The struggles of the Washington Nationals‘ once-golden second baseman Danny Espinosa have been well documented — almost too well documented. As we now know, in less than three seasons, Espinosa went from the future at second base for the Nationals for years to come to a shell of himself, unable to lay off a breaking ball in the dirt and unable to hit consistently.
Espinosa provides a lot of value as a player. A shortstop by trade, Espinosa has more range than most second basemen in the field, and his ability as a switch hitter made him too enticing to keep out of the lineup. Unfortunately, his inability to consistently from the left-handed side of the plate, where he bats the lion’s share of the time, was his undoing, combined with other factors.
After starting off at a torrid pace in his rookie season and even in his September call-up the year prior, Espinosa fell off in the second half of his rookie year and has not been the same player since.
Espinosa showed a proficiency for striking out a lot early on, which is certainly not an asset, but if he gives Washington 20-25 home runs at the end of each season, the Nationals will take the .230-.250 average and the 150-plus strikeouts. As with everything, a players’ “warts” are only a problem when they underperform or when the team is losing.
In 2013, Espinosa suffered a combination of the aforementioned factors: the Nationals were drastically underperforming, and Espinosa had been relegated to an automatic out.
Prior to 2013, Espinosa admitted at Washington’s fanfest he has been battling a ligament tear in his shoulder, but did say Washington was aware of the injury and both were on the same page that with rehab. Needless to say by Espinosa’s .158/.193/.272 slash line, combined with his 47 strikeouts to just four walks, the rehab plan either has not worked.
After being demoted to Triple-A to “get his confidence back,” Espinosa continued his abysmal offense, hitting .216/.280/.286 with two home runs for Syracuse.
If Washington knows Espinosa is hurt and he is not hitting, why have they not put their foot down with him yet and made him have surgery? This is the maddening question fans are asking because Espinosa is obviously not right. Espinosa did not earn a September call-up, and seriously, why would he? For hitting above the Mendoza line?
There were other players much more deserving of call-ups, and Espinosa should not even be playing right now.
The fact that Washington has not put their foot down with Espinosa is maddening, but it does make sense. Obviously, a team can not force a player to have surgery. Though their hearts are in the right place, it makes Washington look like they want Espinosa out of the picture for a year so as to better evaluate other options, like Zach Walters or Anthony Rendon.
Naturally, who could blame them for that? Espinosa can, and could most likely file a grievance through the players’ union, claiming Washington is trying to push him out of their organizational plans.
Conspiracy theories aside, the bottom line is this: Washington should have put their foot down with Espinosa months ago. They are mentally destroying Espinosa and destroying what could be a valuable trade chip that a year or two ago could have netted them a pretty nice return from an organization looking for a player as offensively and defensively versatile as Espinosa.
The saddest fact is that they only have themselves to blame for this.