "When it is the bottom of the 9th, runners on base, and the game on the line, who would I want the ball hit to?" And so maybe you sacrifice some degree of range and "athleticism" (and contrary to popular misconception, Cal was a great athlete) to have a guy playing the most demanding position on the field who is going to make all the plays he is supposed to make. That is why I am not yet as sold on Desmond as some others.

Screech's Best Friend said...

We have no doubt The Nationals will give Ian Desmond every single chance to develop the remainder of his skills in the Big Leagues. He's their best option right now. Danny Espinosa might be a year or so away. Foli, more than anyone seems really pleased with Ian's development. We get the impression he really believes in Desmond's talents. And like so many younger guys before him, will settle down after being thrown into the fire.

Flippant or not when it comes to the errors, Desmond seems to have his head on straight and knows what he needs to do to improve himself. The team reasoning, I think, is that they are not going to openly criticize him as a rookie. They are sitting back and watching how he handles everything. And after 2010 will decide in what way to move forward in his development.

Thanks for the kind comments about the interviews.