Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Confident in his club

US Presswire file photo
Davey Johnson expects big things from the Nationals this season and beyond.
VIERA, Fla. -- Spend 30 minutes listening to Davey Johnson talk about his Nationals, about the talent being assembled on this roster, about the potential it has to win big in the very near future. It's difficult not to buy into what the guy is selling.

When Johnson says this Nationals squad has a chance to be better than the 1984 Mets franchise he inherited and watched improve from 90 wins to 98 wins to 108 wins and a World Series title in just three seasons ... well, who are you to argue with the man?

"This club has more potential than that club," Johnson insisted yesterday. "It actually has more athletes. It has a lot of gifted athletes."

"The potential I see on this ballclub is pretty damn high," he added. "And it's going to be my job to see that we play like it."

Johnson has never been afraid to tell you what he really thinks. He doesn't sugarcoat the bad stuff, and he doesn't oversell the good stuff. He also doesn't deflect praise being sent in his general direction. Pay attention how often he refers to a player doing something big "for me," or how "I got" a certain player to perform.

Is the 69-year-old cocky? Perhaps. If nothing else, he's supremely confident. But the man has certainly earned the right to be that way after a lifetime in baseball that has seen him make All-Star teams and win World Series as a player and then capture another championship in his later career as a manager.

When he took over the Nationals in late-June, Johnson seemed a bit less sure of himself. In hindsight, though he knew the club he was inheriting well, he admits he didn't know the rest of the NL.

"Last year I knew our talent pretty good. That wasn't the problem," he said. "But I didn't have the opportunity to study the opposition. ... I didn't really know the opposition like you would if you're in the league for a couple of years."

So Johnson spent much of this offseason studying up not only on his own franchise but on 29 other franchises as well. The goal: Be as prepared as possible once the season rolls around so he can put his players into situations he believes will give them the best chance for success.

He also spent considerable time thinking about what changes he would like to make to the Nationals' spring training routine. Never one to enjoy long, slow workouts spread out over multiple fields, Johnson plans to keep these early-spring gatherings brief, up-tempo and boisterous.

When pitchers and catchers take the field this morning for the first official workout of 2012, don't blink or you might miss it altogether. The session is barely scheduled to surpass one hour.

Things will ramp up once position players join the mix later this week, but Johnson still prefers to get a lot done in a short amount of time than a little done over long stretches.

All of this is designed to prepare his team as well as possible for Opening Day in Chicago, some six weeks away. And if this group does what it's supposed to do this spring, then realizes its potential once the bell rings for good, Johnson has no doubt it can duplicate (if not surpass) the success his Mets clubs of the '80s enjoyed.

"If we do that here, which I expect, it's coming," he said. "Everything in my baseball sense tells me these guys are going to go out and play more relaxed and smarter baseball and express their ability. It's going to be fun. I've been excited thinking about it. It was really a long winter for me, because I wanted to get with it."

49 comments:

joemktg said...

"So Johnson spent much of this offseason studying up not only on his own franchise but on 29 other franchises as well."

How great is that? The man is motivated.

It's a different Davey from what I recall from the Mets. With age comes wisdom and perspective?

MicheleS said...

I am almost going to miss having LaRussa in the league. I would love to see DJ tweak him!!!

Positively Half St. said...

I would get extra joy out of a championship for Davey Johnson winning it. He is my all-time favorite.

+1/2St.

Richard said...

Who led off for the '86 Mets? Is he still around? He could probably get on base more frequently than Davey's guy this year. Oh, heck, pass the koolaid please ...

NatsLady said...

MicheleS-- yeah, but instead you will get Davey tweaking Ozzie!

Gonat said...

Is Mookie Wilson still around?

Bill Buckner said...

#$&%@! You had to go there, didn't you?

Knoxville Nat said...

If the Nationals enjoy success this season and for the next several seasons as many of us anticipate, I'll be thinking about how DJ was fired in Baltimore by Peter the Lesser after winning the AL manager of the year award. The beginning of the end for "the Orioles Way" in my opinion.

Thanks Pete, now please get out of our television rights picture and leave us alone.

Cease the Opportunity said...

The Nationals losing in the 2012 WS won't be all bad, especially knowing that they will follow the next seven winning them all... :~)

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Lenny Dykstra led off for the '86 Mets. We have do have Cutter...

Joe Seamhead said...

Ladies and Gentlemen! Introducing the 2012 National League Manager of the Year!
I am so looking forward to this season! I just see a much more overall professional MLB ensemble then we've had since this team came to town.

DFL said...

Johnson says the typical things about this team having more "athletes", whatever that means. Until the Nats win a World Series, their athletes are not as good as the Mets athletes of 1986. Do the Nats have a Gary Carter? Ramos is not nearly as good. Is Adam La Roche as good as Keith Hernandez? Do the Nats have a centerfielder as good as the twin-headed Mets centerfield of Wilson or Dykstra? Is Werth nearly as good as Daryle Strawberry? And so on. The Nats are an 80 win team with plenty of potential to rise into the 90-95 win territory. Best of luck to them.

Big Cat said...

Do you think Davey might be toying with the idea of taking Rendon north as the utility guy? Looking at the 40 man, only Lombordozza fits that bill right now, and judging by the way Davey used him last year, I get the feeling he doesn't like him. This is if Rendon doesn't embarrass himself of course.

Tom in AR said...

Rendon has way too much potential to be a utility guy. He needs regular ABs. I think he will start in Potomac with a fast track to AA and be called up in September.

Avar said...

Dykstra led off 96 games, Mookie 56. Interestingly, our boy Ray Knight hit 7th. Pretty strong hitter in the 7 hole, 298/351/434.

Their pitching was insane; Gooden, Darling and Ojeda (who I forgot about) all had ERAs under 2.85...wow. Hard to lose like that.

Avar said...

Zero chance Rendon makes this team. He's never played in a professional game. He could bat 1.000 and not make the team. Only question for him is Potomac or Harrisburg. Seems like top college guys usually start at AA.

joemktg said...

If Rendon is going to play 3B in the minors, then he'll go to PNats. But if he has to learn how to play MI, then he'll start in Hagerstown: you can't play him at high-A ball while learning the MI positions.

NatinBeantown said...

DFL,
Good point on "we haven't won anything yet, but your evidence is a little incorrect (the comparison was to '84 not '86.
Ramos > John Gibbons

It was also selective. You seem to have forgotten some other comparisons, such as,
Zimm > Howard Johnson
Morse > George Foster
...and for damn sure,
SS/GG/JZ/EJ/5th > Gooden/Darling/Terrell/Fernandez/Berenyi

Be There May 4th said...

Davey's last quote about playing "more relaxed and smarter baseball" indicates he thinks there are issues with players pressing and trying to do too much.

Also sounds like he is trying to instill confidence, even athletic arrogance, with expectations of winning and he is taking responsibility for making that happen.

Joe Seamhead said...

Rendon did play SS all through HS in Avery competitive league in Houston, and though playing it in HS is a far cry from the pros, he was All -State. Point being,it's not totally foreign to him.

m20832 said...

According to AK (WaPo), 54 position players have shown up early. That says to me the Nats really want to win big this year! Please pass me the koolaid!

GYFNG!!!!

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

I am a little suprised at Davey being so openly optimistic. Talking about putting it on the line. Somehow, I believe he and Harper will get along fine.

Steve M. said...

I read Phil Wood this morning putting Gerardo Parra on the radar. Parra is another LH batter.

Curious words from Rizzo that he will find his RH replacement for Cameron in-house. Its as if Cameron in Rizzo's mind already made the team. Someone has to come along who is better than the Jason Michael and Brett Carroll. Have you seen their stats? You might as well let Ankiel and Bernadina just bat against LH pitching!

Someone has to shake loose in Spring Training.

This is why I have said since August to grab Coco Crisp as I envisioned Rizzo coming up empty. Before someone writes that Crisp wanted to stay West Coast, Crisp would have come here if the money was right. The Nats never pursued him. Who wouldn't want to play in Washington these days. Its water under the bridge now.

Maybe Davey and his coaching staff can "coach" up some of these guys to have career years and everything will be fine.

HHover said...

In his column this morning, Boswell quotes Espinosa saying that he struggled from the left side last year because of a recovering injury to his right wrist.

I know the surgery on the wrist was reported last winter/spring, but does anyone remember that explanation being given at the time last season? I remember plenty of other reasons being debated--his swing chief among them--but not the wrist.

Mark'd said...

SteveM, you know better than anyone that Rizzo is looking. He just doesn't want to be looking desperate. He probably wants to also see what Michaels and Carroll can both do.

I was on the Coco also. He would have been a nice 4th outfielder when Bryce got called up.

Steve M. said...

HHover, Danny did recover quickly from the hamate bone. The stats say Danny is a casualty of bad swing and miss. I was thinking he has a vision problem not that it was the wrist.

Hoping Danny is quick to start again and like he said, shorter duration on his slumps.

Friend of all the World said...

HHover, if I remember correctly, last off-season someone mentioned that that type of surgery usually requires a full year to recover full strength, then I went and forgot all about it until reading that column. Can't wait to see if Espinosa lights it up from the left-side this year.

joemktg said...

Translating Rendon playing SS in HS to MI in pro ball is akin to taking Physics in HS then becoming the next Sheldon Cooper (for you BBT aficionados). His PG write-up even refers to his defensive skills as not flashy (http://perfectgame.org/Players/Playerprofile.aspx?ID=151091). He may have a concept, but there's so much to master (not just learn) for the MI positions, especially on the right side.

HHover: noticed the same thing, and I too cannot recall the wrist as the rationale.

ehay2k said...

All these posts are getting me amped up for the season! Just thinking back, and not too far back at that, about prior rosters makes me shudder now. Man, did we stink! But even then, we had hope. If Castilla, Vidro, Guillen, Johnson, Livo, et al could be pushing for the playoffs late in 2005, then why not this team, which is sooo much better in every aspect?

Is there even ONE player from that team you would take over this year's? Perhaps a healthy Johnson is an upgrade over LaRoche, but only because we have not seen ALR healthy. But that is the only possible upgrade I can find, and I think it's a stretch in any case.

So, pass the Koolaid, but also let's check the stock of bourbon and Maalox. After all, depth counts!

Steve M. said...

Mark'd, I am sure you are correct that Rizzo is trying to lay low for many reasons. I also liked Gonat's analysis of Lorenzo Cain in Kansas City. He's been a favorite of mine since he was logjammed in Milwaukee but has struggled against RH pitching and still don't know if he is a full-time MLB player or a RH platoon----hmmm, I hear the Nats are looking for a RH platoon CF.

Its amazing how tough it is to find RH centerfielders these days.

So much of the key to the Outfield is when Bryce Harper is ready as an impact player. Certainly a lot of questions will be answered when he gets ABs against real MLB pitchers in innings 1 to 3 in the Grapefruit League.

While DeRosa hasn't played a lot of outfield lately and certainly isn't a centerfielder, he can be a stopgap if he is healthy. That opens up a spot for Lombardozzi to be the utility infielder. If Rizzo is thinking ahead, I hope he has Lombo taking some OF balls also.

In hindsight, that Jerry Hairston kid could have been a nice bench pickup!

PAY TO PLAY said...

Looks like every one of the 40 man roster players are in camp except Beast Mode Michael Morse. No Visa issues this year.

Steve M. said...

P2P, has Eury Perez checked in yet?

erocks33 said...

If I were a betting man, I'd lay some good coin down that Rizzo will make a deal to bring Marlon Byrd over from the Cubs to be the RH CF before Spring Training is over ...

Steve M. said...

From Boswell: All last year, Espinosa was recovering from offseason hamate-bone surgery to his right wrist that sapped his grip strength from 160 to 125 on the grip meter. His left hand measured 150 both years.

“I’ve always hit better left-handed than right-handed, except after that injury (and surgery). It’s the strength in your right hand that lets you deliver the barrel of the bat to the ball accurately when you hit left-handed,” says Espinosa, whose OPS was .707 hitting lefty in ’11, but .857 righty. So, if Espinosa breaks out in ’12, his mates probably knew it from the first shake.

Steve M. said...

I asked this question about Chris Marrero a few weeks ago and nobody seemed to know his status. Glad Amanda Comak decided to write about him today:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/nationals-watch/2012/feb/21/chris-marrero-arrives-camp-torn-hamstring-will-lim/

Sounds like maybe he will be back the end of June.

Steve M. said...

I see Mark just wrote about Marrero also. New post!

natsfan1a said...

Nice post and good point. I might take the 2005 Jamey Carroll as a utility guy. :-)

Is there even ONE player from that team you would take over this year's? Perhaps a healthy Johnson is an upgrade over LaRoche, but only because we have not seen ALR healthy. But that is the only possible upgrade I can find, and I think it's a stretch in any case.

LoveDaNats said...

So pumped for the new season! I may start an IV with the kool-aid.

Hey, haven't heard much about Mark Teahen. Wasn't he supposed to be competing for playing time with DeRosa and Cameron? What are the odds he makes the bench?

Joe Seamhead said...

joemktg said...
Translating Rendon playing SS in HS to MI in pro ball is akin to taking Physics in HS then becoming the next Sheldon Cooper (for you BBT aficionados). His PG write-up even refers to his defensive skills as not flashy (http://perfectgame.org/Players/Playerprofile.aspx?ID=151091). He may have a concept, but there's so much to master (not just learn) for the MI positions, especially on the right side.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Joe, I was pretty clear that Rendon's HS experience was a far cry from playing SS in the pros. My point was, and is, it's not totally alien to him. All-State in Texas is darn good, but it's still HS. Every position at the pro level has a ton of nuances to them. Ask Harper about switching to the OF from catcher. Or Chris Marrero switching to first the OF, and then to 1B after playing 3rd his whole life. Having at least played SS in HS does possibly make it a little less intimidating for Rendon to at least show if he can handle some MI.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Maybe Wilkerson over Bernadina/Ankiel, but not by much, and not over Werth. I'll take Jose Guillen's 2005 over Jayson Werth's 2011.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

My point was, and is, it's not totally alien to him.

That's true, but Big Cat's original question, which I thought you were responding to, was, "Do you think Davey might be toying with the idea of taking Rendon north as the utility guy?" So maybe it would take him less time in the minors to learn it, if they were intent on that path, than it might if he had never done it, but this season? No.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

erocks33 said...
If I were a betting man, I'd lay some good coin down that Rizzo will make a deal to bring Marlon Byrd over from the Cubs to be the RH CF before Spring Training is over ...


Erocks, I'll take that, for a beer (XX or better). See you May 5? : )

DFL said...

Nat, I was comparing the '86 Mets with the Nats. Carter started 121 games in '86 while Gibbons started 5.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

So, if Espinosa breaks out in ’12, his mates probably knew it from the first shake.

Well said.

Kenz aFan said...

@ Richard who said...
"Who led off for the '86 Mets? Is he still around?"

The Opening Day Lineup for the Mets in 1986 was:
1. Lenny Dykstra (CF) .295/.377/.445
2. Wally Backman (2B) .320/.376/.385
3. Keith Hernandez (1B) .310/.413/.446
4. Gary Carter (C) .255/.337/.439
5. Darryl Strawberry (RF) .259/.358/.507
6. George Foster (LF) .227/.289/.429
7. Howard Johnson (3B) .245/.341/.445
8. Rafael Santana (SS) .218/.285/.254
9. Dwight Gooden (P) 17-6 2.84

3B Johnson was eventually replaced in hte starting lineup by Ray Knight .298/.351/.424.

To answer questions about Mookie Wilson, he came off the bench and started, playing all three OF positions. There was also Kevin Mitchell .277/.344/.466, who was the Mets super-sub that year, playing every fielding position except for 2B and catcher.

The Mets also had six, count 'em 6 pitchers who earned 10 or more wins, 5 had 14 or more, including the right-handed half of their closing duo, Roger McDowell. FWIW, the lefty half was Jesse Orosco.

Binx Bolling said...

Foster was released in August, 1986. Famed for his black bat and power hitting for the Big Red Machine, Foster was a disappointment for the Mets.

Anonymous said...

Likely as not Rizzo is still on BJ Upton. His stats have been upward trending pretty consistently since the down year 3 years ago. The splits show him as an All Star on the road. He could be due for a break out year. And of course everyone will think its because its a contract year. Nevertheless it will make him a very pricey free agent. Makes sense to acquire his services now and extend him.

Second is likely going to be Peter Borjous.

Third? In house: Corey Brown, Eury Perez, Michael Goodwin (If he can play CF and isn't another corner OF like Hood), and Michael Taylor. All depends on how long they project
it will take for them to develop.

The rest are all expensive "stand-ins" and Rizzo has already strongly indicated that he won't go in that direction. He won't make a move unless its the real deal permanent fix.

So, going to the Cubs for Marlon Byrd or anyone else just isn't going to happen when you've already got Werth, Harper, Ankiel, DeRosa, and Brown for starters.

JaneB said...

Kenza Fan -- Mookie is one reason why I'm not so worried about our outfield. Those '86 Mets were my guys (ALL METS from 1965, when I really started to pay attention, till 2004 were my guys...okay, still in 2005... and I loved them. I saw a photo of Davey in the Post Sunday and suddenly I was glad we had him. It felt like he could maybe get our guys going for REAL this year.

GYFNG! GYFDJG!

realdealnats said...

Davey's drinking some fortified Koolaid! Gimme some of that. Everyone showing up early. Gotta love it. Go Nats!

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