Nats introduce their newest team member: Adam LaRoche
It has been one of those hunting years for Adam LaRoche. For all the non-hunters, it just means he hasn’t had a very productive hunting season–to be clear, those are by his own standards. He has only bagged a few bucks. Keep in mind, most hunters would consider it a prosperous year. He just hasn’t seen many deer and the ones he has seen, they aren’t big enough–again, by his own standards. The adage, “It’s brown, it’s down,” doesn’t apply to him. He lets 10-point bucks walk. “I used to have the philosophy when I was a little kid but not anymore.” He doesn’t want Bambi’s Dad, he wants Bambi’s great, great Grandpa. When you have standards like that, all you can do is get some friends together and start a TV show… and call it Buck Commander. (We will speak more in-depth about this next week.)
It has been one of those years in the tree stand and it was one of those days on the press conference stage too. LaRoche was formally introduced to reporters today at Nationals Park but it didn’t go without a minor hiccup, make that two. The Nationals hat they had for him was a size 7 3/4, about two sizes two big. The hat would have even had trouble fitting if he had hair like Tom Brady or Justin Bieber–sorry for being redundant. “I got a big head, but not that big,” he said.
After he put his oversized hat on, he started to button up his jersey incorrectly. He put the first button through the second hole, the second button through the third hole, etc. It was an insignificant mistake and that’s why he never noticed it but it was big enough that everyone could see it. After about 30 seconds of his wife desperately trying to get his attention to notify him of the error–and she did–he corrected the problem. It was just one of those funny incidents that allowed everyone to laugh. If those are the only two errors that happen during his time here, it will have been a very successful stint–even by LaRoche standards. Everyone is hoping for one of those years for LaRoche; the kind of year where he wins a Gold Glove and helps propel the Nats in the standings.
Manager Jim Riggleman is still scribbling lineups on napkins so the 3-4-5 combination is still not set in stone but LaRoche will fit right into the middle of the Nats lineup with Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. It will depend who’s hot, who’s not or if Riggleman wants to go right-left-right.
LaRoche is the second marquee player the Nats have signed this offseason–Werth being the first back in December–and it is all part of GM Mike Rizzo’s long-term plan of building a high-powered, defensively-sound club. It is also changing the perception of the Washington Nationals.
“I think it has helped,” LaRoche said. “It is still something you have to go out and earn. You have to do it with winning. It is definitely a good start. I think I can speak for everyone here. They are just tired of losing and that’s why a lot of these moves are taking place and moving in a positive direction.”
The best way to describe Adam LaRoche is as Adam Dunn’s less boisterous brother. Aside from their looks, it is hard to believe they aren’t from the same gene pool. They are both very low-key and even-keeled. They live and breathe hunting, and play the same position. LaRoche will immediately fill the void left by Dunn when he signed this offseason with the White Sox. They are two different players but they are both a model of consistency. LaRoche has hit at least 20 home runs that past six seasons and is good for a .270 average, .350 on-base percentage, 20 to 25 home runs, and 85 to 100 RBI a year. They aren’t Adam Dunn numbers but what he lacks with the bat he makes up with the glove.
“I don’t compare myself to Adam,” LaRoche said. “We are two different players other than that we play the same position… I play my own game. I am not going to put pressure on myself to try to do what he did and match his numbers–good or bad, defense, offense–and I am sure he is the same way.”
LaRoche won’t try to be Dunn. He is just going to be the player that he has been the past seven seasons who has got the job done. It’s just like hunting in many ways. You can sit for a week straight and not see anything but then you see the trophy buck and you quickly forget about the past week. The Nationals will never completely forget about Dunn, but LaRoche can help minimize the loss.
One more thing–There is no question Dunn diligently worked each day to improve his defense at first base and the proof was in his progress. At the same time, he was still like an offensive lineman at first base and that limited his range. It cost the Nats runs. So if there is one difference between the two: Dunn hits home runs and LaRoche robs runs.
“I have always said, hitting is streaky,” LaRoche said. “You are going to have your hot streaks and you are going to have your slumps. Defense is special–especially in the infield and at my position. I have the chance to bail guys out a lot. I can make them look really bad or really good, and vice versa. It is something I have always taken pride in. I love when those guys make a great play and an errant throw and be able to bail them out and save a couple of runs. I think pitchers appreciate it just as much as the player who threw the ball in the dirt. It is something I work hard on.”