Phil Wood: Ian Desmond's rough start on defense for Nationals is nothing to worry about

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On April 3 against Miami, in the second game of the season, Ian Desmond made a throwing error. The Nationals won the game 3-0.

On April 5, in a 15-0 blowout loss in Cincinnati, Desmond made a fielding error. The next day, in a 7-6 victory, he made two more errors, one fielding and one throwing. Overall, he had four errors in the first five games of the season. There's nothing really remarkable about it, but some fans seem to think it's time to start grooming a replacement.

Some people simply have too much time on their hands.

Nats fans remember all too well the fielding adventures Desmond underwent in 2010, his first full season as Washington's everyday shortstop. He made 34 errors, tops in the National League. The next season that number dropped to 23, and last year it fell to just 15. It's a natural progression, and doing the math produces a three-season total of 72 misplays. But just for fun, where do you think that three-season total ranks among some other shortstops whom you're no doubt aware of?

Over his first three years as the everyday shortstop for the San Diego Padres (1978-80), Ozzie Smith committed 69 errors. Just up the road from Nationals Park, the Orioles' Cal Ripken was charged with 77 misplays in his first three years playing shortstop exclusively (1983-85). Phil Rizzuto committed 85 errors his first three seasons in pinstripes. Pee Wee Reese made 108 errors his first three full seasons with Brooklyn. Milwaukee's Robin Yount made 101 errors. Luis Aparicio committed 76 errors with the White Sox.

All of the above are enshrined in Cooperstown, by the way.

So why, pray tell, should anyone have an issue with Desmond's glove? Are your standards really that high? One guy I've always thought was a legit Hall of Fame candidate was Alan Trammell of the Tigers, ranked as the ninth-best shortstop all time by analyst Bill James. Trammell only made 53 errors his first three seasons but hasn't gotten a sniff of Cooperstown.

Maybe you're a Derek Jeter fan. His numbers clearly seem to indicate greatness at the position. He made only 49 errors his first three seasons in the Bronx and only 241 in his 18-year career. Jeter's a lock for the Hall, but you still hear pro scouts denigrate his range in the field.

Every great defensive player in history has made errors. Brooks Robinson, the gold standard at third base, made three errors in one inning -- on just two batted balls -- against Oakland on July 28, 1971. Errors frequently happen in bunches, as they did with Desmond over four days to start the season.

Desmond's defensive skills are far closer to the top of the shortstop heap than the bottom. The Nats are not concerned; why should the fans get worked up about it? At 27, he's just entering his prime. His best is still down the road.

Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to "Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at philwood@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Phil Wood

Staff reporter - sports
The Washington Examiner