Skip to content

Johnson set the tone

Sep 21, 2012, 3:00 PM EST


When the 2012 season began, Davey Johnson was tasked with taking a team that had won 80 games the previous year to the next level, to make them a playoffs participant. He had to take a ballclub overflowing with talent and help them realize their potential as a contender in the National League. But at 69, the league’s oldest manager, it was a road he had traveled many times before.

Johnson took over as manager of the Mets before the 1984 season and saw them improve by 22 wins. In 1996, he helped the Orioles climb by 17 victories and make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. And now, after Washington’s 4-1 win over the Dodgers last night, Johnson has another team in the playoffs with 11 more victories than it won the previous year.

At 91 wins and counting, Johnson has played a central role in yet another dramatic turnaround. This is the fourth franchise he has led to the playoffs — he also managed the Reds to the NL Central crown in 1995 — something only he and Billy Martin have done. Johnson’s “been-there” presence and experience is something not lost among his players.

“There’s a lot of people around here that you can point fingers at that had a lot to do with the change in direction and everything that goes into that in the ballclub and the organization, but none any bigger than Davey,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “When I got here last year, this place was a mess. It was upside-down. We had a lot of work to do. At times it felt like we would never get to play in October.

“Then Davey took over in the middle of the season and kind of did things his own way, went about business the way Davey goes about business and he was the guy that he is. You could start to sense and see that the shape was starting to turn around.”
Read more

  1. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    I was going to post this the other day, but it wasn't the right time what with the mood being what it was. Someone had posted a link to an ESPN magazine story about Davey. The passage below, about sharing happiness, really resonated with me at the time. Thanks to Davey for taking us (and our boys) on this wonderful journey. Thanks to Mark for giving us this forum in which to share our happiness with all of our imaginary friends. :-)===In the dugout where he belongs, before the last game in New York last week, Johnson repeated a question: "What do I see when I look in the mirror? First of all, I'm shocked. Some part of me still thinks I'm 19. How did I get to be so old? But I see a happy man. Not happy like when we won the World Series in 1966 — that was all about me. Happy like I was in '86, when we brought joy to a city. It's much better when you share it."

  2. NatsLady - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    Atlanta will miss R.A. Dickey. I guess all the Mets have to play for is him winning the Cy Young. So much for "unwritten rules" of doing your best against teams that are still in it.Instead of starting Sunday, Dickey will now pitch Saturday against the Marlins on regular rest. That will allow him to come back and start the Mets' final home game against the Pirates next Thursday, instead of opening their series in Atlanta the following day.In addition to pitting Dickey against a weaker offense and a scuffling team, the move will allow the knuckleballer to avoid Turner Field, where he is 0-1 with a 12.54 ERA in two starts this season.

  3. Tcostant - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Remember in the spring when Davey said that if this team doesn't make the playoffs they could "fire me". Everyone reported it because they thought it was funny, well whos laughing now?

  4. Joe Seamhead - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    The day that the Nats signed Davey Johnson the fortunes of the entire NL East changed dramatically.In my opinion the three most important days for this franchise were the days that Rizzo, Johnson, and Werth signed on. When would Bryce have come up if not for Davey? Do you have confidence that Stras and Harper would've been signed if it had been Jim Bowden dealing with Boras? And Johnson has helped bring out the best in Werth, both on the field, and in the clubhouse. And I'm not too confident that the Beast would've had anywhere near as good of a year last year if he played for the previous manager for the whole year. How many on this forum were ready to throw Ian Desmond under the bus? Or ALR? Espy? To me, one could make an argument for Dusty Baker as NL Manager of the Year if it wasn't for the job that Davey has done with so many youngsters, and so many injuries. I feel very fortunate that I had about 30 seconds of Davey's time last month and got a chance to thank him, as an old Senator's Knothole Club kid, for managing this team. He looked me in the eye, after signing my Davey Johnson jersey, and said, "We're having a lot of fun." True dat! We sure are.GYFNG!!!

  5. MicheleS - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Chase thanks for this story.. It just shows you that Werth knew this place was a mess and thanks to him (Goodbye Nyjer), Rizzo and Davey it's being turned around.

  6. Section 222 - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Davey was asked about that last night and said that he had actually said they could fire him if we didn't win the division. Here's a link at DC Sports Bog. Davey's memory is faulty, but his confidence at the time is still amazing. And note Dan Steinberg's snarky attitude at the time about the Nats.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    NatsLady, it seems like every year there is some one that dogs it near the end to glorify their own stats. Last year it was Jose Reyes.I personally think that it's chickenfeces, but often there is a lot of dough written in to contracts if you win this, or that, award.

  8. MicheleS - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    222 I was thinking that was Davey Amending his statement… He wants the division, not just a playoff.

  9. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    That's what I thought as well, MicheleS.

  10. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Michele, I'm pretty sure Werth is talking about Riggleman, and Morgan only as one unlisted example of "mess," but then, maybe he meant both.

  11. Section 222 - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Wait, so Dickey should have taken an extra day's rest so he could start against the Braves? He's their No. 1 starter. Why shouldn't they keep him on his regular schedule and let him start the last home game? In order to benefit the Nats? Yes, it means skipping someone else in the rotation, but so what? I've never seen this unwritten rule (of course not, it's unwritten), but I don't think it includes saving your No. 1 starter to face the best team left. This is not dogging it and is nothing like Reyes' bunt single and exit last year.

  12. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Everybody who wanted Bobby Valentine, take one step forward.

  13. peric - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    @steverep44: George Michael shoulda been here. Glenn Brenner shoulda been here. Mo Siegel shoulda been here. Shirley Povich shoulda been here … I guess Ted Lerner will just have to represent. I'm sure he's up to the task. Might be nice if he wrote something for WaPo on his thoughts. He's suffered a lot of criticism … some warranted early on … but who knows with the mix of JimBo, StanK, and Riggleman? Maybe he felt his money would not be properly invested in the team?

  14. peric - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Riggleman and his "smart ball", "respect the game", "respect the veterans", play the youth only if ordered to do so by the FO … was at the heart of "the mess" on Giggleman's Isle. Clearly, it wasn't Rizzo … as former beat reporter Ben Goessling liked to claim. Guess he had a soft spot for Giggleman.I sure as heck did not. He betrayed his own city by playing his washed up veteran friends and not trying to get better … to win for his city! Above all else Riggleman was a traitor!

  15. BigCat - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Riggleman is where he belongs……in Double A

  16. MicheleS - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Sofa.. probably that as well,just didn't want to beat that dead horse again. Getting rid of Nyjer was step 1.

  17. Joe Seamhead - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    222, maybe I misunderstood. I got the impression that it was a change from the Met's original intentions re: Dickey in the rotation. Doesn't really matter too much to me. At this point I think Dickey probably deserves the C.Y.I guess that I jumped on it too quick because it was a Mets player again.

  18. Theophilus T. S. - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Section 3 & Michelle — Morgan was gone before the 2011 (regular) season started. I've wondered a lot about who the bad actors were. Marquis I've figured out — they were happy when he was gone. But the identity of the rest of the bad apples — if there were any — is a mystery. Wasn't future mgr. Cora, or High School coach Stairs, or do-everything Hairston. It wasn't Ankiel or Gorzellany, because they were brought back, and Coffey, Slaten and Nix were bit players. I'm tempted to point at Pudge, who got fingered late in the season for emphasizing personal goals (3,000 hits, high caught-stealing percentage — leading, according to some accounts, too many fastballs). The conclusion I come to is that the rot in the potatoes must have been mostly Riggleman, so desperate to get Ws and extend his contract he managed the team into the psych ward.

  19. Theophilus T. S. - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Kurkjian (sp?) says Nats "are going to throw at least three quality major league starters at you in the playoffs." Seems to me he may have joined the growing consensus about tonight's starter.

  20. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Three? Only three? Which of the Top 20 MLB starters they do have doesn't he like?

  21. Section 222 - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    JoeS — Because of an off day, Dickey's regular spot in the rotation would be Sunday, and then Friday against the Braves. But he can pitch on regular rest on Saturday and Thursday. I suspect the decision is more about letting the home fans cheer him on one more time than avoiding the Braves, but either way I think it's fine. It might be a different story if he were going to go on short rest on Saturday. In any event, I think this particular unwritten rule is very vague. If the Phillies still have a chance to win the WC on the last day of the season, the Nats don't owe it to their opponents to start Gio.

  22. NatsLady - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    Apparently the Mets changed their mind. I would guess they had an off-day/rainout/doubleheader situation (as we did), so they bumped someone out and put Dickey ahead, which was regular rest for him, and certainly not a bizarre thing to do. Just, the way the story is written, it sounds like all they have left is Dickey's Cy Young. I recall they changed the lineup to put the best defense out there (sacrificing some offense) for him. Didn't work, but seems to be their policy.

  23. MicheleS - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Ian will be on the flagship at 130

  24. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    OK, maybe "Top 20" is puffing it up a bit. Still.

  25. JD - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    NatsLady, At the end of last year Collins was very focused on helping Reyes win the batting title; this year he is all about helping Dickey win the Cy Young. I heard him say so on a Mets pre game. I always thought that it is bad karma for the manager to focus on individual awards; I think it sends his team a wrong message.

  26. MicheleS - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Some news about the development of the area.Development

  27. NatsLady - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    JD, I think so, too. I'm sure the no-hitter was a great moment, but will Santana ever be the same? Again, no way you can know if it's cause-and-effect, but contrast that with Rizzo's and Davey's caution, and not just their caution with Stras, but with all the players who deal with injuries.

  28. DaveB - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    How much everyone agrees that last year's "the place was a mess" may not be completely clear yet, but I think it is becoming very clear that the reason Riggleman left was conflict with Werth (and the fact that he didn't feel he had the authority to win that fight). Clearly better for the team in the long run, but I'm not sure it makes me feel better about Jason.

  29. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Clearly better for the team in the long run, but I'm not sure it makes me feel better about Jason. They're paying him $128,000,000 to the heavy lifting of making this team a winner. We knew that. It ain't all kittens and candy.

  30. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    *to DO the

  31. Section 222 - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    I'm not sure it makes me feel better about Jason.Makes me feel a lot better about Jason. Riggleman was a lousy manager and Jason knew it. Although Jason was the guy who encouraged them to sign Matt Stairs, right? Hmm.

  32. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Corrected (twice) for clarity. Pronouns, gotta love 'em. :-)Just my opinion, but I doubt that Riggleman's departure can be boiled down to conflict with one person, or even with one Ja(y)son [cough…Marquis]. Riggs struck me more as the type where things simmer until they come to a boil. I was also of the impression that it was more about Riggs, and his employment status, than about any given player, but again, that's just my opinion. Whatever, I'm just very happy that Davey took the helm.

  36. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    [that one wasn't for pronouns, just for the heck of it]

  37. Section 222 - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    1. How to develop a winning team: Follow Rizzo and DJ. 2. How not to develop a winning team.

  38. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    The link didn't work for me, sec 222. Was it by any chance about the Pirates instructional league regimen? If so, agreed. :-)

  39. Joe Seamhead - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Riggleman/Werth feud = a dead horse. Werth was brought here for his winner's attitude, which has turned into a town full of Natitude!

  40. BigCat - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Lets not forget about Bowden's experiment…..Elijah Dukes. Good riddance

  41. MicheleS - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Ian on the Fan. Baby #2 is due at Thanksgiving.

  42. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Signing Stairs wasn't the mistake. Running him out there for months, well…

  43. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    Well, maybe not better. Trying again:A better link:Pirates' 'Hells Angels,' 'Navy SEALs' minor league training methods become MLB joke

  45. Melissa Rabey - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Could anyone who picked up one of the Natitude post-season shirts last night tell me how much they run at the stadium?

  46. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Melissa, wash them in cold water, they won't run nearly so much.

  47. Melissa Rabey - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Section 3–oops, bad phrasing. I had heard they were more expensive when you bought them at the park versus through the MLB online shop. So I wanted to know what the price difference was.

  48. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    What? Oh.$22 on the website.

  49. natsfan1a - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    That, plus shipping, I reckon.

  50. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Plus shipping, if any.

  51. Section 3, My Insufferable Sofa - Sep 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    "Please call 202.640.7777 to contact the Nationals Clubhouse Stores."





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