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I can’t help but watch Adam Eaton the first seven games this season and think “if the Nationals aren’t careful, we’re not going to have Spanky in our gang much longer.”
Eaton has started the season like a house on fire, and I get it. He wants to play every game, every inning, take every chance and do all the things he didn’t get to do last season. After major knee surgery, he had to sit and watch last year, and this year he’s going to make up for lost time.
But somebody has to stop him.
If you’ve ever had the type of knee surgery Eaton has had (I have), you work hard in rehab, you lift weights, you walk, you run and you get to the point where you can play sports. Your knee is structurally fine. But only a year later, it still hurts. You still occasionally limp. Midway through the second year, it finally feels normal, but for now, you learn to deal with it, all the while telling everybody your knee couldn’t be better.
You can see this in Eaton. He’s getting big hits and running the bases, but late in games he’s favoring his good knee. He’s trying not to think about it, but I don’t see how you can avoid it. And this is where your manager needs to save you.
A veteran manager like Davey Johnson or Dusty Baker would have been taking Eaton out late in games and put someone else in defensively. Eaton would have also been rested a few more games than the one he sat out. I can imagine Eaton has fiercely rejected any overtures to play less and ease into the season because he wants to play, but vets like Johnson or Baker would have replied “tough. It’s for your own good.”
That doesn’t seem to be the case with new manager Dave Martinez. My guess is as a new manager, he’s not going to challenge a veteran who wants to play and is performing very well. Understandable.
But when Bob Henley waved Eaton around third base today on what appeared to at best be a suicide mission, I thought “what are they trying to do? Kill him?” Eaton, as you would expect, gave all he could and did score the run after bouncing on the hard dirt around home before getting his left hand on the plate and was called safe.
Right then I thought he was hurt. He got up, dusted himself off, and did what we all do when we play with an injury: “couldn’t be better,” I’ll bet he said on the way back to the dugout. But a few innings later, he left the game. With an injury. That he probably got on that play.
The team has to take better care of him. You look at what Eaton has added to the Nationals in the first week and can’t help but think “if we only had that all last season.”
Well, Nationals, you need to decide you’re going to go out of your way to rest Eaton and protect him from himself. Otherwise you’ll be thinking the same thing about him. Next season….
Great observation Dave, I noticed him gimpy right out of the gate. Need to treat him like Zimm and give him at least 1 day off per week and take him out late in games---we have Goodwin for that, and send the 13th pitcher down and call up a position player----don't need 13 pitchers, need the extra position guy, especially for times when our shortstop gets thrown out of games!