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 it heads into the All-Star break with the best record in the National League (49-33), 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, Mo., on Tuesday.
"It's definitely a tough decision," Desmond said after the Nationals' 4-1 victory over the Rockies on Saturday in which he was 2-for-3 with a homer. "It's one that we spent quite a few days kind of mulling over. But in the end, I think it's best for the team and best for myself to take the rest. I would hate to be two, three weeks down the road and something happened and I didn't take the four days to rest my body and put the team first."
Desmond spoke with Nationals manager Davey Johnson, general manager Mike Rizzo, the team's training staff and La Russa himself before all parties came to an agreement that Desmond should not play. Instead, he will go home to Sarasota, Fla., to rest.
"Risking something for the All-Star Game [when the team] could possibly down the road [be] playing in the playoffs or in meaningful baseball towards the end of the season — the cons just outweighed the pros," Desmond said. "I think going to the [Kansas City] and hanging that piece of steak in front of your face and not being able to eat it just would add insult to injury."
Braves center fielder Michael Bourn was named to the All-Star team to replace Desmond. And rookie outfielder Bryce Harper was named to the team to replace Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, so the Nationals will still have three representatives, including Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, at the game. Harper, 19, is the youngest position player ever to make the All-Star team.
"[Desmond] could sure use the four days off to try to get by that oblique," Johnson said. "But, anyway, we're going to have four."
The Nationals' four selections are tied for the second-most in the NL. The St. Louis Cardinals have five.
Even after Johnson first mentioned Desmond's oblique soreness June 16, Desmond has not missed any time with the injury, playing in 81 of 82 games. Though, he has been getting treatment on the area everyday, Johnson said.
Some days are better than others. Saturday, a day he said he felt "terrible," he had a strong offensive day and hit his team-leading 16th home run of the season. On others, he feels soreness just lifting his son, Grayson, or sneezing. The fear of making it worse, especially by coming in cold off the bench, was enough to nix the prospect of playing.
"It's not something that you want to do, withdraw your name from the All-Star Game," Desmond said. "As tough as it sounds, it's harder to do, especially when you were selected by Tony La Russa personally.
"I think in the second half it'd be nice to be going in knowing that my body is 100 percent healthy, that I can give it all I've got for my team and we can make a run at this thing."
The Nationals have withstood the loss of 15 different players to the disabled list this season. 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.
One Nationals official called the decision "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 taken out of the game.
Desmond has been the Nationals' most consistent offensive player this season, as he's hit .279 with 41 extra-base hits and 48 RBI. In the NL, 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.
"I was kind of bummed out by [Desmond not going]," Harper said. "I think he's had a great year and has had a great first half, so it's going to be a bummer him not being there. He's one of the best shortstops in baseball right now. It kind of sucks that he's not going."
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