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Watch as the Nats start laying this year’s disaster at Davey Johnson’s feet

Aug 9, 2013, 8:55 AM EDT

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Getty Images

A call for Davey Johnson’s head, some Heyman speculation that Matt Williams could be his replacement and now Amanda Comak of the Washington Times goes full-blown with the successor speculation:

Through discussions with industry and team sources, four possible names emerged as possibilities for when the Nationals begin their managerial search in earnest: Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams, Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr, Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett and Houston Astros manager Bo Porter.

Porter is the odd name there. Though he just came from Washington, it seems like a long shot in the extreme that the Astros would let him go after anointing him the steward of their rebuild so recently. Indeed, just this past March his general manager said this about him:

“People know Bo is going to be here for a long time,” Luhnow says. “He could be one of those guys who is an Astros manager for decades, not just years. The players knowing that this is the group that’s going to be here — it begins to lay the foundation for stability, which is really what we’re looking for.”

Not that they wouldn’t give him up for, I dunno, Bryce Harper or something. OK, maybe not anything that grand, but it would take Porter telling the Astros he really, really wanted the Nats job followed by the Nats giving up an awful lot to the Astros to let him out of his contract. And that really doesn’t make sense for anyone here. Teams shouldn’t be giving up real talent for a manager. Neither Porter nor the Astros would do well by being seen as abandoning a plan this quickly. Indeed, one of the biggest selling points to long-frustrated Astros fans right now is “hey, we may not have the talent yet, but boy howdy to we have a plan!” That’s actually appealing to people and Houston doesn’t want to mess with that.

But the biggest takeaway from all of this: I have this strong feeling that the next two months of the season will be filled with Nationals sources talking about new managers and a change in direction and philosophy, the likes of which there is plenty in Comak’s story. The reason: by doing so, team sources basically lay this season’s disaster at Johnson’s feet, absolving everyone who is still around for next year.

Not surprising. And not necessarily bogus. I mean, Johnson is a great manager, but he has messed up a good deal this season and isn’t blameless in what has gone on. I don’t think he can be blamed as much as the front office, but it’s not like he’s been an innocent bystander.  Still, laying the blame on Davey Johnson has happened many times in the past. The Mets, Reds, Dodgers and Orioles all felt a strong need to “change direction” following Johnson’s tenure, all either tacitly or plainly blaming Davey for what went wrong in the end.

Funny thing, though: teams have a habit of cratering even worse after Johnson leaves. And when that happens, everyone stops playing the blame-Davey game.

  1. bravojawja - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    There’s chum in the water. And it’s Shark Week.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Serious non-troll question to the Nats fans – who would you lay the blame on the most?

    • illbringdabeers - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      The Braves

      • greymares - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:25 AM

        stop it the Braves are being mentioned because SOMEBODY has to win the east. they will be eliminated in the first playoff series. THE N.L. EAST stinks period.

      • tigersfandan - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        Even though they have the second-best winning percentage in the majors? ;)

      • illbringdabeers - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        Grey, It was a joke, get out of the house more

      • greymares - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        Oh, ha,ha,ha, I have always been told if you have to explain it. IT’S NOT FUNNY.

      • illbringdabeers - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:37 AM

        …[crickets]…

      • jjschiller - Aug 9, 2013 at 3:59 PM

        “Stop it the Braves are being mentioned because SOMEBODY has to win the east.”

        Yeah. If only the Braves would play teams outside of the East once in awhile, we could see how they stack up. I bet if they had to play against teams outside of the crappy NL East, they’d probably get their asses kicked.

        Oh wait. They do! We can!

        Against the East: 29-16
        Against the Central: 15-8
        Against the West: 18-12

        Braves record against best NL teams (All NL teams that have winning records):

        Pittsburgh 4-3
        St. Louis 3-0
        Cincinnati 4-3
        Los Angeles 5-2
        Arizona 4-2

        I guess the big difference between the Braves and the Nats is that those lucky Braves get to clean up against a crappy team like the Nats, while the Nats have to play 18 against the a juggernaut like Braves. It’s not fair, really. The Braves should have to play against the Braves once in awhile, see how they like it!

    • nolanwiffle - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      Calvin Griffith.

    • heyblueyoustink - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      Nattitude.

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        I’m actually a firm believer in the old baseball adage, “You’re going to win 54, you’re going to lose 54, it’s what you do with those other 54 that matters.”

        For some reason the Nats seemed to be in a big fucking hurry to get their 54 guaranteed losses this season. Therefore, I expect them to go 40 and 8 the rest of the way.

        Now THAT’S Natitude, baby!

    • Todd Boss - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      Plenty of blame to go around.
      – Johnson, for pitching/bullpen mismanagement episode after episode, for losing the clubhouse (see below)
      – Bench production, for regressing so far past the mean from last year’s over production
      – Dan Haren: $13M for one of the worst starters in the game.
      – Offense: i know there’s no such thing as “clutch” but the offense just has not produced like it should, in the clutch or otherwise. If the Nats offense was merely league average they’d easily have a winning record, and if they produced like they did last year (about 10th in the league in runs scored and other key indicators) they’d be challenging for the best record in baseball again.
      – Clubhouse Chemistry: something is wrong there. Perhaps the loss of free-spirit Morse and the level headed DeRosa has left a void. Soriano acquisition brought a known surly loner with behavior problems in his past into a tight knit bullpen. And now we have a lack of retaliation after a rival pitcher brazenly hit their best player. What gives? You hit Justin Upton his next at bat and thats it. Now you have a gaping issue where Harper’s got people throwing at him without any protection from his own guys.
      – Rizzo’s mis-management of the 2013 roster: he just had to have a speedy leadoff/centerfielder, and Span has underperformed. We had no loogies. We relied on a MLFA for the long man (Duke) and he failed. We had ZERO starting pitching depth in the high Minors and frankly have gotten lucky that Taylor Jordan materialized out of the thin air of high-A.
      – Pressure. this team had no pressure last year, and all of the pressure this year.

      I think the scarier part for Nats fans is the fact that this team is basically going to be the exact same team next year. Nearly every position player, the entire rotation (replace Haren with a healthy Detwiler), most all of the bullpen. There’s not a lot of holes here, not a lot of wiggle room. So if this is your team in 2014, what IS the real issue behind 2013’s disaster? Because if you don’t address it, then 2014 is going to be the same story.

      • voteforno6 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:33 AM

        - I don’t think Davey has lost the clubhouse. His mistake was giving too much rope to the players, when they maybe hadn’t quite earned that yet.
        – I agree with you on the bench. Tracy and Bernadina had quite a drop off. Rizzo should have done more to upgrade that in the offseason. I do wish that he would’ve kept De Rosa. Even though he didn’t produce much last year, he at least gave them professional at bats.
        – Haren has been a bust, although it was a gamble worth taking, given his track record. I can’t quite blame that one totally on Rizzo.
        – The chemistry of this team is different, but that may have something to do with the team’s performance. De Rosa and Morse would’ve made a difference, probably. However, Rizzo was very adamant that the Morse trade was the right thing to do. Considering what the Nats got back in return, I think he’s probably right.
        – Rizzo’s worst move was putting together the bullpen the way he did. The Soriano signing was fine, but relying on Duke and Henry Rodriguez was asking for trouble. The pitching depth has been okay, as Ohlendorf and Jordan have been decent. They do have some good prospects lower down in the minors, to include Cole (now in double A, they got him back in the Morse trade), Solis, Giolito, and possibly Purke.
        – The team is going to be basically the same next year, unless they trade La Roche and move Zimmerman to first. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this team is still young, and they do have a lot of talent. They just need to learn to deal with the pressure better.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        Interesting comments – and part of the reason I ask is that with the Phillies woes, I have seen a ton more Nationals this year then before (we get MASN in Delaware). I too sort of feel that Soriano does not get the grief he should – calling out Harper in SF and then weakly walking it back is just the worst – of course, we have our own jack-ass closer, so I know this all to well.

        And yes, I would have expected something the next night as to a plunking.

    • voteforno6 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      There’s plenty of blame to go around – Rizzo, Davey, the players. Overall, though, this is still a young team, and a lot of the mistakes they’ve been making are the kinds that young players make.

    • emdash01 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      TL; DR ahead! Some of it’s regression – LaRoche has been much, much worse, Span is underperforming, Zimmerman is having a down year. The other starters are doing about as well as last year, offensively-speaking.

      A large portion also goes to roster management – the non-starters on the team have a line of .199/.238/.309 in 1023 PA, which is just remarkable. For some reason consistent non-performers like Chad Tracy and Roger Bernadina weren’t dumped for the nearest warm body after at most a month or two. DL use has also been poor, with players left on the roster too long in hopes that injuries will calm down, or rushed back before they’re done rehabbing. Espinosa is a particularly bizarre case of this, as he played through a torn rotator cuff *and* a broken hand, and seemed insistent on not taking time off to heal even after being sent to the minors.

      In addition to the offense – the team was built to be pitching and defense-oriented, and aside from the top 3 starters, that hasn’t been working terribly well. Outfield defense is mostly fine, but the infield defense has been a problem. Zimmerman, obviously, but Rendon just isn’t a second baseman and it shows, and LaRoche’s range is down too. Pitching-wise, Haren’s obviously a disaster, the fifth starter position was been unsettled since Detwiler first went on the DL in May, and the entire non-Clippard-and-Soriano bullpen has been pretty poor.

      Davey’s been a factor in a number of losses this year – he’s mismanaged the bullpen (kept running Storen out in high-leverage situations when his ERA steadily climbed toward 6 until a few days before his demotion), and the starters (let spot-starter Ohlendorf throw 114 pitches even as his velocity dropped 10 MPH over the course of the evening), and made poor strategic calls. But he’s obviously not the biggest factor.

      So, uh. “The everything,” is the short version.

    • trollingforjustice - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      bullpen

    • natstowngreg - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Serious non-trolled reply — no one. I’m not trying to dodge the question, just suggesting that this season’s failure has been a collective effort. This team has regressed in every aspect of the game one could name. Part of that, as a friend pointed out with 20-20 hindsight, is based on the Nats overachieving last season.

      Davey will get more than his share of the blame because he’s the manager, and that’s what happens to managers. And, because he set an unreasonable expectation for the team. And, because he was on his way out anyway, so it’s too easy to dump on him. That said, some more timely hits and defensive plays, and a better effort from the bullpen, and you might not be asking the question.

      And yes, the Braves, despite their own issues, have played well. Let’s give them due credit.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 9, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        I would agree

      • RBIs Win Games - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        Pitching – Detwiler also left on active roster too long after his first DL stint it was pretty clear he was not effective/not healed. (He was fine in April.) Lack of depth in the upper minors was pointed out as early as spring training, but with the “strength” of the ML roster it was not felt to be a problem. Lot of “small” things went wrong that had big impact, example, Mattheus smashing his hand, disarranged the bullpen for quite a while. Stammen got overused. Storen was unreliable–for whatever reason. Every pitcher melts down, but Stras did more than he should have. JZimm is tired, or worn down, or dead arm or something or not a good warm-weather pitcher. A bulldog, but has not been dominant recently.

        Haren is pitching well now, but he (I assume) drastically underestimated what it would take to get into game shape (or he had a lingering injury, but Rizzo did check that out thoroughly.)

        Defense – in addition to errors, RZ’s range is limited, so is LaRoche’s compared to last year, and as mentioned, Rendon is not a second baseman, yet. Outfield – when Harper and Werth were out, infielders (Moore, Lombo) played LF–limited range, poor arms.

        The minor-leaguers who were brought up didn’t cut (Perez, Brown, Kobernus). Again, lack of depth for position players. In general, Nats system is much better at drafting/developing pitchers. Rizzo collects pitchers, lots of pitchers and that’s useful (e.g., Gio trade) BUT short-term needed ML-ready or near-ready position players in the upper minors and they weren’t there. and not easy to trade for them in May, June, early July.

        Bench – basically same bench as last season. Didn’t perform to a net loss of 6-7 WAR (wins).

        Offense – discussed ad nauseum. Span bad against lefties and bad in away games.

        Davey – many questionable moves. Manager, even if “poor” should only cost a team 1-2 games over a season. Davey– maybe 5 games.

        Target – on their backs. Lot of mediocre opposing pitchers (e.g., in Baltimore, Garcia who was DFA a couple weeks later) put up their best games vs the Nats. Very different than last year where there were actually all 5 teams in the NL East race (theoretically) until June when the Marlins collapsed and the Mets became the Mets. Nats able to win a lot of games before anyone realized they were anything more than a .500 team.

        Injuries– Let Harper play injured for far too long. Injuries, yes, but not more than other teams, not more than last year, and the team is basically healthy since July 4, yet still has not put together any kind of winning streak. Should have taken a bunch of games against flailing teams (Milwaukee, Marlins, Phillies) and didn’t.

      • RBIs Win Games - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        There was only one ML-ready or near-ready position player in the upper minors. That was Rendon, and he had to learn 2B on the fly. Ramos injury also hurt a lot, as Kurt Suzuki (who was very helpful last year) turned back into Kurt Suzuki, and the minor-leaguer who came up (Solano) is a .210 type hitter. Again, lack of depth.

      • RBIs Win Games - Aug 9, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        Finally, Rizzo.

        Nats were very lucky last year in that every member of the rotation made every start until Stras was shutdown in Sept, and Lannan, who was stashed in the minors, made good starts. Nats were able to basically cut loose of Chien-Ming Wang (in bullpen, couple of Sept starts) because of this. Bullpen was immensely successful.

        Rizzo underestimated impact of injuries/underperformance of the rotation. Although it’s VERY hard to stash a major-league pitcher in the minors, maybe he should have tried harder.

        As discussed above, not enough depth in the upper minors for position players. Considering the devastated farm system from Montreal, he’s done a good job, but he definitely focused on pitchers. I figure it takes ten years to build up a farm system good enough to support a playoff team, and he’s only had about 4-5.

        Difficult to judge between Davey/Rizzo on Espinosa but in the end he only played 40-something games. That was a fair chance for him to improve offensively given that he is a Gold-Glove calibre 2B AND SS. But with offense below par, couldn’t afford to carry him.

  3. misterj167 - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    If the Nats do indeed crater after DJ goes, they’ll deserve it after all their talk about how they were going to dominate the East for years to come. Even I had started to believe the hype a little bit, but it’s clear that the Nats are nowhere near as good as they were advertised. I think Boswell’s article in the Post summed it up very well, they just don’t play fundamental baseball.

    I grew up in Brooklyn watching the Mets and when the family moved to Florida in the late seventies the only team we could watch was the Braves, and then only when we got cable. I became a Braves fan watching exciting players like Dale Murphy and Bob Horner, and I continue to be a Braves fan because they are a class organization who believes in consistency and doesn’t panic. A lot of fun is made about them “Choking” but playing competitive baseball year after year is a very difficult thing, as the Phillies learned this year.

    • misterj167 - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      By the way, I at least expected a tough fight between the Braves and Nats, I had no idea they’d be six games under .500 at this point in the season. Never mind the lead, that’s the really awful part.

      • bravojawja - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        I thought the division was the Nats’ to lose, with the Braves settling for a wild card spot (again). I sure didn’t expect the Braves to dominate like they have, nor for the Nats to crater like they have.

        Still, there’s more than a bit of schadenfreude here, what with all the Natitude coming from up north. Plenty of people, not just Nationals fans, joke about the Braves’ 14 straight division titles, but I haven’t seen another streak like it in the modern era. Not the Nats. Not the Phillies. Not the Yankees.

    • voteforno6 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      I’m not sure class is the word that I would use to describe anything from Atlanta.

      • bravojawja - Aug 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        Yet you’re voting for Bobby Cox?

    • bigmeechy74 - Aug 9, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Exciting players like Dale Murphy and Bob Horner? “Exciting” isn’t really the first word that comes to mnd when describing those guys. Also, those Braves teams in the 80’s were horrendous. Are you sure you had TBS in the 80’s?

      • danaking - Aug 9, 2013 at 3:19 PM

        I lived in Atlanta in 1982 when they won their first 13 and the division. That wasn’t a great team, but it sure was fun to watch.

      • misterj167 - Aug 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        They weren’t a great team but they were fun to watch, as danaking said. And Murph was one of the most exciting players in the game, and for about five years the best center fielder in baseball.

        Also we had great announcers too, Skip and Pete and Ernie. Now we have FOXBots and the lesser Caray spawn. I’d rather listen to Don Sutton on the radio…

      • bigmeechy74 - Aug 10, 2013 at 12:18 AM

        Yeah I know Murphy was great. But I still wouldn’t really consider him exciting. And I definitely wouldn’t consider Bob Horner exciting. That would be like saying adam dunn, billy butler, and Matt Stairs are exciting. When I think exciting I think Rickey Henderson, Eric Davis, Kirby Puckett, Mike Trout… But Murphy was a great player. I’m not saying he wasn’t. And I rooted for the Braves in the early 90’s. I really liked those teams.

  4. greymares - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Had their 15min now get back in the cellar where they belong !!!

  5. Francisco (FC) - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    : I have this strong feeling that the next two months of the season will be filled with Nationals sources talking about new managers and a change in direction and philosophy, the likes of which there is plenty in Comak’s story

    On the other hand this discussion was going to happen anyway, it’s just they expected to do so after a World Series parade. Now that the Nats are going nowhere in October it’s natural to want to move on to next year, I know I do.

    • voteforno6 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      Indeed. It was made very clear going into the season that Davey probably wouldn’t be back as manager.

  6. jeffchadwick - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Hasn’t Davey said this is his last year anyway? It’s pretty easy to speculate about a successor when succession is imminent.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:04 AM

      Davey didn’t say that at all – it was said for him. He wanted to come back for 2014, but the front office pre-empted that before the season started and said this was his last year.

      After having Jim Riggeleman as an interim manager for 2 1/2 years, they have had Davey effectively in the same spot for 1 1/2 of his 2 1/2 years

  7. babyfarkmcgeezax - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    I wonder where Natslady is, I haven’t seen her in a while. All I ever think about is what Natslady’s take is on the issues of the day. Does anyone know if she does autographs?

    • natslady - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      Season isn’t over. That’s my take. Going to the game tonight.

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:08 AM

        The Nats need to change things up a little – I think they should sign a knuckleballer. The Sawks have this kid named Steven Wright and he really makes that thing dance.

        Don’t you think Mike Rizzo sowed the seeds of this season’s disaster by setting that innings limit for Stephen Strasburg?

        This message brought to you via my trolly vessel but really from Burgie. ;)

      • chew1985 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:12 AM

        This is the 40th anniversary of Yogi Berra’s “it ain’t over till it’s over” statement when the Mets were playing like dirt in August and the press went after them and Yogi. They went on to win the division and became NL champs.

        Maybe the Nats should have Yogi come down and throw out the first pitch. It couldn’t hurt.

      • someguyinva - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        @chew1985 – Yeah, but that Mets team only had to win 82 games to win the division. That’s not gonna get it done this year.

  8. chill1184 - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Managers get wayyyyy too much blame/praise when stuff goes right or wrong.

  9. gpatrick15 - Aug 9, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    I have no sympathy for them. After basically telling the baseball world “Hey, we can compete for and win a World Series title whenever we feel like it!” I’m glad that they see it’s much harder than that. Not saying shutting Strasburg down was the wrong or right move (I personally would have played him, but I’m not a baseball manager nor a doctor), but the way they carried themselves and the overall arrogance of the team and some (but not nearly all) of their fans regarding the situation is what left a bad taste with me.

  10. joejaws75 - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    Ha ha ha the nats blow

  11. sumerduckman - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Enough blame to go around, and it starts at the top. Lets see if Mike Rizzo is man enough to publicly take some. I doubt it.

  12. madhatternalice - Aug 9, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    I really don’t understand how the title relates to the article? Davey’s leaving at the end of the season; that wasn’t in question. So, “team sources” discussing a new manager is somehow putting the blame at Davey’s feet?

    It may be Craig forecasting, but there’s nothing in the article to suggest anything in the title.

  13. Old Gator - Aug 9, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    I blame this season’s disaster on Rizzo’s shutting down Strasburg early last season. I also blame the 2011 disaster on the fact that Rizzo was going to shut down Strasburg early last season. I believe that the civil war in Syria is also a function of Strasburg’s early shut-down, and what’s more, if there’s an asteroid with our name on it out there it should be named Strasburg 227N4 because when it hits us, it will be because Rizzo shut down Strasburg too early last season too.

    • nolanwiffle - Aug 9, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      “If the game is lost then we’re all the same
      No one left to place or take the blame”

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