Tag Archives: Davey Johnson

Rick Eckstein Falls on the Sword in Washington

On Saturday evening, I told everyone to stick a fork in the Washington Nationals. I knew that someone had to be held responsible for how disappointing the Nationals have been this season, but the Nationals don’t have the luxury of firing their manager Davey Johnson. He’s in his last season, he’s regarded as a legend in the game; he’s going out on his own terms.

But someone, someone had to be fired for this. You can’t fire the players, and no one wants Adam LaRoche. Today, the Nationals fired their hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

The most interesting nugget in the read is that Davey Johnson asked General Manager Mike Rizzo to fire him instead.

Johnson had been a staunch supporter of Eckstein, who had been the Nationals coach since 2009. “If you want to fire the hitting coach, you might as well fire me right with him,” Johnson said in mind-June. Even Saturday night, Johnson called Eckstein “the best hitting instructor” he had ever worked with.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the data does not support his statement. The Nationals are scoring 3.69 runs per game and have a team on-base percentage of .296 under Eckstein. Most Washington Nationals fans I know thought Eckstein sucked. There’s not a ton of argument against this. Bryce Harper looks like he’s regressed as a hitter.

Even if Eckstein was fine as a coach, you have to fire someone in an attempt to save your season. I believe this is the type of move that can spark a group of flat, lifeless players. If this doesn’t work, the Nationals are about out of options. They’ve lost out on Matt Garza, there isn’t a plethora of offensive help out there to be had, and even then the Nationals don’t really have a spot to plug anyone in.

Moves like this remind you that baseball is a business and that in this business if a team that was supposed to contend for a World Series performs this badly in the other direction, heads will roll. You just have to wonder how long it is until a guy like Rizzo (who is a mafia-looking figure to being with) gets whacked.

 

Stick a Fork in the Nationals 2013 Season

washington_nationals3

My preseason World Series pick from the National League is done. Forget any magic number talk. Forget any ‘buyer’ move they make at the deadline because it won’t be good enough. Forget any hot, magical run they string together because no matter what they do from this night forward it will be too little, too late. This team is dead. For Davey Johnson, there will be no more pretty ladies and he sure as hell won’t be riding out on any white horses.

The Nationals lost 3-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight in 10 innings to fall a game under .500 on the season.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise. I’ve watched a lot of Washington this season in thinking that I could actually pinpoint a team that was similar to the 1986 Mets. They seemed on paper to have it all. What they have ‘all’ of is a shitload of problems.

You look up and July and over and Bryce Harper has all of 13 home runs and 29 RBI. He’s hitting clean-up for them. He’s hitting in the .260′s. To be honest, I was more impressed with Harper as a rookie than I have been during this 2013 season. He’s been underwhelming. He’s still playing left field like he’s a catcher, and it’s been all season long. He’s not getting behind fly balls and forgetting fundamentals of the game that every big league outfielder should have down by their third season at the position.

Stephen Strasburg isn’t an ace. He’s a soft kid with really good stuff that usually wilts in a tough position. He’s got a LONG ways to go to become a big game number-one type starter that will carry a team and end losing streaks.

The loss of Mike Morse has been very visually obvious. The Nationals could really use a middle of the order bat right now; Adam LaRoche has returned to being the same old shitty Adam LaRoche he’s always been. I guess the guy only hits in contract years.

There are a few things to like about this team – Jordan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond are stud players who could lead a championship caliber team – but there are just too many things working against the Nationals.

The Nationals are the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this season. It’s time to start thinking about RG3 and the Redskins in the Nations’ Capital.

Bryce Harper is an All-Star Starter

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 8.10.38 PM

Bryce Harper was elected by the fans to start in his first All-Star game today, becoming the youngest player since Ken Griffey Jr. made the lineup in 1990.

The real good read, though; is one that will tug on your heart strings. Harper spent time with a terminally ill young man yesterday prior to the Nationals game. For all the talk about Bryce Harper being a bad guy when he entered the realm of professional baseball, it just seems an inaccurate report by the unnamed scout.

When Mann asked Harper if he could meet Gavin, Harper did not hesitate. On the field, he gave Gavin the hat off his head and signed it for him. After a while, Gavin sat down in the air-conditioned tunnel between the dugout and clubhouse.

Because of where his tumor is located in his brain, Gavin has lost control of the muscles in his face. “If you ask him something, he’ll be happy, but you can’t see it,” Rupp said. “The nonverbal communication isn’t there. I was kind of telling Bryce that. I said, ‘When you talk to him, even though inside he’s happy, you don’t visually see it.’ So it’s kind of hard to have a conversation with somebody.”

Harper asked questions to draw Gavin out. Gavin sat in a folding chair in the Nationals dugout. Harper leaned forward and his elbow on his left knee so his eyes would be at the same level as Gavin’s.

The conversation meandered from topic to topic. They talked about Harper’s pregame routine. Gavin asked Harper about his favorite ballpark to play in, his most memorable home run, his hardest pitcher to hit off of. Gavin loves Ohio State football, and Harper’s girlfriend just transferred there, and they talked about that. They talked about Las Vegas, Harper’s home town. Harper’s father grew up rooting for the Reds, and Gavin likes them almost as much as the Nationals, and they talked about that.

Harper traded one of his wristbands for one of Gavin’s neon wristbands. Harper asked Gavin to sign a baseball for him. They hung out for an hour.

“I can’t say enough. A guy who is 20 years old, to take that much time,” Chris Rupp said. His voice quivered and his eyes watered. “When I was 20 years old, I didn’t have that maturity, to do what he just did.”

And then finally, there was a game played today. Davey Johnson said after yesterday’s game that he was going to give Bryce Harper ‘the rest of the weekend off’. That would have sucked for everyone, including the Nationals who are finally starting to get rolling towards that last call for the train to the World Series.

Harper did what a gamer does, text messaging his manager ‘play me or trade me’. Harper responded about how you would have expected. Lineout, bases loaded walk for an RBI, RBI single, sac fly to tie the game; 3 RBI on the day in a 5-4 Nationals win to put them 3 games over .500 on the year.

Thank them by being in the Home Run Derby, we say.

It’s time to call out Bryce Harper

harperpus

Before you read this post, no one who has ever read this blog at any length can simply say we’re being ‘haters’. We have stated numerous times that Bryce Harper is the greatest young talent we’ve ever seen enter the game of baseball in our lifetime. We never thought we would make a post like this.

Since the relative beginning, we’ve been following Harper. Knowing what he could mean to the game, we’re naturally rooting for him. But now he’s gone the route of a primadonna, and it’s time to question what’s at his core.

These quotes before today’s game are very telling, and pay particular attention to the different pages that he and his old school manager seem to be on.

“Tuesday, that’s kind of early,” Harper said. “I’m thinking Wednesday or Thursday maybe. I’m not sure. We’ll see how I feel. If I feel good, then I’ll go play. If I feel something isn’t right, then I’m not going to go play. It depends on how I’m feeling.

“I would like to be at six or seven games (on rehab assignment),” Harper said. “I want to get my timing back. I don’t want to come back one game after I play against High-A ball and come back facing (hard-throwing Mets starters Zach) Wheeler and Matt Harvey or something. They’d blow me away right now. That’s something I don’t want to do. I’m going play as many games as I can down there, see how I feel, and try and get back.”

He continued:

“I’m full speed, every single day,” Harper said. “It’s going to be hard playing at 70 percent if they want me to play at 70 percent. I’m not going to do that. I want to come back 100 percent and get back as quick as I can.

“I don’t want to just rush into things. If I play Wednesday or Thursday, that’s great. If I don’t, I’m not going to. If it takes five days, it’s going to take five days. If it takes two, then it’s going to take two. If it takes more than that, that’s how it’s going to be.”

These quotes are not signaling that of a player itching to get back out there and into the middle of a lineup for a team that is all-in for this season, fighting for their lives every night (the Nationals have been playing better and harder lately, seemingly winning games on guts and guile and running on an empty tank for long enough).

Harper said that if this were September or October, he would be out there. So what’s the deal? This is the season. These Nationals can’t wait until then. They’ve emptied the chamber waiting for their centerpiece to return. They won’t survive much longer without Harper. What this seems like is a player looking out for his best interests first – which is nothing new in sports, there’s nothing wrong with that. Except, it’s the opposite of what Harper always has preached he would be in the big leagues.

His manager Davey Johnson’s quotes are even more telling. If you read between the lines on this one, his manager seems like he wants Harper to get back out there for the good of the other guys in his clubhouse. We’re with Johnson on this one. Don’t be surprised if the organization reigns in Johnson and he’s singing a different tune by tomorrow. But here are the telling quotes.

“When a player starts playing, it’s really up to me, what I think they need. Not up to the player,” Johnson said Saturday. “I’m always trying to do what’s best for the player. But at the same time, it’s my job to know when they’re ready and when they’re not. The most I’m concerned about is is he going to be able to bounce back after playing a nine-inning game.

“He’s probably worried about timing and everything being letter-perfect. All that changes from if you’re in Potomac. You may never get your timing there because it’s a whole new ballgame there, guys don’t have command as well as they do up here, and there’s a big variation in how they pitch to guys. So I’m more concerned about just how they recover from when they come off the DL than I am about what they hit. Since he’s never really been on the DL or done rehab, I think his concept might be different from mine.”

And here are the real meat and potato quotes:

“All this stuff here, the right turns and the left turns in the outfield, hitting the base and all that, that doesn’t mean anything,” Johnson said. “What matters is: can you run out there, catch fly balls, come back in and go hit, and how that’s going to affect the knee.

“I trust players too. They know more about their body than the medical staff. But when you come back from injury, are you ever 100 percent? No. The body has a wonderful ability to heal itself. The more you get the blood flowing, the more you have to heal.”

You know what – Johnson is right. This is his last chance at getting back to the World Series. It could be the Nationals only chance. Maybe Harper has lost sight of that with Scott Boras in his ear about his next big contract, or the fancy dates that he takes his college girlfriend on. Or the tweeting he does almost daily of his sponsors. Or the soccer games or NBA Finals he’s watching while his Nats are getting shut out on the road. But this team came dangerously close to something special last year. Harper has missed 35% of this season, yet he and his family are openly lobbying for his All-Star Game votes. We thought that the hunger of getting back would be worn on his sleeve this year. After all, he was a guy who said all he cared about above all was winning titles.

Davey Johnson ended his quotes with a cry for help.

“Bursitis, it could come back with one slide,” Johnson said. “It could come back bumping into the wall. But is it going to get any worse from regular playing? That’s the only thing I have concern with… We’re going to make sure that what he does and anything he does with baseball activities doesn’t set him back. That’s my main concern. As far as his timing, he probably has got better timing than some of the guys in the lineup right now.”

He knows the Nationals are dead in the water without Harper. Yet another week or ten days is probably the end of their season, he knows time is of the essence and the Nationals are going under.

Harper has been out a month. If he could have played when the injury first occurred – his own words and no one else’s – then what the Hell is all of this talk of taking his sweet time getting back? What is six or seven rehab games going to do?

This is not like Mickey Mantle, the man Harper reportedly shapes his career after. Mantle played on one knee his entire career. I’m reading a Mantle book by Jane Leavy right now. Mantle would have cut a limb off rather than miss time at leisure and tweet about his dates with his recovery time off.

What this is; is a 20th century ballplayer worrying more about himself and his future than his team’s fortunes and the present. The present would go a lot further to define his legacy then he will in his Yankee years when he’s signed his $400 million dollar contract and made Scott Boras and the Yankees both very happy.

Baseball needs Bryce Harper right now. The Nationals need Bryce Harper. I don’t know how a player who has intestinal fortitude and a will to win could sit back and watch the way Ian Desmond has gutted it out in his absence; while putting the Nationals on his back; and say the things Harper said in these quotes.

What has been a confusing story from day one just took another conflicting turn towards odd-ville. Harper is not the embodiment of the game as we once thought. He is not the real article. He is the social media superstar, a model of the 20th century ballplayer who tells us one thing; sells us on his image and then does something completely different.

He is not the ‘no guts, no glory’ player he pretends to be. He is a fraud in the year 2013, and he’s going to have to show at least one blogger what he’s made of going forward.

Davey Johnson: “I think Bryce Harper will be back pretty soon”

Big news in the baseball world yesterday for fans of the game (and fantasy baseball owners). Bryce Harper has been approved to walk! ZOMG it’s a miracle!

According to a quote in the Washington Post by his manager, Harper might actually be back in the lineup pretty soon.

Once Harper can sprint and take batting practice, he will have to play two or three minor league rehab games, Johnson said.

“I think he’ll be back pretty soon,” Johnson said.

We’re wishing Harper a quick recovery. Except he’s missed over 30% of this season, so that’s not possible at this point. I wonder if he still thinks it was a good way to #RespectTheGame by running into that wall in Los Angeles? We’re only kidding.

Just get back out there soon, young Harper. We really hope he’s playing when we’re in Las Vegas so we can throw a few bets against a Nationals team that has no business being favorites against anyone right now.

One of the most entertaining games I’ve ever attended

100_0208

[Box Score]

First off, in this game there were six home runs hit. Five of them were by the Nationals.

Now that’s exciting, because most games you attend don’t feature six home runs in today’s game. Great American ballpark played like Great American. Even my wife said the game was exciting and made it through three hours and thirty minutes of baseball with a fair amount of whooping and hollering.

For a recap on the rest of the day and more photos, click through the jump.
Continue reading

Washington Nationals 2013 Season Preview

Davey+Johnson

Sergeant Gunnery Hartman/Davey Johnson is baseball’s best manager. We only get one more season of him.

Any conversation about baseball’s most-loaded team must begin with their R. Lee Ermey style manager, Davey Johnson. Johnson is baseball’s finest manager, having been perched on dugout top steps since Small Pox was a problem; he’s seen more baseball than any living man has forgotten.

Johnson is a no-nonsense, tough loving, thick skinned son of a gun. He’ll probably live to be 120 years old before crawling off into the woods somewhere and dying alone with his dignity like only the toughest old hombres would do. We actually were lucky enough to obtain footage from the Nationals Spring Training barracks just a few days ago. Let’s take a good look at Johnson addressing his troops during a routine, middle of the night bed check:

If there’s one thing Sergeant Davey hates to find, it’s an unlocked foot locker. How did you like when he went off at Dan Haren there in the video for having a jelly doughnut in his foot locker? In all fairness to the Gunnery Sergeant Davey and Haren; this came after Haren’s most recent troubling spring start.

Biggest Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed Rafael Soriano
  • Signed Denard Span
  • Signed Dan Haren
  • Traded away Mike Morse

The Nationals had an already absolutely loaded roster, even down into their minor leagues before any of these moves were made. Things seemed to line up perfectly for them to add three key veterans in spots that could afford some touching up with the perfect addition.

I have loved everything that this team has done in building it’s organization since General Manager Mike Rizzo took over. Now they’re in a position to really reap the benefits over the next five to seven years. They’ll have a chance to win a World Series every year in that window unless something goes wildly wrong. They’re also in position to trade a highly valued prospect in the farm system; of which there are many, should they need to acquire another Major League ready player to help them in their current run. Times are good right now for the Washington Nationals, and that is putting it lightly.

Continue reading

I love you, Kid

HarperST

Bryce Harper collected three more hits today. I don’t want to jinx the kid too early or anything but he’s started spring training by going 6 for 8. He’s already in his manager’s ear about not wanting to sit. He doesn’t know these games don’t count. And this guy is too good to be true.

Keep sitting him now and again, Davey. He’ll wear himself out by July at this pace. Every spring there’s inevitably one player I really like who has a monstrous spring. Then the stats disappear in April and somehow he gets off to a really slow start. I hope this isn’t the case with Harper.

Buster Olney also said recently on his podcast (18:40 mark): “Joey Votto on Harper: Essentially, he can’t be beaten. He has a “slump proof swing.”

The 1986 Mets and the 2013 Nationals

ESPN SweetSpot compares the 1986 Mets to the 2013 Nationals position by position, including bench. It’s a pretty cool little post.

Dave Schoenfield of SweetSpot has the two teams even, 6 to 6.

One other similarity between these: The Mets, like the Nationals, had a lot of young talent. Strawberry was 24, Dykstra 23, Backman 26, Mitchell 24, HoJo 25. On the pitching staff, Gooden, Darling, Fernandez, Aguilera and McDowell were all 25 or younger. Mets fans know all too well that this group of players would return to the playoffs only once more and never return to the World Series. The future of the Nationals looks bright, but success is never a sure thing.

You know what is a sure thing? The Nationals won’t be doing copious amounts of cocaine, tearing up commercial aircrafts (while showing their genitals to the stewardesses), and generally entering other towns with the soul goal being to drink as much beer as they can before leaving town.

It was just a different era back then, and one of the reasons that the 1986 Mets will remain one of my favorite teams of all-time no matter what 2013 holds for the Nationals; who are proud new owners of Dan Haren.

The Baseball Show: The Miami Marlins are a Barren Wasteland Edition

Last night on The Baseball Show Podcast, co-hosts Mike Rosenbaum and M.J. Lloyd and I discussed the following topics:

-The Marlins/Blue Jays blockbuster trade
-The Toronto Blue Jays chances in the AL East
-Why it sucks to be a Marlins fan
-Giancarlo Stanton’s future in Miami
-What is it like to be a Marlins fan right now?
-The prospects on the way to Toronto via trade
-Torii Hunter leaves Anaheim for Detroit
-Thoughts on all season awards

And as always much more in between!

Davey Johnson’s comments confirm he is indeed; a red-assed individual

Not sure if you heard about the whole hullabaloo last night during the Rays-Nationals game in Washington. We had the game on live, and Joel Peralta had just strolled out to pitch the 8th inning in a game the Rays were up 5-4.

That’s when things got hairy. Davey Johnson had prior knowledge of Peralta doctoring his gloves with a foreign substance and had the home-plate umpire go out and shakedown Peralta. Peralta was found to be guilty and promptly ejected. And the poker game continued on into today with Johnson’s quotes, namely his thoughts on Rays manager Joe Maddon.

“I don’t know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyways.”

Listen to this guy. Calling people ‘weird’. Calling his fellow managers wussies. I love it.

You know what’s even better? We had someone sneak a hidden camera into the Nationals clubhouse a few weeks back. Here’s what we found:

I don’t know Davey Johnson all that well either, but I feel like we had him pegged spot-on a few weeks back when we called him a red ass and said that was the exact reason that we loved the guy.

I also imagine that there are a lot of normal people out there that Davey fails to find the color in and deems them as ‘weird’. He has the temperament of a grandpa that has missed his nap.

Leitch: If Hamels Wants Old School, Watch Bryce Harper

Once again Will Leitch shows why he’s one of my favorite writers, especially when pertaining to baseball.

And this time, it’s not just because he’s sticking up for Bryce Harper. Or because he obviously likes Harper for the same reasons I do. But it’s because he does those things more eloquently and subtle than I’ve done in the past on this very blog. And this is all just in time for tonight’s Nationals v. Phillies showdown on ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball.

He takes Hamels to task, kind of like we did.

“That’s something I grew up watching,” Hamels said, “I’m just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people are kind of getting away from it. I remember when I was a rookie the strike zone was really, really small and you didn’t say anything because that’s the way baseball is. But I think unfortunately the league’s protecting certain players and making it not that old school, prestigious way of baseball. It’s just, ‘Welcome to the big leagues.’ ”

This doesn’t make a lot of sense. How does the strike zone when Cole Hamels was a rookie have anything to do with Bryce Harper? How is the league “protecting” Bryce Harper? (He’d been in the league a week.) And what is Cole Hamels talking about with this “something I grew up watching”? Cole Hamels is 28 years old; he grew up watching Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and all those players everyone has spent the last decade screaming on television about being the opposite of “old school.” Did he have a dream that he grew up watching different players?

And he makes the best and most truthful point following that.

But the craziest thing about Hamels’ notion was that “old school” was somehow prestigious. Baseball—always, now, then and forever—is the furthest thing from prestigious. Baseball has been a sport for scoundrels and rapscallions; this is why it’s fun.

Yes. Harper is a rapscallion. He is a scoundrel. A scoundrel, dirt-eating, hustling gift given to us by the baseball gods to enjoy for two decades. He’s… more old school than Hamels. Right Leitch?

The funny part about this is that I can’t think of a more old school player—in the way I think Hamels was trying to define it—than Bryce Harper. I interviewed Harper earlier this year, and all he could talk about was how much he admired—and patterned every aspect of his game around—guys like Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. Harper is one of those guys who plays every game like it’s his last, who dives and spits and knocks over catchers and loves baseball in a profound, aggressive way.

I hope Harper gets a few old knocks off Hamels this evening. And if there was any doubt that he would be in the lineup, you don’t even have to wonder. He plays for a manager cut from his own old-school mold.

It’s Hard Not to Love Red-Assed Davey Johnson and the Nationals

Last night was another one of those nights. Another Bryce Harper rope off the wall. Another Nationals home victory.

Right now the Washington Nationals represent everything that is energy-infusing and exciting in the game of baseball. Everyone is quick to talk about Harper or Stephen Strasburg, myself included. But I think one of the coolest aspects of this roster is who it’s being led by; their R. Lee Ermey style manager Davey Johnson (tell me he doesn’t look like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman down in the dugout some nights).

This is the tough son of a bitch who won 108 games and a ring with those 1986 Mets. Spry enough to fight (and drink with) a few of those hazy-eyed Metropolitans back then, he’s back from the dead for one more run at the Holy Grail. And therein lies one aspect that I love so much about baseball–Johnson managed Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden–and now he’s overseeing the precious roost of prospects that the Nationals have compiled. Two completely different eras with eras in between, and Davey Johnson probably still has the same wad of Beech-nut tobacco in his cheek from that summer in ’86.

Just above the Parris Island drill instructor who moonlights as the club’s manager is general manager Mike Rizzo. He’s part rich uncle, part wise guy. He’s just the kind of Italian your mother always warned you about. He’s also the architect of the roster that has collected the best young kitty of talent in the big leagues. He has the players’ backs. And he’ll forever be a hero because he is the guy who brought Strasburg and Harper to the nation’s capital.

The Roster doesn’t end with the big two. How did we all miss this much young forged talent before the season started? No one should be surprised at the club’s 23-14 record (best in the NL East) when you look at the wonderful mix of veteran and young-stud that litters the roster up and down the organization.

I know Wilson Ramos got hurt this past week and will miss the entire season. But even after Ramos, Harper, and Strasburg, the cabinet features a collection nice young names like Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez, Ian Desmond, and soon to be ‘next one’ Anthony Rendon. I even still think there’s hope for Danny Espinosa. The Nationals are primed to make this their league over the next few seasons. Rostering veterans like Ryan Zimmerman, Rick Ankiel, Mike Morse, Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge and Adam LaRoche adds a really nice mix as well.

They play the game the way it should be played. Reflective of their manager’s temperament, they grind out ugly win after ugly win with pitching, defense, and timely big hits in crucial spots. Dominant at home while taking every other game on the road. That’s how a winner is built.

There’s a lot of directions we could go from here. President’s races at the park. The best two young players in the game today. Based in a great city. The Nationals are young. They’re exciting. Finally a fresh face in the National League East. They’re about to begin a decade of dominance a few years before anyone ever predicted–which is how every true great run starts to begin with.

But we digress by going back to the girl who brought us to the dance.

Their manager is a hardened old baseball man who would win any era and these guys are simply playing their ass off for him. In sports nowadays, you just don’t see ballplayers motivated in such a way anymore. This is like Jack McKeon’s last run; if you packed McKeon’s cigars full of cow chips. Davey Johnson is coming downstairs, and he’s pissed off folks. He might be 85, but he’s still here to kick your ass and drink your Johnny Walker.

And back to Harper: isn’t he the type of kid you could see taking a curtain call after every home run? I hope he decides to do it. In fact, I hope the Nationals never lose again.