For Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, getting named to the 2012 All-Star Game was a huge honor. The fact that manager Tony La Russa hand-picked him to be on it made the designation that much more special for Desmond.
But given the Nationals’ season and where the team is at as they head into the All-Star break with the best record in the National League, the Nationals trainers and Desmond have decided he should take the break to rest the sore left oblique issue that has been nagging him, instead of playing in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Braves center fielder Michael Bourn was named to the All-Star team to replace Desmond.
Desmond has not missed any playing time with the oblique injury and has played all but one game since the season began. But because he was not named as a starter on the team, he and the Nationals worried that coming off the bench cold could be a big risk for him.
The Nationals have withstood the loss of 15 different players to the disabled list this season and while they’ve been able to keep the ship more than afloat with contributions from others, the loss of their All-Star shortstop for any extended period could be detrimental.
Because oblique injuries are so touchy and so difficult to get back from, all parties involved were wary of the injury worsening and the risk of affecting what everyone expects will be a special second half from the Nationals. One Nationals official called the decision “extremely unselfish” on Desmond’s part to miss out on the All-Star festivities.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from simply excusing themselves from the game and must have an actual medical issue in order to do so. The Nationals were required to go through the proper channels with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association before Desmond was excused from the game.
While Desmond’s play has not appeared to be affected by the oblique soreness as he’s played in 81 of the Nationals’ first 82 games, the team’s main concern was how the muscle might react if he’s asked to play at full speed without his usual treatment and warm-up routine.
Desmond has been the Nationals’ most consistent offensive player this season. In 80 games this season, Desmond’s hit .279 with 41 extra-base hits and 48 RBI. In the National League, only Joey Votto and David Wright have a higher Win Probability Added (essentially a statistic that measures a player’s impact on their team’s game) than Desmond.
He hit his 16th home run of the season, claiming the team lead and putting himself on pace to triple his pervious major league high in that category this season, in the second inning on Saturday afternoon.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson first said something about Desmond’s oblique on June 16 but Desmond has not missed any games since.