LaRussa’s Decision to Place Desmond on NL All-Star Team is a Pivotal Play
The Washington Nationals will be well represented in next week’s All-Star Game in Kansas City. The best team in the National League, the Nats will be sending a club-record three players to the mid-summer classic.
Currently a season-best 16 games over .500 and 4.5 games ahead of the rest of the pack in the NL’s Eastern division, the Nationals are a long way from the team’s 2007 and 2008 form of sending only one reserve (Dmitri Young and Christian Guzman respectively) to the all-star game.
It was a foregone conclusion that the club’s ace-pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez were going to be elected to the all-star team. What wasn’t as certain was the nomination of shortstop Ian Desmond, named an all-star for the first time. Tony LaRussa’s decision to name Desmond one of his reserves is this week’s pivotal play.
LaRussa, who retired this winter after guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to their second World Series championship in six years, is skippering the NL club in Tuesday night’s game of stars in Kansas City. He chose Desmond over a handful of other potential options at shortstop, like Houston Astros breakout performer Jed Lowrie.
While there are some people within baseball who feel like Desmond’s insertion onto the all-star roster was undeserving, an examination of the NL’s statistical leaderboard at shortstop indicates that LaRussa’s decision was the right one.
Desmond’s 14 home runs are tied (with Lowrie) for the most among all NL shortstops. The National also ranks first at his position with 47 RBI and he’s the only shortstop in his league with at least eight stolen bases and double-digit home runs. His 43 runs scored is the fourth highest total in the league and his 92 hits have only been topped by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
There’s no denying that Desmond has been one of the league’s three finest shortstops, along with Castro and Lowrie. The fact that Lowrie was left off the roster is unfortunate, but Desmond is deserving of his nomination.
The 26-year-old, fourth-year major leaguer has already eclipsed his previous career high of 10 home runs, which he set in 154 games played back in 2010. Despite the fact that his season is only half over, Desmond is just two RBI away from tying last year’s season total of 49 (which he needed 76 more games to accumulate).
There’s probably a case to be made that Washington’s setup man turned closer Tyler Clippard deserved to be the team’s fourth all-star. A year after earning a win in the all-star game, Clippard was left off the roster despite a 1.83 ERA in 35 games a dominant run in his new ninth-inning role.
Desmond will still be able to travel as part of a buddy-system with Strasburg and Gonzalez (a combined 20-6 with 234 strikeouts) should both be expected to pitch at least an inning against the American League.
But putting them on the all-star roster took no thought. LaRussa’s decision to select Desmond was one of the most talked about of the selection process, and it was the right play to make.