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Davey Johnson calls John Feinstein “an idiot”

Sep 25, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

Davey Johnson AP

Yesterday we ripped into John Feinstein’s stupid and evidence-free column in which he argued that the Nats missing the playoffs in 2013 was directly attributable to the Nats shutting down Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Someone asked Davey Johnson what he thought of it:

“I say he’s an idiot,” Johnson said. “You do what is best for the day. I live by that rule, and Mike Rizzo lives by that rule …”

He did, however, say that he figured the Nats 2012 chances would have been improved by having Strasburg around:

Then Johnson was asked whether the Nats would have beaten the Cardinals in the NLDS had Strasburg been available. “Probably,” the manager said.

I kinda think that too, as do many others. And it is notable to hear Johnson say it. But it still does nothing to support the idea that the Nats 2013 woes are attributable to it.

  1. skeleteeth - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Nats would have won without Strasburg had they not coughed up 4 runs in the 9th of game 5.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      Yes, and Ross Detwiler pitched well in Strasburg’s place. And Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez didn’t exactly pitch like a Cy Young candidate. But we’re not supposed to let inconvenient facts get in the way of pre-conceived notions, repeated as mantra.

      • paperlions - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        +1

      • NatsLady - Sep 25, 2013 at 2:49 PM

        Rizzo must be counting the minutes!

      • dan1111 - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Everything would have been different if Strasburg had been pitching. Starters would have been in different games, reliever usage would have been different, and basically no one would have been pitching in the same spots. You can’t assume everything would have been exactly the same, except for one start would have been replaced by Strasburg.

        The Nationals lost the series because their pitchers gave up 29 runs in 3 games. Surely it is reasonable to expect that having one of their top starters available would have made a difference.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:50 PM

        The Nationals lost the series because their pitchers gave up 29 runs in 3 games. Surely it is reasonable to expect that having one of their top starters available would have made a difference.

        The Nationals lost the series because they were up 7-5 in the 9th inning of game 5, and Drew Storen couldn’t get the final out of the frame. Instead he gave up 4 runs and the Nats lost. How that is Strasburg’s fault is beyond me.

      • dan1111 - Sep 25, 2013 at 5:38 PM

        @church, no one is blaming Strasburg. He wasn’t the one who decided this.

        Yes, Storen melted down in the final inning, but surely he is not solely at fault. Other pitchers had already given up five runs before he even came in. And they gave up eight runs in game three and twelve runs in game two. If they had pitched better earlier in the series, it probably would never have come down to that final inning.

    • fpstratton - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      Absolutely! The Nationals were much the better team until that fateful 9th inning, and I don’t think Strasburg could have helped them there. Their bullpen failed them. It happens to the best teams.

  2. markcycy - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    What happened to calles???? quick fix

  3. thinkfirstthenspeak - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    It’s great to hear what a manager really thinks when he already knows he isn’t coming back next year.

    • gloccamorra - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      There have been more than a few managers who would tell you exactly what they thought, whether they were coming back or not. They usually managed five or six different teams in their careers, and when let go, it would be said that “he wore out his welcome”.

  4. wsb12 - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Way to site your source. 106.7 The Fan DC The Junkies not “someone”

    • manute - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      In fairness, he did link to the web cite.

      • bigmeechy74 - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        Did he cite the web cite

      • DJ MC - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        So the problem wasn’t citing the site, it was siting the cite?

      • Old Gator - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        Good grief, meechy – I’m a retired English professor and even I don’t think the missing “citation” is worth a shit. Give it a rest.

  5. stoutfiles - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    When you shut down Strasburg and basically tell a team they’re going to win the division title for years to come, you’re asking for the team to get cocky and a bit lazy.

    When your team is getting killed next April and you have quotes from Danny Espinosa about how no one is worried and that they’re still the best, you start to wonder.

    When your team finally plays to its potential after they realize the playoffs probably aren’t happening, it’s pretty much guaranteed that when the attitude changed, the style of play changed.

    You have to come back hungry every year, nothing is going to be handed to you. Players were slumping right away and just assumed it would all work out because it did last year, so well that they could shut down their best pitcher because the team was so good. Had they come back hunry instead of the chosen ones, this season would have been different.

    • lphboston - Sep 25, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      You have it just about 100 percent, stout.
      Fact is, the Nats had zero sense of urgency this season.
      ALR and Ryan Zimmerman are both low-key guys, as is Desmond. Gio is just out for a good time, and Strasburg is finding his way. Harper had to be spitting bullets early when they got off slow and no one seemed concerned.
      So much went wrong with this team that you have to feel that the gods owe them next season. It will help that DJ is gone because he was Espinosa’s enabler.
      There is lots to fix here, but if any team needs a fresh start with a new manager, it’s the Nats.

      • fpstratton - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:29 PM

        I think the Nationals will bounce back strong next year and make the playoffs.

    • nolanwiffle - Sep 25, 2013 at 3:48 PM

      So just like Feinstein, you’ve written your own little narrative of how the Nats season played out. What do you base any of your opinions on? Did you ever set foot in their clubhouse and witness this lack of “hunger”? Did you see them become “lazy” and/or “cocky”? Your sure they viewed themselves as the “chosen ones”?

      This was Jayson Werth’s 11th year in the majors, LaRoche’s 10th year, Zimmerman’s 9th year, Suzuki’s 7th year, Span’s 6th year, Desmond’s 5th year, Ramos’ 4th year, Harper’s 2nd year, and Rendon’s 1st year.

      You’ll note that 7 of 9 of those years of big league service end in “th”, meaning they’re at least 4 year veterans of the major leagues. Let’s dispense with the pop psychology, and give these guys credit for having reached the highest level of they’re profession.

      They’ve won 84 games. They didn’t completely tank. The Braves are pretty good and outperformed them. That’s it.

      Don’t be a Feinstein.

      • stoutfiles - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:03 AM

        Not one person on the team called out Danny for being a cocky asshat. Clearly he was speaking for the team in April when they had zero sense of urgency.

        They didn’t need to be better than the Braves, just better than the Pirates or Reds, but they dug themselves too big of a hole in the first half.

  6. thesteelskirt - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Davey is half right, you do what is best for today but you never assume tomorrow will be there. They got cocky and shut Strasburg down and now those chickens never hatched.

    • paperlions - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      No, they didn’t. Deciding to shut down Strasburg had nothing at all to do with winning last year or this year or any year and everything to do with trying to keep a young pitcher healthy as he recovered from TJ surgery. Even if the Nationals had slim hopes for winning in 2013, they would have shut him down….the only difference is that people wouldn’t have given a shit about it.

      • NatsLady - Sep 25, 2013 at 2:52 PM

        Thank you. Did you see how Stras was pitching toward the end of the season, it was like 50-50, maybe less, whether he would have a decent start. He was exhausted and hurting. And if the Nats beat the Cards, who says they beat the Giants AND the Tigers… give it a rest.

        The Washington football team made the other choice. How’s that working out?

  7. adcwonk - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Strasburg had an ERA of over 6 in his last three starts, ending in early Sept. He was running out of gas. I don’t see how folks are so sure that he would have helped had he kept pitching all of Sept, and then into Oct and the playoffs. He had already pitched more innings, at 23, than he had in any other year.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      It’s amazing how often this comes up. I’m tired of debunking it thoroughly, and I’m a lazy man.

      So. Here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?id=320902120

      He wasn’t slowing down. He crushed the Cardinals in his last full start.

      And. Here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/splits/_/id/30373/year/2012/stephen-strasburg

      His August ERA was better than his July ERA or his June ERA or his May ERA.

      He was fine, and they shut him down.

      • adcwonk - Sep 29, 2013 at 1:27 PM

        His last “full” start? What does that mean?

        The start before that Cards game, he lasted five innings and gave up 9 hits 7 R 5 ER.

        The start after that Cards game he lasted only three innings, 6 H, 3BB, and 5 ER.

        Yeah — it wasn’t a “full start” because he got shelled and was yanked out of the game. Why aren’t we counting that? That’s really silly.

      • 18thstreet - Sep 29, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        Because I was at the great start against the Cardinals. That’s why I overcount it.

        Now explain how he was slowing in September. Please, I want to hear it.

      • adcwonk - Sep 29, 2013 at 8:08 PM

        Two of his last three starts were awful.

  8. voteforno6 - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    It’s amazing how many people are still beating this dead horse. Teams shut down young pitchers all the time, with little to no fanfare. For whatever reason, this one is controversial.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      Because most of the time (a) that pitcher is not the best pitcher on the team and (b) that team is not going to the playoffs. With both of these things being true, it was controversial. No one cares if the Red Sox shut down Allen Webster. And if the White Sox shutdown Chris Sale, the White Sox will still stink.

      Of course it was a big deal. And it will continue to be a big deal, because the Nationals traded their present for their future. If the future doesn’t pan out, it will have been a mistake. So far, the critics are winning.

      • voteforno6 - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Your argument really doesn’t make any sense. You seem to be saying that a development plan for young pitchers should be contingent upon the ability of the player, and the performance of the team. Shouldn’t it only be about what is the best way to develop pitchers? In Strasburg’s case, it’s also about what is the best way to rehabilitate a pitcher coming off a major surgery. All other considerations are irrelevant.

        That’s not the worst thing about your argument, though. By saying that the most important considerations are those irrelevant factors, you’re elevating the short term success of the franchise over the long term prospects of the player. By that reasoning, any player’s well-being, and long term earning potential, can and should be sacrificed to their employer’s benefit. Hey, chew them up and spit them out, as long as you’re entertained.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        Hey, chew them up and spit them out, as long as you’re entertained.
        Well that WAS the philosophy of the Romans in the Colosseum. Got some mileage out of the one:

      • fpstratton - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:32 PM

        The Nationals were not terrible this year. They slipped some from the year before, but this team is a far cry from the old Washington Senators. They are on the right track. Again, look for a big 2014 from them. This team has talent! I agree that a shrewd managerial change could help them go further in the playoffs.

    • joestemme - Sep 25, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      Like I note yesterday – ask Dan Marino about all those “future” Super Bowls he got to. In sports you never know if you will EVER get back to a championship level team. The Nats had as good a shot as any team at the point where they shut down their best pitcher.
      There is absolutely no guarantee that it will ever occur again.

      IF Strasburg had been in pain, OF COURSE, it would have been different. But, they shut him down based on nothing other than a pre-set “plan”. As many others have noted, they could have conserved his innings over the second half of the season if they wanted to take a load off his arm, but, still had him available for the playoffs – even as a Lincecum type former-Starter/clutch-reliever.

  9. misterj167 - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Once again I feel the need to point out that lack of depth and failing to play fundamental baseball were probably the biggest factors in the Nats collapse this year. The baseball gods do not always dislike cockiness, but they demand you play the game well and not rely solely on talent.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Something serious is wrong with the third baseman’s throwing. I don’t think Zimmerman suddenly had bad fundamentals or lacked commitment to his game. And for everything else that went wrong, his throwing really did cost the team a couple of games — perhaps enough to keep the team from the playoffs. Overall, this seemed like an atrocious defensive team.

      The other big problem that I saw was the bullpen. And — as the Orioles showed, as well — you just can’t count on relievers from one year to the next.

      • misterj167 - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Zimmerman had an injury. He used to have one of the best arms in the game.

  10. js20011041 - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    This is more myth-spewing garbage. They didn’t win this year because they didn’t hit, the bullpen, outside of Clippard, was a mess, and so was the backend of the rotation. Why do we continue to add these narratives that can’t possibly be proven one way or another?

    • js20011041 - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      This was supposed to be a reply to stoutfiles.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:13 PM

      I know Nats fans like to blame the bullpen (and it did seem pretty terrible). But when you lose 2-1 again and again and again, it’s easier to blame the reliever who gave the second run than the offense that only provided one to begin with.

      So, even though I pointed the finger at the bullpen (above), I think the anemic offense is the main culprit. They just couldn’t score enough.

  11. anthonyverna - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    JUNIOR!

  12. eagles512 - Sep 25, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    He is right-Feinstein is an idiot.

  13. baseballer28 - Sep 26, 2013 at 2:15 AM

    Mike Rizzo is the idiot.

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