Skip to content

Trusting your players

Jul 2, 2011, 4:25 AM EST

US Presswire photo
Matt Stairs is congratulated by Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos.

There’s a certain level of trust a manager must give his players if he wants them to succeed, an acknowledgment on his part that he believes in each of the 25 individuals on his roster. And he must display that trust in different ways. It could be letting a starting pitcher work his way out of a seventh-inning jam. It could be letting a struggling young shortstop understand why you’re pinch-hitting for him with the game on the line.

And it could be letting a 43-year-old with a .132 batting average but a career’s worth of clutch hits step to the plate with all the marbles riding on that at-bat.

Davey Johnson has always been called a “players’ manager,” a designation that sounds good but means something only if it’s true. In Johnson’s case, it is. He puts trust in his players. And more often than not, they reward him for it.

How else to explain the decision to pinch-hit Matt Stairs for Ian Desmond in the bottom of the ninth Friday night, then watch as the aging slugger scorched a fastball from reliever Tim Wood off the right-field wall, the 360-foot single that gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory over the Pirates?

Never mind that Stairs was 4-for-32 with zero RBI as a pinch-hitter this season. That he’s been on the roster continuously since Opening
Read more

  1. Sec3MySofa - Jul 2, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    Just one thing I'm a little unclear on: He trusts all 25 guys, but he wants to swap out a few of them for better hitters?

  2. Grandstander - Jul 2, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    Sec3, took the words out of my mouth. It seems as though the pre-game and post-game stories contradict one another. He clearly called out the entire bench not named Matt Stairs when he said he wanted more offense and not just defensive guys. He threw Burnett under the bus by saying he wanted a lefty who could get lefties out.I don't even disagree, I think he's right, I just find it odd how quick the dynamic changes after a win. If Stairs strikes out and the Bucs end up winning, the story is totally different.But, I can't be too negative after a win, it was great to see. It looks like he's settling in nicely and he'll need some luck on his side like tonight to get through the season with this team. One quick question, in the gamer, it says they threw a whipped cream pie in his face. I was always under the impression it was shaving cream. Do they really keep whipped cream down there on the spread or something? Either way, it seems to be working, as just about everytime it's the 9th or later, we seem to win.Tomorrow is going to be hot, so remember to pack some water with you! You're allowed to bring in up to a liter. On days like that, I like to freeze it beforehand and periodically fill it up at the water fountain to create a nice supply of constantly cool (free) water.Stay frosty folks!

  3. Bill B - Jul 2, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    There's no contradiction there: "IF you're on the club, I'm going to use you." If anything, this feels like a slap at Riggleman: why have Stairs on the bench if you're not going to use him? If you've lost confidence in a player, he has to go and someone has to replace him. So, yes, Johnson wants to replace some guys. I suspect if anything that he's looking for someone replace Ankiel, who fits the description of a bench guy with no bat but decent glove.Yesterday I posted a snarky comment about Stairs's career being over. I HOPE I was wrong. I would happily eat my words.

  4. sjm308 - Jul 2, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Bill B – its funny but for some reason, even if your name is Fred and you post that snarky comment, I don't get upset because you used a name. Its the anons who really get under my skin. We all have opinions and we all can obviously express them, its just not standing up for your comments that I think really gets to me, plus, most of the negative stuff with no analysis to back it up comes from the mystical "anon". Anyway, I agree with you about there not being a contradiction, he is sending a message to his TEAM and if you are on the bench you need to be ready to play and produce. It would not surprise me to see Werth benched for a day or so if he continues his slide and even Zimm at 3rd. Davey will not worry about what Rizzo or the player thinks and in the end, this could be a good thing.Go Nats!

  5. Rabbit - Jul 2, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    @sec3……….sure!! And the few he swaps for he will trust also. So, he's still trusting all 25 guys.

  6. P. Cole - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Start Stairs in RF!!!!Just kidding, but good to see he can still deliver. I was beginning to wonder if he'd completely lost it. Who knows, maybe he'll be crucial in a Wild Card run down the stretch?

  7. Natslifer - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    To me, this is now getting really fun… like what he does or not, Davey Johnson is a big time major league manager with clear opinions about the team and how it should be constructed and used. I don't remember Riggs ever saying out loud "we need more of this or that". But DJ is by all accounts a "player's manager" who instills confidence in his guys? Is saying he wants different parts bad or is it just the manager telling all the guys "look, you've got to perform and I ain't going anywhere" (something Riggs could never say)?And DJ is a close confidant of Rizzo's – it's a little surprising/interesting that 4 games into his tenure he's publicly saying he wants something different than what he's got? Or is he mostly saying he wants the same pieces – just ones that perform?Very, very interesting stuff. My gut says it's actually pretty good on balance – that we are in a different space now and it's a very different mentality to be in the top half of the division and thinking about ways to win it.And my favorite quote is "it takes 25 guys to win the pennant". We can all argue with whether Stairs should've played so much recently but if I'm DJ, I think it's very smart – he's basically saying, "look, here's your shot – no more of this onesie/twosey stuff – if you want to be a part of this team, then perform – if not, then we'll get someone else – but you're at least going to have your shot." And now that he's showing signs of life, the team is better for it with one more guy that the rest of the team feels confidence in.

  8. Dave - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    @sjm308, thank you for calling out the neganons. Lately it dies seem like all the egregious personal attack come from people who don't have the guts to put any identifying handle at all on their posts. They could be Jim Riggleman, Bud Selig, Buck Showalter, or Marion Barry. As to what Davey said, I have had to explain that point about using all 25 guys to family and friends a lot this season. If you have somebody on the bench whom you never play, you're basically playing with a short roster. Whatsense does that make? If you've got 'em, play 'em.

  9. JaneB - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    I wonder if it was Rizzo who put Stairs on, and Riggleman who couldn't play him (and I wouldn't have, either). In any case, what's clear to me is that Davey has the portfolio to publicly disagree with (whatever he disagrees with), while Riggleman's "short leash" meant he didn't feel like he could take such actions. A manager who is free to act on what he believes has to be in a better position to win.

  10. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    I don't know what the future holds for Stairs, but I was happy for him and for the team last night.Will be at the P-Nats game tonight, for which I already had tix before the double-header was scheduled. Hope y'all have fun at Nats Park today and cheer on *all* of our players.Last but not least and fwiw, reading the tea leaves is fun and all but Riggleman = gone (and by his choice); Johnson = here.

  11. Steve M. - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    It worked last night in the 9th and the dynamic duo shut them down (Clip/Storen). I still think if you depend on Stairs consistenly, he will consistently let you down.Glad it worked out.

  12. Sunderland - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Nice attitude from Desmond.There are still obvious problems with Stairs taking up a roster spot. He can't play the field. And if he bats in late innings and gets on, he can't run the bases. So maybe he can come through now and then during and right after interlegue play and getting some DH AB's. But he'll be back to 2 – 3 AB's a week now. I'd easily rather have Ankiel than Stairs on the roster.So is the "face of the franchise" now Davey Johnson? Kinda seems like it.

  13. LoveDaNats - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    I was at the game last night and had a mini- heart attack when Stairs came up to PH. But then I tried to put myself in Davey's place. Knowing Ian was coming up and the pressure he would put on himself to contribute may affect the way he would swing, it almost made sense putting in the grizzled veteran. He's been in that situation before……..Ian, not so much. So I held my breath and trusted DJ.While walking out and watching Matty's post game interview, I said " he needs a pie to the face". I got a high 5 two seconds later from a stranger for "calling it".Overall, perfect night at the ballpark. Just maybe score runs sooner so I don't spend the last inning hyperventilating :)

  14. Big Cat - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Was talking to ManassasNats Fan during the game. He said he had lost faith and wasn't gonna watch them anymore. I told him to give it one more game…..that a miracle was gonna happen that would restore his faith. Our miracle was Matt Stairs. Way to go Matt, way to go Nats!!

  15. Drew8 - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    As Davey seeks the right combinations, the !@#$%^ Braves are streaking.In the NL East we are now looking up at teams with the best, and third-best records in all of baseball.An open letter to the people of Balmer:Yo, Hon. Are you going to show up against the Braves, or just continue to stink like fish on the dock?Oh, and since we're coming up on the Fourth, I am glad the "flag was still there" at Fort McHenry. It's the only flag you're going to see in Balmer.

  16. MicheleS - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    I like what Davey is doing. He may be a players manager, but he holds them accountable. Telling the starters they will be in the game for a win. Explaining to Desi (who lets face it, puts a lot of pressure on himself) why he is doing the switch, and Playing Stairs (either at DH or as a PH). I think Riggs didn't want Stairs around – probably resented him- even we have been calling Stairs a coach in waiting.The good news we started our next winning streak, got a win for Davey, and we have a double header today!

  17. m20832 - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    "Winning" sure is a cure all, isn't it?

  18. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Drew8, I'm torn. I want our guys to gain ground in the division, but I'm sooo not an O's fan. (Awesome rant, though. :-))

  19. MicheleS - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Drew8…okay.. would love for the Braves to tank, but let's not beat up the O's to badly. I mean they are saddled with the worst owner in baseball (and I know that some have been down on the Lerners, but lets face it.. It could be worse). Their players seem to be losing confidence and well, they have NO hope of ever competing in their division (we just have to wait a year or two when the Phil's/Braves get Old (they don't have the funding to be like the Sox/Stankees). Plus any negativity about the O's could bring Poopy back and we really don't need that.

  20. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Re. allegiances, I do understand that there are those who rooted for that team up north when DC was without one, and who still do, and that's their prerogative. OTOH, I never did root for that team up north after I moved to the DC (not Balto) area, and I embraced the DC team when it came here. That's also my prerogative, regardless of what some lawyer/owner or troll* thinks my rooting interests should be.*Not referring to Michele, who is great, but to he/she/it who must not be named. 😉

  21. Sunderland - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    1a, breaking out the bold font. Flashing some skills.I loved the O's, but Angelos put out that fire a long time before the Nats came to town.Sept 21, 1998, I ordered the first and only vanity tags I ever owned, 2632CAL. Just turned them back in last week when the car they were on (the 3rd car since '98) went to the junkyard.

  22. Anonymous - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    How can anyone question Davey wanting more offense on this team. Even our rookie superstar is only bating .235 We have one full time player at .300, two part timers around .270 and the rest of the team, even our stars are in the .230's or .220's. This is one of the worst offenses in the league so if the starters aren't producing at least you want some hope on the bench. Like Davey said, defense is great when you have the lead but not when you're behind. For me this is last call on Desmond. What happened to his power from last year? That would at least make up for the other offensive atrocious stats and good but not great defense. He still doesn't look like a natural SS in the field.Love DJ… get him a few pieces of offense to add to the puzzle.

  23. TimDz - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    1A…Have fun at the p-nats game tonight…took my son there Wednesday…if you're sitting on the first base side, bring your sunglasses…the sun is right in your face…Also, CMW is doing a rehab start, so we all here at NJ expect a full scouting report…

  24. Drew8 - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    The Balmer ill feelings have nothing to do with the storied teams of Brooksie, Frank et al, or the heroics of Eddie and Cal.Thing is — Bob Short took my team away when I was 9. I waited 33 years — a wait needlessly exacerbated by Peter Angelos. Somehow he forgot that the St. Louis Browns never would have moved to Balmer without the Senators' assent.OK, ill humor purged. Time to enjoy the sunshine, then fire up the grill. Let's win two !!!

  25. Manassas Nats Fan - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    I hate to call Big Car out, but he is not telling the truth, I watched the wh9ole game, he only started after Bernadena tied it (he game some lame excuse like going to the PBats game). Even had a couple extra tickets to the doubleheader and he chose not to go. I am full of faith. Just not a whole lot of faith in the hitters. The pitchers are doing a great job.

  26. SCNatsFan - Jul 2, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    I like the fact despite being Rizzo's "right hand man" Johnson disagrees with some of the roster moves; to me that is a good thing, someone questioning the powers that be. I like what Rizzo is doing but don't disagree that the Coras and Ankiels can be signicantly upgraded.

  27. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Sunderland, thanks. Someone gave an HTML tutorial on here recently (can't recall who it was).TimDz, thanks re. the P-Nats game. We've attended a number of them over the years and are familiar with the sun issues. We'll be on the 3b side. Will do my best on the scouting report but that may be outside of my skill set. ;-)Manassas, yeah, the hitting was frustrating last night, though they did manage to pull out another curly w. I figured you were of stronger stuff than that. :-)

  28. gonatsgo - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    Matt Stairs ( blind squirrel) finally found an acorn ( pinch hit rbi). Now he's the hero? How about everything the rest of team did in the game, especially the now-maligned defense and pitching? The table was set by Morse and Ramos. I also have issues with Davey calling out the youngsters but not Werth and his brilliant statement that he's giving the pitchers a longer leash — huh? Haven't our pitchers basically set team records for how long they have gone into games this year? Is this really a new idea? Every time he talks I find myself saying "huh"? Time will tell, I hope it all"works", and at the risk of being bashed for being negative — I LOVE this team and what they have brought to the field this year and I am very excited about their future. I just hope this manager doesn't mess it up with his experimenting and orating.

  29. Donnie - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    I wasnt able to read through all the comments, so this has likely been said already but here goes. The title of the post is "trusting your players." And the entire focus is on the trust he put in Stairs. But couldnt the entire focus just as easily have been the trust he didnt put on Desmond?

  30. Sunderland - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Expounding on gonatsgo – Our SP's are already pitching deeper into games than every NL team except Philly, STL and (surprised me) Arizona. We're basically tied with LA and SF after that. So yeah, it's not as though we're really going to see the starters go deeper into games much. They just might get a few more chances to get out of jams in the 6th and 7th. And sometimes it will work out nicely, and sometimes it won't.

  31. Gnashnail - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Donnie–I appreciate but disagree. I think that a major part of leadership – not just management – is that you realize trust is a two way challenge. DJ didn't just jerk ID out. He shared the strategic rationale in a way that showed he trusted Ian to understand, and Ian obviously did. He trusts his skipper, which is not just a "how I feel about my 25 yr old ego at the moment" but a "how do we succeed in a 162+ fight war" issue. DJ *trusted* that ID would understand and support. ID came through. And obtw, so did Matt.

  32. Nats Outsider - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    In all the comments about Johnson's desire to emphasize the offense, I am surprised that no one has mentioned that this was a deliberate move last winter. In the acquisitions of Werth and especially LaRoche, much was made about their defense. I think that Rizzo and the Lerners were sick of the fans' disgust over the fact that the Nats would boot away winnable games.It's a reasonable position. Fans can forgive a lot of things, but stupid plays make the team look like it isn't trying. But guess what? If you de-emphasize hitting, you are likely to get less hitting. The fact that Johnson wants to switch focus again is especially interesting in that it goes opposite to the chosen direction of the team.

  33. JimHoy - Jul 2, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Nats Outsider… That's why I suspect DJ was saying that as a wake up call to some of the guys (Ankiel, I'm looking at you) who are not hitting, but should be able to, in addition to providing defense. If Rizzo and Johnson are on the same page, they are on the same page (largely) about the makeup of the team. Just that some are not doing everything they can be.

  34. Big Cat - Jul 2, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Yep…..I went to the P-Nats last night. Not a whole lot going on down in Woodbridge. Hitting on our side was terrible. Need to bring up some of the Hagerstown kids and pump some life into them

  35. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 2, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    They don't have to sacrifice defense or pitching to improve the bench and bullpen, is what I'm hearing him say. This was a 100-loss team for three years running. Now they are at .500, Riggleman is gone, and they are ready to take the next step. Does Davey still got what it takes? We'll see. He's looking way too much like Stengal (Mets Stengal, not Yankees) for my liking, but "that's why they play the games." We'll see.If Ivan Rodriguez can be "Pudge," I don't see why Davey can't be "The Ol' Perfessor."

  36. Anonymous - Jul 2, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    Ha Ha pure balderdash pure balderdash.I dont think this New Age touchey feeley 'tude to be successful with team.Johnson is really surprising me so far.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter