Sunday, February 19, 2012

Desmond honors Robinson with No. 20

US Presswire file photo
Ian Desmond has switched from No. 6 to No. 20 this season.
VIERA, Fla. -- Ian Desmond has worn the No. 6 on the back of his jersey from the moment the Nationals first called him up to the big leagues in Sept. 2009. Why? "Because that's just the number [clubhouse manager Mike Wallace] gave me," Desmond said. "I never had any connection with it."

Desmond, though, didn't feel it was appropriate to be requesting a specific uniform number while still a rookie, or even during his second full season in the majors last year. It wasn't until this winter that the 26-year-old shortstop felt he had his foot "all the way through the door" as a big leaguer and thus was comfortable asking to make a switch.

So it is that Desmond, after 329 career games as No. 6 for the Nationals, has suddenly become No. 20 for the Nationals.

And why No. 20? Because a pair of former athletic greats who are special to Desmond wore that number: Frank Robinson and Barry Sanders.

Robinson, in particular, means a lot to the shortstop. When an 18-year-old Desmond was given a chance to play in a few spring training games in 2005, Robinson took him under his wing. The Hall of Famer and former manager went so far as to bring Desmond to Washington for the Nationals' first-ever exhibition game at RFK Stadium, and drive him to the ballpark.

"He was the first one, really, to believe in me and guide me," Desmond said today. "I still stay in touch with him. He was a good mentor to me."

Even though the Nationals never formally honored Robinson, the organization hadn't given out Robinson's uniform number after his stint as manager ended following the 2006 season for several years. They finally gave No. 20 to second baseman Adam Kennedy in 2010, though it was unused again last season.

So, did Desmond call Robinson and seek his blessing before requesting the number from Wallace?

"No," Desmond said. "He probably would have said: 'You better start hitting some homers before you take that number!'"

Sanders, the former Lions running back, also was a favorite of Desmond's when he was younger.

"One of the only football players I ever idolized," he said. "One of the only athletes that I ever really idolized as a kid. So I figured it would be a nice thing to do."

Desmond wasn't the only Nationals player to switch up numbers this winter. Double-play mate Danny Espinosa has switched from No. 18 to No. 8 (which he wore in college and the minors).

"That's my number," Espinosa said. "I want to take over 8."

Newly acquired pitcher Edwin Jackson, meanwhile, will make some history of his own as the first Nationals player ever to wear No. 33 in a regular-season game. That number had been unofficially retired for former Senators slugger Frank Howard (though minor-league first baseman Larry Broadway did wear it during the spring of 2005).

Jackson wore No. 36 last year with the Cardinals, but that number was already taken in Washington by reliever Tyler Clippard. He's worn No. 33 in the past and requested it, so after receiving permission from principal owner Mark Lerner, Wallace gave out Howard's old number for the first time.


LurkerNowPoster said...

Laynce Nix wore #20 at the beginning of last year.

Unkyd said...

I like it. Much love to you, Desi... Now, earn the honor of honoring Frank. I'm right with ya...!

Gonat said...

I like #27, #37, and #47 as the 3 Aces of the staff. As someone mentioned, those add up to 111 as in 3 #1's, coincidence? I think not!

Hopefully Desi has some magic with #20!

JaneB said...

Unkyd, I'm right beside you, on all counts. I'll even buy the new teeshirt. Love the 111, too.

gonatsgo said...

Watching Strasmas and getting really pumped up.I noticed the new counter up for opening day!

Mark'd said...

Dukes, Nyjer, Cameron. That is the answer to the trivia question: Name 3 presumptive Opening Day roster outfielders who would disappear during Spring Training the last 3 years?

Rizzo can't think Jason Michael or Brett Carroll are his RH replacements?

A shame Lombo can't play outfielder.

Anonymous said...

Some might say that it's a shame Desmond can't play infield.

Anonymous said...

Time for Lombardozzi to grab an outfielders glove.

C.Cohen said...

Sort of a non-sequitur from this post and this thread, but I wanted to go on record that it is officially time to stop grumbling and moaning about the first 4-5 years of the Lerner ownership.

I have no intention or interest in defending the decisions that that Lerners made after acquiring the team and it certainly led to a lot of embarrassment. But there are 2 important reasons those of us who live and die with the Nats should no longer dwell on this.

1) It's in the past. The ownership learned their lesson. They no longer try to cut corners or "out-smart" the rest of the league. They have invested in scouting and development and we now have one of the best run franchises in the league from top to bottom.

more importantly...

2) It was the best thing that could have happened to us! In most professional sports, the model for success (national attention, championships, etc.) is to be very bad for a period of time and have access to high draft picks that you build your franchise around.

The key, and this part is very tricky, is being that bad in a year when a truly transformational talent is available to be drafted. This complete product of random chance routinely responsible for affecting the fates of a franchise for a decade or longer.

Sometimes, it is not obvious what you have at the top of a draft and sometimes it REALLY is. But the difference that is made by when a team happens upon the "fortune" of picking first is very clear. Entire generations often witness their teams regularly dominate because they were terrible enough in the right year to draft Tim Duncan or Shaq instead of Michael Olowakandi or Joe Smith.

This is true in every sport. See:

Peyton Manning (1998) vs. Tim Couch (1999)

Alex Rodriguez (1993) vs. Paul Wilson (1994)

Those of us who are long suffering D.C. sports fans are reminded all too vividly how high the stakes are when just these two words are uttered: Brown, Kwame.

Ultimately, what I am saying is that every mistake, misstep, and embarrassment perpetrated by the Nationals management since they arrived in D.C. conspired to grant them access to two of the most transcendental players who have entered the league in the last several decades. Had anything been done differently, we would not have been able to produce such a young and dynamically talented team as the one that will be assembled in Viera later this week.

This is the baseball equivalent of getting to draft Tim Duncan and LeBron James in back to back drafts. The last thing we should do is curse the circumstances that brought us here.

natsfan1a said...

I'm with Unk and JaneB.

Anonymous said...

C.Cohen: It is hard to argue that the past is anything but. But the Lerners did us no favors by allowing the club to stink out loud for so long as they sold us high-Dollar tickets and delivered a low Dollar payrolls and half-shift's worth of scouts as they told us they were building it the right way over the years. Having lost our way into a couple of uber talents is very nice, but having lost so badly for so long was just not worth the small chances of landing guys like that (even though the Nats look to have pulled winning lottery tickets on Stras and Harper). The Lerners got lucky, very lucky. They are not good. I'd rather they be goopd than lucky. The Lerners spent years going cheap and bumbling and being lousy at marketing the club, it's going to take some time for me to think them anything other than lousy owners whether this team wins or not.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I had no idea Frank was such an early backer of Ian. I realize I'm in the minority here, but I really, really like Desmond. I think he's got plenty of tools and I think he plays hard, every inning and every at-bat. This switch to No. 20 makes me even root harder for him. He'll get the second-loudest cheer from me on Opening Day ... after Ramos, of course.

Great day of work, Mark. Thanks for it all.

natsfan1a said...

So very happy that this scenario will be possible! As originally posted by Whatsanattu when Ramos was still missing.

Whatsanattu said...
I am looking forward to an opening day lineup that includes Wilson batting 7th or 8th. I project a couple of hits and a caught stealing. I'm thinking he will get a standing ovation at each park he plays with a particularly touching and enthusiastic ovation at the home opener. I think his whole family will be there - perhaps sitting behind home plate embarrassing the moment.
November 10, 2011 11:52 PM

SonnyG10 said...

Sunshine, I'm with you on Desi.

NatsLady said...

Put me down as thinking Desi's going to make it. I've been a supporter of his for a long time, love to watch those leaps. Also have heard he's a genuine guy, who does the charity stuff not just for show.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Of course, the beautiful thing about going on and on about nothing but the past is, you never have to face any essential risk. Failure is the essence of baseball, but if your one note is "They lost nearly 300 games in three years!" you can't be contradicted. You can be boring, you can be irrelevant, but strictly speaking, you take no risk of being wrong. It's safe.

upperdeck4 said...

I'm a Desi guy as well. Hope he succeeds. If he's successful on the field he can be the type of clubhouse leader that we need.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure it's actually because Rendon was promised #6, and not because Desmond wanted to change numbers, but whatever.

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