PHILADELPHIA — By the time all of the ballots were cast, all the specifically hashtagged tweets sent, all of the text messages received, Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond finished fourth in the Final Vote contest for a spot on the National League All-Star team.
Desmond, a 2012 All-Star and seemingly a sure-fire pick for this year’s team, placed behind Freddie Freeman, Yasiel Puig and Hunter Pence in the voting.
“That’s a shame, because he’s the best shortstop in either league,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “I mean, from a baseball standpoint, I don’t know anybody who in baseball I’d take over him defensively or offensively.”
Desmond was not named to the team this year, with Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki earning the starting spot via fan vote, Brewers rookie Jean Segura named as a reserve and Everth Cabrera earning the Padres’ only selection when the teams were announced last weekend.
But while Desmond came up short in the fans’ final bid to get him named to a second consecutive All-Star team, the shortstop was overwhelmed by the support he got in the five-day voting process.
“It’s been awhile, but our fan-player relationship from early on in my career wasn’t very good,” Desmond said. “I obviously was young and was still learning the game and I was going through some stuff defensively and offensively. And times weren’t really that easy.
“A majority of fans were over me. They were ready to get me out of here. They wanted to trade me, all this other stuff. But there were a select group of people who supported me. I worked hard everyday, I just relied more on the people who supported me, deflected the people who were against me, and I think I’m obviously fortunate that I’ve been blessed. I was able to turn things around in my career and in my life.”
Desmond’s first half is certainly All-Star worthy as he leads all National League shortstops in doubles, trails only Tulowitzki in homers and RBI, and has been the Nationals‘ most consistent and productive hitter all season.
His 10 game-winning RBI is tied for the fourth-best mark among all National League players and his 40 home runs since the start of the 2012 season leads all major league shortstops.
Desmond, whose defense has evolved from a rocky start in the major leagues to place him among the league’s elite in that category, has also become a fan favorite.
While Freeman, the Braves’ first baseman, earned 19.7 million votes to get the nod in the Final Vote contest, Desmond’s supporters saturated the balloting in Maryland, the District and Virginia. He also had strong support in parts of Montana, Missouri and New Mexico.
“It feels great to know that so many people can gather together for a player on their team,” Desmond said. “Especially in our city where that would never happen before. It’s something I’m very grateful for.
“It’s awkward for me. I don’t like [the attention]. Obviously I appreciate it and I think it’s awesome, and if it was for somebody else I would be encouraging them to do more. But for me it’s just weird because I don’t see myself like that. I just try to be a blue-collar worker like everybody else. I don’t know how else to say it but I just really, really appreciate [it] and I’m just so grateful for them being on my side.”
There is a chance Desmond will still find his way to Citi Field early next week to join Bryce Harper and Jordan Zimmermann.
Tulowitzki returned Thursday from the disabled list with a broken rib suffered against the Nationals in mid-June. He will only play in the All-Star game if he is able to feel healthy while playing for the Rockies first. An injury to any of the other infielders on the NL squad could also open a spot for Desmond.
And if he doesn’t, there won’t be too many in the Nationals organization complaining that the only player who’s appeared in all but one of their games to this point will be able to get a few days of rest.
“I’m happy about that because, you know, I’m not resting him,” Johnson said. “When I think about resting him, I say, ‘No, I can’t afford to do that.’ So I’m glad he’s going to get some time off.”
“I have plans to go home now, and we’ll see what happens,” Desmond said. “I just have to focus on today, which is most important. Whatever happens with that stuff, we’ll see.”