The tragedy of Daniel Nava

Jared Wickerham

One of 2013's best stories has turned into one of 2014's most depressing ones.

What would you say if I were to declare this season over? Irreparable? Beyond saving? I guarantee you that 95% of responses would include the words "it's only April."

And so it is! As miserable as 2014 has been so far, there's plenty of time for things to right themselves, and declaring any team dead on the basis of 21 games is just asking to look like a fool four months down the line. But that doesn't mean these first three weeks have come and gone without consequences. The disappointing start to the season has finally claimed its first victim: Daniel Nava.

The outfielder hasn't been optioned just yet, but it's not going too far out on a limb to declare his time with the Red Sox over for now. John Farrell spoke with Nava behind closed doors following Tuesday night's loss, and with the team in need of both some short-term bullpen depth and a roster spot for the returning Shane Victorino, there's little question that Nava is going to be the one sacrificed.

It's been a rough start to the season for Nava, of that there's no doubt. But you can't really say that he's earned this demotion. If 814 plate appearances is not a large enough sample to determine the quality of a team, how can 75 be enough to cost a player his job? Especially when they're dragged down by an impossibly low .167 BABIP.

The simple answer is that Nava is more a victim of circumstance than of any organizational misstep on the part of the Red Sox. It would be an oversimplification to say the Sox are being reactionary here. They need a roster spot, and Daniel Nava is the only player who can be optioned safely to the minors. If he were hitting like he did in 2013, the Sox would have no choice but to surrender depth to fit Victorino in. But bad luck kept him down early, and maybe some desperation has piled on late. Who can blame him given where we've ended up?

It's a depressing turn of events, particularly given who it's happening to. How can you not love Daniel Nava? His rise from obscurity to a starting role on a World Series winning team is just asking to be made into a movie. That his .366 wOBA was the result of a fundamentally Red Sox approach to offense--grinding out long at bats and drawing walks--is just the cherry on top.

His story, at least, gives us reason to believe this will not be the end for Daniel Nava. That 75 plate appearances with a .167 BABIP in April are not enough to bring a career that started too late to a too early conclusion. Daniel Nava is resilient, and while I certainly hope it comes with the Red Sox, he will get another chance be it in Boston or elsewhere. If he brings his keen eye to that opportunity, he'll find his way back to the majors.

But for now he seems destined for another stint in the minor leagues. A place he probably never expected to return to after 2013. A place few of us expected him to see outside of a rehab assignment. It's going to be a bitter pill to swallow, riding the bus again, playing in front of small crowds in small towns. Daniel Nava deserves better than what 2014 has seen fit to give him.

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