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Friday, February 12, 2010

Ian Desmond

My daughter attended a high school that did not have much of a field hockey tradition. In the five years before her arrival, I think the school won a single varsity game. They'd get beat by scores like 18-1 and 14-0.

She was part of a group of about a dozen that had some talent. They had a good junior varsity season as freshmen, even beating their biggest rivals for the first time in about a zillion years.

The next year was decision time. The group could stay at the JV level and probably dominate. Or it could be elevated to the varsity, take a few lumps but learn what it was like at that level. It's a faster game, a little more rugged. The coach made what seemed like a no-brainer decision. Up to the varsity they went, where they had a decent season. The next two years were very good. The program qualified for the district tournament for the first time in ages and then the regional tournament for the first time maybe ever. The year after my daughter's group left, the team made the semifinals of the state tournament.

There is a point to all that. If Ian Desmond has some iota of a chance of being more than a stopgap shortstop, isn't this the year to find out? I don't think too many expect this team to be a contender, so what would it hurt to see if Desmond can handle the job?

I've never been a Guzman hater. Good bat, I can live with him in the field. He's far from the biggest problem the Nats have. If he's the SS, I'm fine with that. Does anyone think he's in Washington beyond this season, that he's the SS when this team finally gets good?

So why not give Desmond a full-time chance? If he is the answer, great. If he's not, fast-track Danny Espinoza or get started on a search for another shortstop.

I just don't see what more time in the minors is going to do at this point. I'd hope for a utility role over that, so he can at least be exposed to major-league level baseball. Just keep him out of right field.

My current poll asks for your opinion on the whole Desmond scene. I'm eager to see what everyone thinks.

My previous poll drew a paltry 34 voters and I think that was a false total. We had 14 voters (me included) who thought Mike Bacsik grooved the record home run pitch to Barry Bonds and 20 who thought he did not.

Odd thing, though. The first few votes came in at a normal pace, a trickle. They were evenly split. Then there was a sudden rush of about 10 votes, all declaring no. I smell a rat.


Dave Nichols said...

signing Kennedy doomed Desmond's fate. he'll either be the starter at Syracuse or a utility player forthe Nats. i think of the two, playing full-time in AAA it the better option. the whole reason he wouldn't be starting at SS for the Nats is because of his defense. you don' tget better playing SS by playing 2B and the OF.

i've written about this probably a half-dozen times already, the Nats are wasting a huge opportunity of they don't play Desmond at SS this season. consecutive 100-loss teams are just the type of team that can afford to break in a youngster in their everyday lineup.

Sasskuash said...

I don't hear many people talking about this, but I think the Nats should switch Desmond to 2B now! From what I hear, Espinosa is a better prospect at SS than Desmond. He is rising fast so we can be relatively sure he will be usefull in the near future. Instead of having 2 players who want to start at SS and no 2B in 2011-2012, move Desmond now and you already have your MI figured out for years.

To do this, I would start him in AAA while he learns a new position and bring him up in a few months. Kennedy and Guzman can platoon at SS (their career splits against RHP vs. LHP complement each other very well). Alternatively, teach Guzman to play 2B in spring training, and let Desmond start at SS and you have all kinds of flexibility this year for the MI. I think Desmond has to be part of the plan for 2010 and beyond somehow.

An Briosca Mor said...

In Nats320's current interview, Riggleman talks of using Desmond as a utility guy at SS, 2B and all three outfield positions. This in my opinion would be dumb beyond dumb. There are two hurdles Desmond needs to get over before he gets installed as the everyday shortstop in 2011. He needs to learn how to field the position better, and he needs to show that he can consistently hit major league pitching. The super-utility role helps with the second, but not the first - and it could even be detrimental to his fielding at short.

But uncertainty about Desmond's ability is only one of the complications here. The other one is that Guzman is not going anywhere. With his contract and 10-and-5 status, he's untradeable. So if he can play, he needs to play. It's as simple as that.

So IMHO the only reasonable course of action is to start the season with Guzman playing short in DC and Desmond playing short in the minors. Let the players decide what happens next. If Guzman gets hurt or otherwise falters and/or if Desmond is tearing it up both at the plate and in the field in AA/AAA, then you bench Guzman and bring Desmond up. After the trading deadline, you bring Desmond up regardless. If Guzman is still playing okay at that point, he becomes the backup. If not, he goes the way of Felipe Lopez. Desmond needs to play shortstop somewhere for the entire season, or at the end of the season you still don't know whether or not you have a major league shortstop in him. Having him be the major league utility guy might give you a clue about his hitting (although it also might not) but it tells you nothing about whether or not he's your shortstop of the future.

Rich said...

I've been pondering this for a while and I asked Ben Goessling his opinion on the matter and he indicated that he thought Guzman would be willing to be traded if he was benched. If we're paying him either way then he can sit if he's no good and he will eventually accept a trade. This "solution" is a real ugly one though.

And would create some bad blood...

MikeHarris said...

Is a healthy Guzman playing all year a bad thing? In and of itself, outside the Desmond equation?

Could you get decent value for him in a trade? Problem there is if Desmond does completely tank, what's the next answer?

Dave said...

Guzman has a lot of problems. let's start with his career .307 OBP. he has no lateral movement due to his bunions. and he was mopey last year when he didn't play despite the fact it was injuries keeping him out.

all Guzman brings is an empty batting average.

when he's hot, he's fun to watch cause it seems like he'll go three weeks going 3-for-5 every night. then, there's a month of nothing.

regardless, it's less important who starts the season at SS than who finishes there.

@Sasskuash, not a bad idea moving Desmond to 2B full-time, but Kennedy can't play SS. he's a 2B/3B kind of guy. not enough range for SS.

Sasskuash said...

I agree with all those who said the utility role for Desmond is a huge mistake. If Riggleman sabotages Desmond's career before the season starts, I'll ask to fire him on opening day. If Rizzo lets that happen, I'll be equally upset.

@Mike- I think Guzman was healthy last year. I don't believe the "hidden injury" story the team is feeding to the reporter they pay. I'd be happier to see Guzman be the backup option for the first couple months in case Desmond does turn out to be a disaster. Depth is never a bad thing, and I don't think that just because you signed a bad contract 2 years ago, you should hinder the development of your future. Play Desmond and use Guzman as an $8mill backup plan. We did it with Kearns...

Or play Desmond at 2B and use Kennedy as a $1.25mill backup plan. That might be more palatable and fits better with the long-term make-up of the team.