LaRoche needs to get things together (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Throughout this baffling 2013 Nationals season, the scapegoats have piled up like trash bags outside a college frat house.
Danny Espinosa was the leader of the pack, but it looks as if he's forever lost his position at second base. The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell tweeted a rather eye opening nugget, diagramming how swiftly Anthony Rendon is progressing.
The $13 million man, Dan Haren, comes to mind. It's hard to determine what has been worse; his 5.40 ERA , or his 17 home runs allowed, leading the National League. As disheartening as Haren has pitched, former starter Edwin Jackson's numbers in Chicago are just as hideous.
The injury bug tends to bite teams with high expectations. Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth haven't played in a game together since April 17th. For the amount of gold glove quality players the Nats trot out on the diamond, the defense has been wretched and has cost the team a handful of games -- Washington's 50 errors are third most in the MLB.
Even Davey Johnson falls into the scapegoat category. He has admitted to mismanaging small injuries. I argued he trusted his bullpen a little too much in the early months. And he was quoted on 106.7 The Sports Junkies that this season he's "been terrible."
As the losing ways prolong for the 34-34 Nationals, it's time to shift blame to a new person: Adam LaRoche. I think we all expected him to cool off from his mammoth 2012 season -- 33 homers, 100 RBI, a gold glove and a silver slugger award -- maybe the most accomplished season by a Nationals player ever.
LaRoche's 2013 campaign has been anything but rosy and somehow the first baseman has flown under the radar from angry Nats fans complaining on Twitter.
Heading into Monday's game against the Phillies, LaRoche is batting .237/.319/.420 with 10 homers and 32 RBI's. One year ago at this time LaRoche was batting .259/.348/.495 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI's. He batted .268 against left-handed pitching in 2012; this season it's declined to a skimpy .213. In 13 June games, LaRoche has just three RBI's.
Numerically, the dip in production isn't mind blowing. But with all the aforementioned under performing players and injuries, it might be time for the 33-year-old veteran to take on some of the blame.
Following Sunday's 2-0 loss in Cleveland, a series in which he went 0-for-12, LaRoche said about the teams offensive struggles: "I wish we had an answer for that," and later on, "It gets old."
The point of this article isn't to say Mike Rizzo was wrong for bringing back LaRoche, although Michael Morse is without a doubt having a better season. It's more of a wake up call that he needs to get things together at the plate, more so than any player on the roster.
I'd argue a semi-reminiscent LaRoche from 2012 is the main ingredient missing from the Nationals offense. Taking two out of three from the Phillies will be difficult to achieve if LaRoche doesn't turn it around.