Monday, August 27, 2012
Heated words, but no rift
Read as much (or as little) as you want into Davey Johnson's animated discussion with Mike Rizzo following yesterday's 4-1 loss in Philadelphia, but know this: There's no rift between the Nationals manager and general manager, not even close to one.
What happened? About five minutes after the game at Citizens Bank Park ended, the clubhouse was opened to reporters, and we made our way toward Johnson's office for his usual postgame session.
Before entering the room, though, we heard Johnson loudly exclaim to someone: "Why don't you come down here and manage this team!" At which point Nationals PR director John Dever asked all of us to head back outside the clubhouse.
About 10 minutes later, we were allowed back in, at which point Johnson answered questions in a manner not all that different after any other loss this season. Johnson also acknowledged it was Rizzo who was in his office.
It all sounds like juicy and salacious stuff, because it's the kind of outburst that rarely takes place within earshot of reporters. But that's the key point: This stuff rarely takes place within earshot of reporters. That doesn't mean it doesn't take place when reporters are nowhere in sight.
Do you honestly think Johnson and Rizzo have never gotten into an argument before? Do you know anything about these two men? Each is an emotional, competitive, baseball lifer with strong opinions and supreme confidence in how he performs his job. Frankly, it would be more concerning if they never raised their voice at each other.
Don't, however, mistake the occasional raised voice a sign of animosity between the two. The level of respect Rizzo has for Johnson and vice versa is as strong as you'll find between any manager and GM in baseball. They've each got opinions on a lot of matters, and they're not afraid to make those opinions known, but they're on the same page when it comes to the big picture.
Maybe it's because the Nationals have cruised along all season without any hint of adversity, occupying first place in the NL East for all but 10 days over the last five months, but we tend to forget a baseball season is full of emotional highs and lows. The Nats have done a remarkable job staying even-keeled through it all, not getting excited over winning streaks, not getting demoralized over losing streaks.
But that doesn't mean these guys don't have emotions. That doesn't mean they don't get upset when something bad happens, whether it's tossing over a bat rack after striking out or knocking over a clubhouse chair after giving up a run.
These aren't robots.
Blowing off a little steam at the right moment never hurt anyone. The only concern is when it happens too frequently or over insignificant matters.
What happened after yesterday's game falls under the first category. A GM frustrated by a lackluster performance that extended his team's losing streak to four games said something that set off his manager.
Ever been frustrated with your boss and raised your voice?
Davey Johnson certainly has. This is a guy who throughout his managerial career has been known to clash with superiors. He's also been known to win a whole lot of games. Johnson has taken five teams to the postseason. It's probably safe to say he got into an argument with his boss at least one in each of those five playoff runs.
The 2012 Nationals haven't made the playoffs yet. They've got 35 games remaining to protect their 4 1/2-game lead over the Braves for the NL East title and their 8 1/2-game lead for the NL's final wild-card berth.
It's still unlikely this team collapses and doesn't get there. But if that somehow happens, it won't be because its manager raised his voice to his GM after one late-August game in Philadelphia.