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Ian Desmond is becoming the Nationals' leader

Morning roundup

As Jim Riggleman finished his post-game chat with reporters Tuesday night in his office, he paused and did something I have not seen him do all year. "You're not asking the question, but I'm going to offer this," Riggleman said. "I'll tell you something that's really special for me in this ballgame."

On Monday night, Riggleman explained, he had sidled next to Ian Desmond and said, "How about the day off?" Desmond had gone 0 for 4 with four strikeouts, and Riggleman wanted to offer him a break. Desmond's response pleased him so much, Riggleman felt like he had to share it.

"I couldn't get the words out of my mouth," Riggleman recalled. "He said, 'No way. I'm in there.' He didn't back off from the competition. That's the special type of guy that we've got there, that is going to set the tone for a lot of people. Never mind what the batting average says. He is just some kind of special person. He had a rough one last night, but he never hangs his head. He gets out there and gets after it."

For Desmond, turning down the off day was an easy choice.

"Well, the first thing, I want to play," Desmond said. "I've been 0 for 4 before. I've had four strikeouts before. If that's going to stop you, you're not going to be a big leaguer. I just went back out there, put it behind me, and today was a new day."

As Desmond spoke, Danny Espinosa was sitting in a chair one locker over, and he surely overheard Desmond speaking with reporters. Desmond has come to the point where he's setting the example for call-ups and, really, setting a tone for the entire team. He may be only a rookie, but in many ways Desmond already is the best leader the Nationals have. His playing last night showed why.

"I absolutely think it's infectious," Riggleman said. "I guarantee Espinosa sees it. I think some other players are going to see it. [Wilson] Ramos's body language the last night, when he scored those four home runs, he was irritated. He knows where we are in the standings. It has nothing to do with his at-bats. He was some kind of upset about those runs being scored. That's what's going to get us over the hump, that type of mentality, that type of attitude. It's a real pleasure to have him."

Oh, and Desmond didn't just play last night. He made outs his first two at-bats. He bunted a runner over in his third at-bat. In the ninth inning, his final at-bat, Desmond scalded a deep home run over the center field fence. Other players may not have even played. Desmond circled the bases and scored the Nationals' final run.

Said Riggleman: "I'm just so proud of him."

FROM THE POST

Livan Hernandez shut out the Braves and Adam Dunn hit a home run to remember as the Nationals beat the Braves 6-0 and snapped a six-game skid.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Potomac 5, Winston-Salem 3: Potomac evened the Carolina League championship series to 1-1. Trevor Holder allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on eight hits and no walks, striking out five. Derek Norris went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Jamar Walton went 2 for 4 with a home run.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nationals showed some pride in many forms last night, Mark Zuckerman writes.

Nationals Baseball takes a very interesting, very stat-intensive look at what may hurt the Nationals offense next season.

Jerry Crasnick explains the difference between shoulder surgery and elbow surgery.

By Adam Kilgore  |  September 15, 2010; 12:13 AM ET
 
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Comments

Just 'cuz someone wants to continue to play does not a leader make! Riggs got some screwball notion of what it takes to lead. Then again, he's a manager who doesn't understand what it means to lead.

Des is very focused and wants to do well (good attribute) but he puts too much pressure on himself at SS. He thinks he always has to make a great play and makes very poor decisions. Switch him around
with Espinosa. Dez can play with a little less edge (he doesn't have to hurry his throws from second even if he bobbles the ball once in a while). Espinosa seems to be a good fielder and he already plays relaxed. He appears to be more instinctive and has his wits about him. I think he has the makings of a leader. If he can play SS and make half the errors that Des has made this year-- you got a big uptick in your infield defense. Pitchers should benefit and the team will be more competitive.

Posted by: nulldev4u | September 15, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Another thing about that Ramon Ortiz homer back in '96 is that Ortiz also happened to pitch a near-no hitter, if memory serves.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | September 15, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I meant '06. Off to bed now... :-p

Posted by: Juan-John1 | September 15, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

I am truly concerned for the future. If you think that a guy who leads the league in errors is your type of leader, then we have a major problem. Desmond loses way more games than wins. That is not the type of leader you want in the clubhouse.

Posted by: pdt278 | September 15, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

You guys are missing it when dismissing Desmond's leadership role.
First, there are very few teams where a rookie can conduct himself like a veteran. Desmond's been doing this since day 1. It says something about him, but it also says a lot about this team and this clubhouse.
Desmond sees a group in need of leadership, and so he has no trouble filling some of that void.
He takes Espinosa out 4 hours before game time for 30 minutes of infield. Isn't that what a good team needs? A player unafraid of losing his starting position, a guy who just wants his team and his teammates to be good.

On other teams, Desmond's "leadership role" would be small. On this team, that lacks veteran leadership from its field players there is a chance for him, and a need for him, to step it up.

As for his errors, that's relatively easy to correct. There are tons of examples of quality middle infielders who had high error rate in their early years.
But leadership can't be taught. You got it or you don't.
I don't need Riggleman to tell me Desmond's a leader. It's been obvious since mid-March.

Posted by: Sunderland | September 15, 2010 6:38 AM | Report abuse

Carrying forward:

Haven't been around much lately but just wanted to say ¡¡¡Livo!!!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled psychodrama... :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 15, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes re. Ortiz. He lost the no-no after the dinger.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 15, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Color me cynical, but Desmond or any other player wanting to play is not some testament to his strong moral fiber, his go-get-it-tiveness or the like. He did not want the thought of taking an 0 for 4 with 4 K's lingering in anyone's mind and the only way to erase it is to play.

And he does not want to be Wally Pipp. Espinoza can play SS and he can hit. If he gets in there and has a big night at the plate or with the glove, which would be something that would stand out, maybe they throw him in tere the next night and before you know it, Ian is yesterday's news. Desmond does not want the club thinking that maybe Danny should be the "Short Stop of the future".

These guys are playing more for personal reasons -- get AB's, get innings, show you can play, better the stats -- than they are for wins and losses as they have been out of it forever and this is after all September when MLB clubs all over are evaluating the guys from the farm who came to the big league roster.

It is a bunch of blather to say that Ian is some kind of high character kid based on his wanting to play baseball. They all want to play baseball.

Posted by: dfh21 | September 15, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Riggleman is clueless but that doesn't mean Desmond lacks leadership qualities. In spite of his errors his play is still one of the few positives this year.

Posted by: 3B11 | September 15, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I am always surprised at the amount of truly stupid comments I read here. In an article today discussing Desmond's obvious ascension to the role of vocal leader of an extremely quite clubhouse....readers wrote the following "Riggleman doesn't know how to lead"----how the hell would you know? Desmond makes too many errors to be a leader seems to be the gist of another's thoughts. He has made alot of errors,just as Jeter did as a rookie. The difference Jeter had a Gold Glove caliber first baseman(Tino Martinez) and our first baseman can't catch anything in the dirt. With an effective glove at first this team would probably have made 30 less errors and won quite a few more games. Desmond has played 154 games in his first calendar year,an amazing number for a rookie SS and has played through quite a few injuries that would sit most players. For those who doubt his standing on this team try coming out to the park early and watch the energy he has during every drill,sprint,etc. He is a joy to watch and the entire organization knows that they are watching the beginning of a very special career.

Posted by: wellscats | September 15, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Don't let your embittered, cynical view of life and the Nationals get in the way of an accurate and positive truth about Desmond. If you want to know who the good leaders are, look around and see who is following them. By all accounts Espinosa is one of them. Casual observation confirms others like Morse and even Zimmerman and Dunn gravitate to him too.

Zimmerman may be the spokesman and FOF for the Nationals, but the energy, charisma, and chemistry should not have to flow from a single person. As Desmond and Espinosa develop a track record of success, the team and the media will begin to rely more heavily on them not only for performance, and interviews, but also for emotional stability, work ethic, and leading by example.

Chemistry is often overrated when it is overwhelmed by talent (e.g., AROD) but in lieu of overwhelming force, chemistry coupled with discipline can deliver wins.

Now if he can just curb his enthusiasm when throwing to first and improve his patience at the plate by even 10% he will develop not only into a leader, but a star weapon as well.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 15, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

leader desmond,pls, with 30 errors? where did you see that?now that you want him to be a leader because of the lack of one,he is so far be a jeter,tulo,rollings,hanley,ect,ect and pls slowdown with espinosa,no,no and no,he is a backup at best,he is another 250 avg in a full season with below avg hands,pls noo,now you want leader you third basement is and pudge because is a veteran all famer

Posted by: MIGUELNAVAG | September 15, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

wow miguelnavag that was hard to read.

Desmond and Espinosa are obviously rookies and are the only options that the Nats have right now, so let's see what they can do; they will learn more in MLB then AAA. Will they be Jeter and Cano? Probably not, but they might be good enough to let us spend money elsewhere to make the team better.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | September 15, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

As much as i love his booming homerun shot's into the nether reach's of any given stadium wellscats made a point Dunn's fielding sucks big time and i'm sure some of those E6 throws by Desmond would have been out's with a real glove at first base, that being said Rizzo got some thinking to do about Dunn and others.

Posted by: dargregmag | September 15, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Thank you wellscats. You saved me about 10 minutes of typing. Well said.

Posted by: ouvan59 | September 15, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I like Ian Desmond, I like Danny Espinosa, I like Ryan Zimmerman, I like Roger Bernadina and I even like Mike Morse...., but ya have to wonder about Gentlemen Jim's "Man Love" for Desmond. This is not the first time I have read something about a Leader in the making. Maybe Gentlemen Jim doesn't get the same warm fuzzies from the FoF, maybe the FoF is tired of losing.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 15, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I am sure FoF is tired of losing. Aren't we all? But that was a fun game last night.

Has anybody else gotten a call from the Nationals about season ticket renewals this week? I did, and told them (nicely) that I don't think the ownership is willing to invest in the team sufficiently to warrant my renewal. I expressly mentioned Dunn. They countered with SS and Harper and an allegedly climbing payroll. I responded with need to build a team around the rookies, bottom of the league in payroll top in profits,and so forth with all the same points back and forth we've been seeing here. We talked for about 10 minutes, with them making the point that they don,t want to lose me as ST holder and me saying the product is poor and they are driving me away.

We ended with me saying "I will look at what you do in the next few weeks; and while I am not absolutely gone, I am standing in the door." In the unlikely event that they sign Dunn or someone equal (and when they told me "there are other options at first" I responded with "Pena? He stinks!") and make a few other serious acquisitions, I will stay. I do not expect that they will. And that is sad, because I really want to keep my ST package. I just cannot abide being played for a fool by these tightwads for yet another year. I'd love to be a part of a long-term fan base for a serious team, but as long as Uncle Teddy has a death grip on the purse strings, I don't see it happening.

Posted by: NatsFly | September 15, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I too am staying on the positive side with Desmond. This was his season of trial by fire - portions of the test he's struggled with (errors) - other parts he's passed (batting and range, generally). Riggleman is just shining a light on another positive, clubhouse leadership - no one is ignoring the errors. Seriously though, what if he made a more commonplace amount - say, 20 - would this team suddenly be in the wildcard hunt? No.

He's earned his place on the team for next season - a season in which Riggleman and the front office will expect him to make a huge jump when it comes to reducing his fielding mistakes. If he doesn't, then the leash will be shorter and the club will have to re-think his defensive role.

Posted by: Kev29 | September 15, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

People are discounting Desmond's leadership abilities because he has 30+ errors. To those people, I ask: Is Dunn a leader? He only has 175 strikeouts this year.

My point is that you can lead and still have deficiencies in your game.

Posted by: bgreene4 | September 15, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Who cares? You need a leader to finish 40 games under .500 every year? Why don't you try winning half your games first, then start worrying about who is a leader and who isn't.

Posted by: jwing14 | September 15, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

leader desmond,pls, with 30 errors? where did you see that?now that you want him to be a leader because of the lack of one,he is so far be a jeter,tulo,rollings,hanley,ect,ect and pls slowdown with espinosa,no,no and no,he is a backup at best,he is another 250 avg in a full season with below avg hands,pls noo,now you want leader you third basement is and pudge because is a veteran all famer

Posted by: MIGUELNAVAG | September 15, 2010 9:13 AM

I would just like to sat that this makes dargregmag's posts look like Strunk and White.

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 15, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

...say...

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 15, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I don't get it. This is nothing special. Any normal player that goes 0 for 4 wants to come out the next night and redeem himself. This is run-of-the-mill, bang-your-head-against-the-wall, mundanity (for a lack of a better word).

On the other hand, it would have been special if Riggleman said we need you tonight and Desmond to said he should take the night off and that it would be better for the team. But I digress.

Posted by: richs91 | September 15, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Bravo wellscats!

Posted by: chopin224 | September 15, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

wellscats....excellent post!

Posted by: CHAMP1464 | September 15, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

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