Baseball, on the surface, is a passive sport. Waiting. For the pitch, for the play, for your team to lose or win or do something special. But underneath the platitudes and conventional wisdom, lies a game that requires aggression. And not just as an approach at the plate, or in the field.
Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond know this fact. They live it. Bryce Harper is, in the mind of passive baseball fans, brash and an anathema to the game they know. But to people who really watch the game, he is ideal; a heads up, put it all on the line player who will makes mistakes but also inspire his own team and simultaneously confuse and anger opponents. Ask Cole. Ask Ozzie. The kid is an emotional catalyst.
Ian Desmond seems to be the opposite. No national hype, no Sports Illustrated covers, no one targeting him. But he has become the hallmark of a hungry young team. Shortstop is a tough position (trust me, I play it...in slow-pitch softball), equal parts leader, talent and emotional rock; not a position accustom to rash action or intensity. Desmond does not agree. Being aggressive, at the plate, on the bases or in the field has become his way. Swing, run, charge are his battle cry.
The two are no strangers to crazy expectations. Bryce was on the Sports Illustrated cover at age 16. Ian was heralded as the next Derek Jeter (the later claim was made by a less than unbiased observer and frequently mistaken GM). So what is it that captivated so called "baseball people" when it came to these two?
There in lies the difference between the 2012 Nats and all other incarnations. Aggression. The 2005 Nats, the only other team to even come close to contending, were happy doing just that, contending. The 2012 team is just getting started. Every player on the team is watching Bryce and Ian, and it is changing them. Every player's essence is starting to develop into a championship winning piece.
Winning. Its not easy, especially if you have never done it professionally. Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper will not tolerate anything less. Ryan Zimmerman is the best player on the Nationals. Mike Morse has the most power. Adam LaRoche has the best resume. Steve Strasburg has the most talent. Jayson Werth makes the most money. Bryce and Ian are the most important pieces on this team. Because they are young. Because they are aggressive. But just a little bit passive.