Desmond reflects on breakout season in 2012
Nationals shortstop talks postseason, individual year in Q&A with MLB.com
Shortstop Ian Desmond was one of the reasons the Nationals went to the postseason in 2012. In 130 games, Desmond hit .292 with 25 home runs, 73 RBIs and 21 stolen bases -- all career highs. Desmond became the second player in Nationals history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a season.
MLB.com caught up with Desmond recently to talk about the '12 season and the loss to the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
MLB.com: Has it hit you what happened to the Nationals against the Cardinals during the NLDS?
Desmond: It's kind of come and gone. At first, it was little bit of a shock. I speak for myself. I'm taking it as a learning thing. I just try to get better from it and try to bounce back next year. At this point, there is nothing I can really do.
MLB.com: The Nationals were heavily favored against the Cardinals in the NLDS. How come the team lost the series?
Desmond: I think our youth might have been a little bit exposed. Up to that point, I think we played some outstanding baseball. I think in the end, we lost focused. ... [Game 5] was a total team loss. We had opportunities to score runs. We should have kept piling on runs. Earlier in the game, I could have made a play that I thought I should have made. The defense wasn't completely there like it normally was throughout the year. In that last game, we didn't play the way we knew how to play. We obviously scored seven runs in Game 5. But when you get the starting pitcher out of the game by the third inning, you have to score more [runs].
MLB.com: How do you learn from this defeat?
Desmond: In that game, I think we went in and thought, "OK, this is going to be another game and let's just go out and play." We obviously know what we did all year long -- the way we played and the preparation that it took to get there. We know we did the right thing. Now, it's about taking the atmosphere and realizing, "Hey, this is what it's like." We've seen it, we've been here. We now know what to expect. It makes us hungry to go back [to the postseason] again.
MLB.com: You had a great year in 2012. What was the reason behind it?
Desmond: I felt like God had more important issues to deal with than my baseball career. [In 2012], I put my faith in him and said, "Hey, get my athletic ability to do whatever you want. Hopefully, I can glorify you." It has been great. That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Going 0-for-4 wasn't so bad. I realized it was part of the process and this is the way He wanted it to be. I'll bounce back from it. You have to learn from that kind of stuff. 0-for-4 wasn't necessarily keeping me awake all night like it was in the past. I just bounce back from it, kind of brush it off. That was part of the plan. It made it easy all year long.
MLB.com: How much do you credit Davey Johnson for the year you had?
Desmond: Having Davey was also a blessing. He said, "Go out there and play. Don't aim the ball around, don't try to be something you are not. Just go out and be yourself and let it all go." ... He said, "No matter what happens, you are going to be my shortstop. Let's do it." That's the attitude he had all year. There is not one physical or mechanical thing that Davey ever told me that stuck in my head, but the fact he told me, "Look, go play, have fun, relax. Whatever happens at the end of the day, you are going to be my guy. I'm not scared of the outcome, so you don't be [scared either]."
MLB.com: What part of your game do you want to improve in 2013?
Desmond: There is still some work I can do defensively. There is always going to be work in every aspect of my game. If I subtract 30, 40, 50 strikeouts -- imagine if I was putting the ball in play instead of swinging and missing? [Imagine what] my numbers could have been? I was pretty happy with the year I had.
MLB.com: There has been talk about you getting a contract extension. Is there anything going on?
Desmond: We haven't crossed that bridge yet. I've been with the Nationals/Expos my whole career. I have family in that organization. Whatever happens, happens. I'm in no hurry to go anywhere else. We will kind of let it play out as it goes.
MLB.com: I understand there were contract talks during this past season, but you put a halt to it because you didn't want it to be a distraction. The No. 1 thing was winning. Could you talk about it?
Desmond: We were never in any negotiations by any means. The idea came up, and I basically said, "Look, I've never been on a winning team since I've been in this organization. I've never been in the playoffs. I'm having a great year. This is the first time I'm really going to get to enjoy it and I don't want any distractions. I don't want to distract myself, I don't want to distract the team. I want to give it everything I had and see if we [win the World Series]."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.