Desmond in elite company

Desmond in elite company
September 25, 2012, 5:07 am
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In this age of deflated power numbers and de-emphasized baserunning, it's no small feat when a major leaguer pulls off a 20-20 combo in a single season: 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases.

So Ian Desmond should feel quite proud of himself this morning as the newest member of the 20-20 club, one that features only seven current members: Desmond, Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, B.J. Upton, Alex Rios, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Gonzalez.

Desmond is only the second Nationals player ever to pull off the 20-20 combo, the bar having previously been set ridiculously high by Alfonso Soriano, who in 2006 hit 46 homers and stole 41 bases.

This from a guy who entered the season with perhaps as much pressure on him as anybody on the Nationals roster, a guy who had never hit more than 10 homers or posted a batting average greater than .269 in a full big-league season.

"I think he's just had a phenomenal year," manager Davey Johnson said after yesterday's game. "He's just establishing a benchmark for himself and what he's capable of doing."

As impressive as Desmond's 20-20 combo is, let's take this a step further and point out the incredibly rare feat he might just pull off: finishing with a .300 batting average while homering 20 times and stealing 20 bases.

Desmond's average stood at .301 entering yesterday's game, but an 0-for-3 performance against the Brewers dropped that mark to .299. With nine games left in the regular season, he still has a golden opportunity to raise that number back over .300.

And if he does, Desmond will join what might be one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball history: shortstops who have hit .300 with 20 homers and 20 steals.

How many have ever done it? Only six, and their names read like a list of the greatest shortstops of the modern era: Hanley Ramirez (four times), Alex Rodriguez (twice), Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Larkin and Alan Trammell.

With a strong finish, Ian Desmond could stand alongside those greats.

Not that he would make a big deal out of it. Desmond is loathe to discuss his personal achievements, especially when it comes to stats. He downplayed the significance of his first career All-Star selection earlier this summer, insisting he'd much rather play in the World Series.

But the 27-year-old does give credit to those who made his breakthrough season possible, starting with his manager.

"Davey has been real nice to have around for me personally," Desmond said. "He's believed in me. I've kind of put the comparison on it: When Davey came in in spring training and was like: 'Hey, you're going to play every single day and I don't care what you do. You're out there. You're my shortstop no matter what.' That was, to me, like a multi-year contract. That was all I needed, someone's word, to say: 'Hey, you're the guy.' The audition kind of went away and now it became just go out and play your game. You can do whatever you want, and he believes in you."

The way Desmond has played this season, there may never be another manager, coach or scout in baseball that doubts his ability.

CSNwashington.com's Chase Hughes contributed to this report.