Sunday, July 1, 2012

Nats get 3 (maybe 4) All-Stars



Updated at 6:45 p.m.

ATLANTA -- For six years, the Nationals sent their mandatory one representative to the All-Star Game. Some (Alfonso Soriano in 2006, Ryan Zimmerman in 2009) truly were worthy. Others (Dmitri Young in 2007, Cristian Guzman in 2008) felt more like token appearances.

Then came Sunday morning in the visitors clubhouse at Turner Field, as Davey Johnson pulled one player aside to let him know he had just been named an All-Star. Then he let another know. Then he let yet another know. Then he let still one more know he was still in contention for the final spot on the National League's roster.

"It kind of shows you how the times are changing around here," Zimmerman said.

When the NL All-Stars are introduced in Kansas City in nine days, Stephen Strasburg's name will be called. So will Gio Gonzalez's name. And so will Ian Desmond's name.

And, pending the outcome of MLB's online "Final Vote" competition, Bryce Harper could join that trio at Kauffman Stadium and give the Nationals four times as many All-Stars as they've had at the last six Midsummer Classics.

"That's more like it," Johnson said. "Three of my boys are on the All-Star team, and I'm proud of them."

All four Nationals learned of their All-Star fates shortly before Sunday's series finale against the Braves. Strasburg and Gonzalez were selected by their fellow players to serve on the NL's pitching staff. Desmond was selected by manager Tony La Russa as a reserve shortstop.

Harper, meanwhile, learned he's one of five NL players in contention for the "Final Vote" spot on the roster, with fans now left to choose between the 19-year-old outfielder and four other contenders: retiring Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, teammate Michael Bourn, Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill and Cardinals third baseman David Freese.

"Obviously when you get more than one guy, get Desi and Gio in there too, it's huge," Strasburg said. "It means that we're winning. Typically the team in last place only gets one guy. So it's nice to ... correct me if I'm wrong, but this might be the first time with three?"

Indeed, this is only the second time the Nationals have boasted more than one All-Star since the franchise arrived in town (Chad Cordero and Livan Hernandez both were selected in 2005) and the first time they've sent more than two players to the game.

Strasburg (9-3, 2.81 ERA, MLB-high 122 strikeouts) and Gonzalez (11-3, 3.01 ERA, 112 strikeouts following Sunday's win) appeared to be locks to make the club, and each pitcher was selected by their fellow players.

This is Strasburg's first All-Star selection, and the 23-year-old was humbled to learn the news only 10 months since he made his return to the mound following Tommy John surgery.

"It's going to be a tremendous experience and it's a huge honor for me," the right-hander said. "It's amazing to think where I was a year ago. It's great to see the hard work has all paid off, but it's not done. It's only the halfway point in the year, and we've still got a long ways to go."

Gonzalez will be making his second All-Star appearance, having gotten the nod last year while pitching for the Athletics.

"This one means a little bit more, because everyone played a big part of it and everyone worked really hard," the left-hander said. "I'm not taking anything away from Oakland and what they did for me. They did a great job and gave me an opportunity to play. ... But it feels like we all did something big today."

Desmond, meanwhile, earns his first All-Star selection, chosen by La Russa (who while managing the Cardinals last season mentioned the 26-year-old shortstop as one of his favorite players). In his third full big-league seasons, Desmond enters Sunday's game hitting .276 with 13 homers, 43 RBI and a .483 slugging percentage that leads all MLB shortstops.

That's a far cry from where Desmond sat one year ago, when he entered the All-Star break with a .223 batting average, three homers, 22 RBI, a .572 OPS and questions about his long-term viability as a big-league shortstop.

In the equivalent of one full season's worth of games since then, Desmond is hitting .282 with 18 homers, 70 RBI and a .454 slugging percentage.

"It's just a credit to the organization," said Desmond, who was drafted by the Expos in 2004. "Being homegrown is obviously something that I don't take lightly. I hope I can have the opportunity to stay here my whole career. And this, I guess, is a thanks to them. They put in a lot of work with me."

Harper's inclusion in the "Final Vote" competition would seemingly have guaranteed the popular rookie's spot on the All-Star roster. But MLB threw a wrinkle into the process when it added Jones to the mix. The 40-year-old third baseman, who has already announced he will retire at season's end, will be a sentimental choice for many fans.

Even Harper (who is now hitting .274 with eight homers, 22 RBI and an .819 OPS as a teenager) threw his support for Jones.

"I think a Hall of Famer should be able to go to the All-Star Game his last year," Harper said. "If I was going to make a vote, I'd go vote for Chip."

53 comments:

Stranded_in_Philly said...

Mark... That might be the creepiest picture of Strasburg I have ever seen. He looks like he just feasted on somebody's soul.

Drew said...

I gave Ian Desmond a Lott of grief over the last couple of years.

It's time to tip my Nats cap.

Congratulations to All-Star Ian Desmond.

(Danny, that means Rendon is looking at you.)

Drew said...

Darn auto correct nonsense. I meant "lot" of grief, not "Lott."

Can't speak for Trent.

Schumatrix said...

Awesome news. l was really pulling for Ian to make the team, and he did! He's being rewarded for the great season he's had thus far.

Soul Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Jones and Bourne will split the Braves fan vote, and if the speculation runs true, and the Harper's Hotties get behind it, this could get interesting.

Soul Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

So, who was the first poster *in here* to suggest Desmond for the ASG?

CN said...

Strasburg's been feasting on NL batters and can't hide his excitement in the pic on the prospect to feast on the AL's best hitters.

natsfan1a said...

Happy for all our All-Stars, but particularly for Ian. Also happy for Buster Posey, for my brother. :-)

realdealnats said...

Does Harp get it b/c he's good for MLB and he's got hotties behind him?

Or does Chipper get it with a farewell sentimental vote?

Would love to see Harp get it. And what a wonderful way to cap the first half of his first season...

natsfan1a said...

Maybe I'll get flamed for this but I agree with FP that it's a bit of a slap in the face to Chipper being placed in the 5-man vote.

Soul Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

SO I've been checking more or less randomly in the pre-season posts on Desmond. Lots of traffic on the topic, but very little that was not negative, and only a little agnostic. Haven't seen anything positive yet.

Good thing I'm not into accountability--we'd pretty much fill up the "I was Wrooo--roooo wrrrrrrr... can't say it" Chorus.

natsfan1a said...

I will certainly admit to having whinged about defensive lapses at times. (Gotta be accountable and carry my share of the Gatorade load. :-))

Soul Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

I'd like to think Chipper was put in there to give him a chance for one last Standing O, so to speak, and if he doesn't go from that, he'll be a fill-in pick, if he agrees to go at that point.

natsfan1a said...

I would think so, too, re. the fill-in possibility, sec3.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Congrats to Desi. Read back to all the people that wanted to trade Desi, Lannan and Flores for BJUpton and other stupid trade proposals by GM's here.

Louise said...

Matt Kemp has already announced he's not playing in th ASG, which leaves the NL team short one outfielder from the get-go. Bryce might make the team without needing the fan vote.

Drew said...

To be fair, Ghost, suggestions about trading Desmond came as the Nats insisted upon a lead off hitter with an anemic on base percentage.

They moved him down and his power bat knocked in a bushel of runs. Everybody's happy.

Again, congrats to Ian. In the offseason the Nats will revisit the lead off question: Lombo? Bourn? Corey Brown? Stand pat and wait for the dynamite Brian Goodwin?

Those questions remain, but today is Ian's day.

UnkyD said...

(....fist-pump....yes!!)

Soul Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Looked at a few more randomly-selected January posts, and Steve M. was the only defender of Desmond I've found. A "anonymous" posts were exclusively negative, and really, really dead wrong stuff, afaict.

Soul Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

*The anonymous posts....

Steady Eddie said...

Sofa, by any genuinely objective standard, it had to be an open question how Desi would do this year. He had demonstrated his capability to hit in 2010, and to field at a reasonably high level in 2011 AD (after daddyhood). So he had shown both sides but had never before put them together.

Any backers of Desi showed an admirable leap of faith in him but that's what it was.

The agnostics who weren't neutral were probably mostly either hopeful (glass half full) or fearful (glass always has a hole in the bottom).

UnkyD said...

We're baseball fans... Objectivity needn't enter into it! I guess after totin' Desi's jock all last year, I may have come up a tad "agnostic", in the snowy months. I recollect that instill maintained that he would be given til at least this time of year, to put it together.... I reckon he's made my deadline, handily...:)

Steady Eddie said...

Unkyd,

I get you but I was measuring "objectivity"by a very wide standard, like "some vague resemblance to a fact-based position", and the opposite being "pulling it all out of your *ss". ;-)

natsfan1a said...

fwiw, my recollection is that you were behind him through good times and bad, Unk.

natsfan1a said...

And regardless, I suspect that most of us are extremely happy for the dude.

UnkyD said...

Thanks, 1A... Davey knew better than any of us. And for whatever it's worth, I might be more impressed with the manager's reserve picks, than the beauty contest winners....

NatsLady said...

I have to feel that TLR looked at his choices and said, "I can go with Desi or I can go with Clip, but I can't go with both." He chose Desi.

NatsLady said...

Next year Stamman for All-Star. There has got to be a spot for a "long reliever."

natsfan1a said...

NL, he didn't have to go with either, given that players had voted in two Nats already.

natsfan1a said...

Or I should say that the players, coaches, and managers had selected them.

JaneB said...

I am thrilled for all three but most especially for Ian. I tried to post as soon as I heard, but the access was spotty. I will say I have been on record in the "NEVER trade Ian category," and that will never change.
Unkyd, I thought of you when I heard. And 1a, of your brother when I saw Buster in there.
I'm not with my dogs, who get cookies when Ian does something good, but I've left instructions for them to get all the meat that is about to spoil from our lifeless fridge. And filet on the day, just as promised. Every being in my family roots for Ian!

Corky said...

Just remember, folks, Davey says the same things about Espi that he has about Desi. Give the man a chance to develop....

sjm308 said...

Unkyd - how crazy that I thought of all your posts defending Ian when he got the nod.

I will be slammed here but I have a hard time not seeing Chipper in his last season so that is where my vote is going. I love Bryce & he will probably get the vote but the All Star game is just the place to say good-bye to Chipper.

Go Nats!

natsfan1a said...

No slamming from me, sjm. :-)

Lester Asuncion said...

What about LaRoche? He was equal numbers than Votto in HRs and RBIs and better than LaHair of the Cubs. Despite injuries, Adam carried the team on his back.

Gonat said...

http://www.masnsports.com/index_medialounge.php?show_id=1049514&p=

Way to go Desi!

UnkyD said...

1A, 308, JaneB, and anyone else who mentioned my support of Our All-Star... HOW COOL IS THIS?!?! I was in the car, running errands at the start of the game, when Charlie and Dave broke the news. I have to admit getting a little moist, and pumping my fist. I'm just glad the organization is more patient than some of us... So happy for Desi!! Nobody, I'm sure was more aware of his struggles than he was.... What a great day...

MicheleS said...

Lester.. the cubs getting more than 1 player is a joke. The cubs are a last place team. Castro was there 1 player and he may not even deserve it.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Kemp just pulled out of the All Star game. Says he will Captain and hit in the HR Derby

Faraz Shaikh said...

that makes it a little easier. maybe harper can replace him in asg and chipper can win final vote.

natsfan1a said...

Very cool indeed, Unk.

peric said...

Davey seems to think Bryce needs the rest. I'm inclined to agree. The long, emotional, grind is wearing on the 19 year old. He's played every inning of every game since he arrived. He's played right field, center field, and left.

For BHarp this is a still a development year. Still no need to rush things.

UnkyD said...

Almost, Peric.... Sat the first several innings out, one night...remember?

Fear and Ignorance said...

SJM-Don't forget...this game matters now. Who would you rather have at the plate or on the bases in the 8th inning of a tie game...Bryce or Chipper? If it is Chipper, then he should get your vote. Vote for the best player or you could be kicking yourself when the AL has home field advantage against us in the World Series. ;)Let MLB figure out a way to put him in there. I am sure they will. I would guess that he could take Kemp's place (or maybe Harper can since he is an OF).

peric said...

Just remember, folks, Davey says the same things about Espi that he has about Desi. Give the man a chance to develop....

I'll take that a step further ... Danny Espinosa is the best athlete on this team. He is such a great athlete he has the ability to not only play every position, short of pitcher and catcher, at a gold glove level he has the ability to be a Chipper-like pinch hitter ... who would be the superior athlete and hitter.

Plus I think he's hiding some injury issues. He looks slower than he did last year. It seems like some feel they have to do that in order not to make excuses? Pride? Or other reasons ...

I know Andy Messersmith's actress ex-girlfreind when he was with the Dodgers and the Braves. She claims he suffered a rotator cuff injury in a pique of anger because he couldn't find her. She had been hiding from him at the time. Didn't tell Ted Turner about it when he signed the big FA deal.

And there's Zim who finally acknowledged he had a problem. Thankfully, the cortisone shot appears to be working ... but it could wear off as the season moves forward. Methinks Espy may be hiding an injury too.

peric said...

Almost, Peric.... Sat the first several innings out, one night...remember?

Yep, and I guess he pestered Davey the entire time pacing back-and-forth in the dugout. Albeit when asked about it later he claimed Ankiel was far worse than he? I guess its why we keep seeing Ankiel ... even though he has complete regressed to hitting like a pitcher again ...

peric said...

Who would you rather have at the plate or on the bases in the 8th inning of a tie game...Bryce or Chipper?

At this stage of their careers? Bryce "Ted Williams the younger" Harper of course? The kid is going to break out and put up some insane numbers once he adapts to major league pitcher's exploiting the rookie and his weaknesses. And he apparently has the ability to adapt rapidly.

This is a case where it IS NOT a blunder playing Harper. It could start happening any game now ... with Zim and Morse's and Morse's bats now coming around ... finally ... it could happen any game now ...

Lester Asuncion said...

True MicheleS the Cubs are sad in the cellar. That's why the team with the best record in the NL should have the most players. Hopefully Davey coaches next year to send both Zimms too.

ehay2k said...

Very happy for Desi. I never liked him at lead off because he was miscast in that role, but always thought he had huge upside at SS and with power at the plate. I did want him sent down at one point, not as punishment, but to work on his game without all the pressure to perform. He's just too hard on himself.

My biggest gripe: Why change your number? I already bought the dang number 6 shersey!

peric said...

True MicheleS the Cubs are sad in the cellar.

With Epstein and Hoyer that won't last more than this year ... next year they will be better and then a year later? It will be a different story ... Selig will be spending sleepless nights trying to figure out rules to clamp down on the Cubs who are in the same division with his Brewers. Just as he put the clamps on the Nats and their way over slot signings of top talent in any draft round. Its why they have Nate Karns this year whilst Solis and Purke recover and Robbie Ray finds his way.

Epstein and Hoyer are like Rizzo and Clark ... I'll take the latter two because of their vast experience.

SonnyG10 said...

I've always backed Ian and felt he would sooner or later break out as a star. I feel the same way about Danny E. Espinosa is very athletic and for a guy that came up as a shortstop, he has amazing footwork turning double plays at second. I think it is only a matter of time before he gets his left handed hitting to the point where we all want to see it.

Schumatrix said...

Honestly, I didn't think Desi could be an everyday shortstop in the majors after last year. I'm so, so glad he's been proving me wrong this year. He's a really likable player, and I think that's evident by the amount of love he's being shown on this page.

164abb6e-9075-11e1-aba1-000bcdcb471e said...

The sad thing is that Zimmerman, for years the only real star on the team, wasn't even close this year to being named. Let's hope next season for him is better, and that he eventually puts together a strong, injury-free year.

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