It’s become a routine every night that we check box scores to look for Austin Kearns’ name to see what he did. It’s been that way for a few years now ever since we thought he was the savior of Cincinnati Reds baseball back in 2003 alongside Adam Dunn.
We’ve always wished Austin the very best even though things didn’t work out in Cincinnati. Now we feel like we’re slowing down to see a highway wreck each time we look at his line score. He hasn’t been appearing in the Nationals’ box scores much lately. It’s not because he’s hurt. It’s because he’s on the verge of not having a job as a baseball player anymore.
The most hideous stat we could find on Kearns comes from this anecdote:
He looked better early this spring after some winter work with hitting coach Rick Eckstein to make some adjustments to his swing. Kearns won the starting right-field job and drove in 13 runs in his first 21 games, leading Acta to hope the Nationals had an improved Kearns to add to their rejuvenated lineup.
But the adjustments have tailed off, and Kearns’ numbers are even worse than last year’s. His value over replacement player (VORP) rating is minus-3.8, meaning the Nationals could have scored 3.8 more runs this season with a readily available replacement player off the street than they could have with Kearns in the lineup. The figure is 734th among 844 players ranked by Baseball Prospectus, just behind Wil Nieves (who is making $445,000 this year) and ahead of only Ronnie Belliard on the Nationals’ roster.
This is all sad. We remember watching Kearns for the first month and half plus of the 2003 season. He was like Manny Ramirez at the plate. He was driving everything. Hitting with power to all fields, murdering with runners in scoring position. Killing lefties, righties, there was no way to pitch to him. And suddenly, little by little; it all went away.
It’s time to face up to the facts that the Kearns we saw (and some Reds fans will remember in that brief period) isn’t coming back. Let’s not forget this guy hit .315 as a rookie in 2002 after being touted as the 1st round prospect that he was. Injuries and time have caught up to him. It’s sad to watch a player flounder out a career this way. But Austin Kearns is not long for this game anymore.
Nationals Insider: Determining Kearns’ Value [Washington Times]