Davey Johnson: Nationals ‘probably’ would have won in playoffs with Stephen Strasburg

Stephen-Strasburg-NationalsWashington Nationals fans are left to forever wonder what could have been if the team allowed Stephen Strasburg to pitch in the 2012 postseason rather than shutting him down because of an innings cap. The Nationals certainly could have used another arm in the 2012 NLDS when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.

However, it should be noted that Washington had Game 5 under wraps until their bullpen imploded. I guess you could argue that the team could have used Strasburg in a bullpen role rather than starting him, but we know how much hindsight means. On Tuesday, Davey Johnson was asked if his team would have advanced to the NLCS if Strasburg pitched.

Although that’s debatable, it’s a valid question and one the Nationals knew they would have to answer. Johnson was also asked about a recent article by John Feinstein of the Washington Post, which basically argued that the Nats cost themselves a championship by shutting down Strasburg. Johnson didn’t want to go that far.

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Davey Johnson: Nationals couldn’t date porn stars because we can’t score

Davey-Johnson-Joe-Maddon-weird-wussBoston Red Sox slugger Mike Napoli was a popular topic of discussion on Wednesday after adult film star Rachel Starr tweeted that she was excited to hang out with him in San Francisco on Tuesday night. Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson had by far the best comment of all.

Johnson accused the hosts of The Junkies on 106.7 The Fan of being really “raunchy” during his weekly appearance on the show, which prompted Jason “Lurch” Bishop to bring up the topic of Napoli dating a porn star.

“Mike Napoli is dating a porn star,” Lurch said. “That’s probably what you heard.”

Johnson followed that up with a classic shot at his own team.

“Well none of my guys could because we can’t score,” he said.

The Nationals have scored four or less runs in 10 of 17 games in the month of August. They have gone 9-8 during that stretch and lost ground on the division-leading Atlanta Braves, who have the NL East all but wrapped up with a 15-game lead in the division.

Long story short, Johnson’s comment was hilarious and perfectly timed.

Stephen Strasburg wants Davey Johnson to ‘loosen the leash,’ let him pitch deeper

Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg was not shy about the fact that his innings cap in 2012 frustrated him a great deal. This year, however, the Nationals have not put a limit on how much the 24-year-old can throw. That doesn’t mean the team will stop being careful with him.

For example, Strasburg threw seven shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his first start of the year and allowed only three hits. Despite the fact that he finished the seventh with a pitch count of 80 and a two-run lead, manager Davey Johnson went to the bullpen. Strasburg is hoping that changes as the season moves on.

“I’ve learned to scale back and realize not necessarily throwing as hard as you can every time is the right recipe, so I try and scale back a little bit and I definitely try to hit my spots a little bit better,” Strasburg told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny on Thursday. “And my goal is to go deep into the ballgame every time out, and that’s all I’m really focused on right now and hopefully I can keep doing that.

“…And hopefully Davey Johnson will loosen the leash here a little bit at some point [laughs] and let me go past the seventh. I think I am more focused on the eighth inning.”

Strasburg held out hope until the last second that he might pitch in the postseason last year, and his wish didn’t come true. While you can understand him being upset about that, you can’t blame Johnson and the Nationals for being conservative with him early in the season. Washington is a legitimate World Series contender, but an unhealthy Strasburg could take them out of the running.

Thanks to Sports Radio Interviews for the transcription
Photo Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

Davey Johnson’s bullpen mismanagement costs Nationals

The Washington Nationals blew the biggest lead in a clinching game in MLB postseason history when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 9-7 in Game 5 of the NLDS on Friday night. The Nats gave up a 6-0 lead after three innings, and a 7-5 lead in the ninth. Though some may say it’s unfair to pin the loss on manager Davey Johnson in light of the team’s regular-season success — they led MLB with a 98-64 record — I can’t see it any other way.

The Nats were up 7-5 entering the 9th inning when reliever Drew Storen was brought in for the save. Storen, who underwent elbow surgery in April, was pitching at least an inning for the third day in a row for the first time all season (he had pitched three days in a row two other times in the season, but never an inning each time). He gave up a lead off double to Carlos Beltran on a laser off the wall. He got Matt Holliday to ground out on a breaking ball, and Allen Craig to strike out.

The Nats were an out away from the NLCS when Storen fell apart.

Storen had a 2-2 count on Yadier Molina before throwing two balls to walk the catcher. Then he went 1-2 on David Freese before throwing three straight balls to load the bases. At that point you figure he had lost his stuff and it was time to pull him, but Johnson gave him another shot to close the game.

Daniel Descalso swung at the first pitch and roped a ball that went off shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove for a two-run single to tie the game at 7. By then, Storen had given up two walks and two lasers out of the six batters he faced. He clearly didn’t have his stuff, and Johnson should have gone to the pen to bring in someone to get the last out of the inning to preserve the tie. But no, Johnson stubbornly stuck with Storen, who went 2-2 on Pete Kozma before allowing another line drive hit. Kozma’s two-run single made it 9-7 and gave the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish.

Let’s look at priorities for a second.

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Davey Johnson doesn’t give a ‘rat’s ass’ what you think about resting regulars

Davey Johnson is getting it done. For those of you who haven’t been keeping track, the Nationals have not exactly enjoyed a great amount of success in recent years. Prior to Johnson taking over last season, the Nationals hadn’t made the playoffs since they were the Montreal Expos in 1981. In only his second year in the nation’s capital, Johnson has managed Washington to a postseason berth. They also currently hold the best record in baseball.

Johnson certainly didn’t get to where he is by listening to the media, which is why he recently made it perfectly clear to CSNWashington.com that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him resting players over the final week-plus of the season.

“I really don’t give a rat’s ass what somebody thinks about my club and who I put on the field to either help somebody else or I’m not supposed to rest my regulars after we clinch it, I’m resting my regulars,” Johnson said. “End of conversation.”

The Nationals currently hold a 4.5-game lead over the Braves in the NL East. Johnson has said that he will rest his starters if and when his team clinches the division title. Since the Nationals still have an upcoming series against the Cardinals and St. Louis is fighting to hold onto the second NL wild card spot, critics say it is wrong for Johnson to essentially give the Cardinals wins.

That’s not Washington’s problem. The Nats have already officially shut down their ace for the remainder of the year, so the last thing they need is a key player getting injured because they felt the need to play spoiler. If the media wants to question a manager’s approach, make it one with less than a .605 winning percentage.

H/T Chase Hughes on Twitter
Photo credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Davey Johnson earns first ejection on awful call by umpire Marvin Hudson (Video)

Nationals manager Davey Johnson earned his first ejection of the season after arguing an awful call at first base by umpire Marvin Hudson on Saturday.

Braves left fielder Martin Prado was leading off the bottom of the sixth and hit a come-backer to pitcher Edwin Jackson. The ball went off Jackson’s glove, but he recovered and threw to first to get Prado by a step. Or so we thought.

Umpire Marvin Hudson called Prado safe at first, leaving the Nats in disbelief. He apparently ruled that first baseman Adam LaRoche’s foot wasn’t on the bag, which not only was incorrect, but also a difficult call for him to make based on where he was standing:

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Davey Johnson to Nats GM Mike Rizzo: ‘You come down and manage the team’

During the seventh inning of a 4-1 loss to the Phillies on Sunday, Washington’s Adam LaRoche hit a ball to right field that looked like it had a chance to leave the ballpark.  Jayson Werth, who was standing on second base, thought it was a homer so he began jogging to third. LaRoche thought the same and was also jogging around the bases. The ball remained in play and as a result of the mental miscues Werth had to stop at second and LaRoche was thrown out between second and third. Had they been running hard, the Phillies’ lead could have been cut to 4-2 with nobody out and a man on second.

The end result was the Nationals fourth straight loss. Washington currently has the best record in baseball and is in tremendous position to reach the postseason, but losing has a way of making life difficult around the clubhouse. According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Nationals manager Davey Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo had it out after the loss.

After the final pitch, Johnson and General Manager Mike Rizzo conversed behind the closed door of Johnson’s office for nearly 20 minutes, Johnson’s shouts audible from the hallway outside.

The yelling appeared to be the release of frustration after a dispiriting loss, not the start of a rift. Although it was not clear what the argument centered on, Johnson could be heard shouting, “You come down and manage the team.”

When asked about the argument, Johnson simply told reporters he had a discussion with his boss. These things happen all the time — especially after a frustrating series. However, the Nationals are going to have enough to worry about in dealing with the Stephen Strasburg situation going forward. If they want to succeed in the postseason, mental errors like the ones we saw on Sunday can’t become a habit.

Fist pound to SI Tracking Blog