It’s probably pretty easy for a guy who has just gotten sent down to the minor leagues to wallow in self-pity or make up excuses for his poor performance. Moore could’ve cited his inconsistent playing time as a reason for his .149 average and .464 OPS. He could’ve snuck out of the clubhouse before reporters entered or had a negative attitude about needing to go back down to Triple-A Syracuse to try and get his swing back.
He did none of that. He welcomed reporters over to his locker, stood there and answered questions about being sent down honestly.
“I’m up here to hit,” Moore said last night. “I’m not up here to play defense, and I’m not hitting, so they need to make a move. There’s no excuses there.”
Davey Johnson has talked over and over about how the Nats were putting Moore and Steve Lombardozzi in a tough spot these last two years, asking them to serve as bench players when they hadn’t truly established themselves in the big leagues yet.
These are guys that are used to getting 550 at-bats a season in the minor leagues. They’re used to getting into a groove, being able to track thousands of pitches and battle their way through the rough patches.
You throw any player who is used to getting consistent at-bats into a reserve role, where he’s getting maybe four at-bats a week, and he’s likely to struggle a bit with that transition. You throw a guy into that role who hasn’t really gotten a complete feel for big league pitching yet, a guy who isn’t used to reacting to the adjustments opposing pitchers are making on him, and it can be incredibly tough.
Last season, Moore was able to go with his strategy of see-ball, hit-ball. Everything was new and he was able to keep things simple. Johnson equated that part of Moore’s development to how someone feels when they step foot on the golf course for the first time in a while. You go out there and instead of putting too many thoughts in your own head, you just try and strike the ball well.
This season, Johnson believes Moore might’ve been overthinking things. He’d been on the proverbial golf course a bunch recently, and now wasn’t going with the same simplified approach.
“Then that’s when it starts going sideways, because you’re not just thinking about hitting it solid,” Johnson said.
As I wrote last night, the Nats still think very highly of Moore. Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo see the 26-year-old as a guy who could be a starter for many teams in this league, and a guy who can help the Nationals down the road this season. He can play multiple positions, having learned the corner outfield spots within the last two years, and has proven he has big pop from the right side of the plate.
Moore’s teammates have seen all that, as well. And that’s why they also know this move back to Syracuse is for the best, because it’ll allow the Mississippi State product a chance to get four at-bats every day and get back into a comfort zone offensively.
“I’ve told him over and over the last day or two that if they didn’t care about you, you’d stay up here and get 4-5 at-bats a week or whatever it is,” Adam LaRoche said. “That’s the hardest thing, being a younger guy, getting sent down for the first time, it’s hard to see a positive in that. But they just want him to get at-bats, get his stroke back, get confident again. So hopefully he goes, couple weeks, get right, get a bunch of at-bats.
“We’ve all known it since he’s been up here that he’s an everyday player for a lot of people. He’s proved that in the minor leagues, what he can do with 5-600 at-bats, and he’s in a bad spot here. He just doesn’t get a lot of at-bats. You can’t expect a guy with not a lot of big league time to be productive off the bench. It’s just too hard. It’s hard to do when you’re playing every day. When you sit 2-3 days, it’s just really hard to do.
“I hate it for him because I love having him in this clubhouse and I love having his bat and the fact that he can play outfield, play first base. Selfishly, it’d be nice to have him up here, but there’s no doubt it’s the best thing for him.”