Ian Desmond was waiting at his locker for reporters after tonight’s 8-0 loss to the Cardinals, like he always is.
Desmond went 1-for-4 with an infield single in tonight’s game, struck out twice and made two errors, giving him seven on the season. That’s the most in the majors. He could have hidden from the questions or deflected them, saying that it’s still early in the season. But he didn’t.
The Nationals, as a whole, have struggled defensively this season, making 20 errors through 16 games. It’s a team-wide issue, but when asked a question about the Nats’ defensive struggles, Desmond steered the attention to himself.
And the Nationals shortstop didn’t hold back in his responses.
“I’ll talk about me,” Desmond said. “First ball of the game, you boot it. It doesn’t set the tone. If I ever want to be the captain of this team - I do - I have to be better than that. I’ve been in some dark places defensively, and this is right there with them. Just got to work through it, just like I have in the past, and go out and play.”
What do you do in times like this?
“You’ve got to keep on playing,” Desmond said. “As bad as I want to run and hide, whatever, not necessarily run and hide, but you’ve got to sit here and answer the questions and you’ve got to be a man about it. This is something I’ve done to myself. I can’t blame anybody else or anything. I’ve been here before. I’ve proved to people I can play and I’ve proved to myself I can play. I’m gonna do it again.”
When Desmond says he’s been here before, he means it. He made 34 errors in 2010, his first year as the Nats’ everyday shortstop, and had to listen to people question whether he was cut out to play the position at the big league level.
He worked tirelessly to improve defensively, and it paid off. Desmond was named a finalist for a Gold Glove the last two years, and has become a well-rounded defender, with good range and a strong arm. But both the start of last season and the start of this season have been rough for him defensively.
“Going back to last year, I was in the same exact position,” he said. “I don’t know how or why I get here, but look, I believe in myself. I believe I can be the best defensive shortstop in the game. Right now, I’m not playing like that one bit. I’d be the first to tell you that. But I owe it to Taylor Jordan ... come out here, first ball of the game, boot it. He should be over there talking about how good he pitched and beating the Cardinals on national television, not what happened. That’s a shame.
“But you know what? The errors in the past have made me who I am today. These are gonna make me a better man, too. Just got to keep fighting through it. ...
“If I had the answer (to what’s going wrong), I’d give it to you. I’m gonna keep on grinding. I was out there hoping that they would keep on hitting me groundballs. That’s all you can do, just go out and keep on playing. As long as my name’s in the lineup, I’m gonna go out there and play as hard as I can. It’s not a lack of effort, it’s just I’ve got to execute. And I will.”
Desmond was asked whether manager Matt Williams was upset with the team after the game.
“Rightfully so. He was upset,” he responded, before declining to reveal what the Nats skipper said to the team.
Desmond’s first-inning throwing error helped the Cardinals jump out to a 3-0 lead after one, and they cruised from there. Adam Wainwright pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing just two hits.
“We handed that to him on a tee,” Desmond said. “Me especially. Can’t give that pitcher that caliber any kind of leeway or show any kinks in the armor. Right off the bat, they just stepped on our throat. Hopefully tomorrow we can go back and get ‘em.”