Named to the All-Star Game for the first time last Sunday, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond will sit out Tuesday’s showcase with a left oblique strain, an injury he has played through for nearly a month.
Desmond has been the Nationals’ most durable player. He has played every game but one this season, and he has played every single inning while starting all 67 games since April 20. But Desmond, the Nationals’ most valuable player of the first half, did not want to risk a more severe injury, even if it meant pulling out of an honor he cherished.
“It was definitely a tough decision, one that we spent quite a few days mulling over,” Desmond said. “In the end, I think it’s best for the team and best for myself to take a 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 made his final call at the end of the week. He called National League Manager Tony La Russa personally to discuss whether or not he should play. La Russa, the former St. Louis Cardinals manager, selected Desmond with one of his manager’s picks.
“It’s just tough,” Desmond said. “It’s not something you want to do, withdraw your name from the All-Star Game. As tough as it sounds, it’s harder to do, especially when you were selected by Tony La Russa personally. It’s just a hard decision to make, period.”
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has made it more difficult for players to pull out of the All-Star Game without cause. The rules dictate players send medical information that must be cleared as legitimate by both MLB and the Players Association.
Desmond, 26, will not attend the festivities in Kansas City, but he is still considered an all-star in baseball’s official record. Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn will take his place on the roster.
“I think going to the All-Star Game and hanging that piece of steak in front of your face and not be able to eat it, it just adds insult to injury,” Desmond said.
Major League Baseball announced the decision midway through the Nationals’ 4-1 victory Saturday afternoon over the Colorado Rockies, at which point Desmond was 2 for 2 with a home run. He finished 2 for 3.
Desmond has been dealing with the oblique soreness since at least mid-June. Manager Davey Johnson nearly held Desmond out of the Nationals’ lineup June 16 because of the oblique, but Desmond insisted he could play and Johnson inserted him within two hours of first pitch.
Playing through the strain, Desmond has recently compiled one of the best sustained offensive stretches of his career. His 10-game hitting streak came to an end Friday night. In his past 26 games, dating to June, Desmond is 35 for 103 (.340) with eight home runs, nine doubles, a triple and seven walks.
“It’s crazy the way your body and your mind kind of play a part in this game,” Desmond said. “There’s days when I come out and it feels terrible, but I get a couple knocks. Like, it felt pretty sore, and I good offensive day.”