The Washington Post

Ian Desmond records back-to-back 20-20 seasons

(Associated Press)

In the seventh inning of Sunday night’s game, Ian Desmond singled to left field and, with Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos on the mound, swiped second base. The stolen base was no small achievement. Desmond became the first Nationals player to post multiple 20 home run-20 stolen base seasons, and only the third time in team history any player has reached the milestone. Desmond posted a 20-20 season last year and Alfonso Soriano did the same in 2006.

That Desmond has been able to do it in back-to-back seasons speaks volumes of his ability and development. The 28-year-old is the seventh player in the majors this season to reach the 20-20 mark, but all of them are outfielders and Desmond is the first infielder. The shortstop is an elite player because of his production at the premium position. Nationals Manager Davey Johnson even suggested that Desmond could be considered the team’s most valuable player alongside Jayson Werth.

“It’s pretty cool,” Desmond said of reaching the 20-20 mark. “It’s definitely a blessing. I wasn’t always headed down this road in my life. I’m just fortunate and I just try to take every day as a blessing and I try to do the most I can every day.”

Desmond is hitting .286/.338/.465 with 20 homers, 20 stolen bases, 38 doubles and 80 RBI. He has played in 153 of the Nationals 156 games. Only two shortstops — Jimmy Rollins and Alcides Escobar — have played in as many games, and Starlin Castro leads all with 155 games played.

Desmond is second among major league shortstops with a .802 OPS, behind Troy Tulowitzki’s .941 OPS. He is second in slugging behind Tulowitzki, third in on-base percentage behind Tulowitzki and Jed Lowrie, and fourth in batting average. He leads all of them with 61 extra-base hits. He is also a strong defender and team leader.

“He does it all,” center fielder Denard Span said. “I’m gonna be honest with you. Has a strong arm, hits for power, hits for average. He’s the total package. I knew him for a few years before I got here but I never had a chance to watch him play up close and personal and he’s definitely the real deal. … Every day he’s ready to go, same intensity. He never looks tired, never looks frustrated or flustered.”

After the seventh inning ended on Sunday night and Desmond was stranded at second base, he walked towards the pitcher’s mound as he waited for a teammate to bring him his glove and hat. On the scoreboard, they recognized Desmond for his 20-20 season and fans applauded. Two years ago, Desmond was one of the least productive hitters in baseball. In his two seasons since, he has become one of baseball’s best shortstops. Bryce Harper and Span high-fived Desmond as they took their positions. Desmond appreciated the fans’ support.

“That was awesome,” he said.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010, wrote about high school sports across the region for two years and has covered the Nationals since the middle of the 2012 season.
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