No one said it was going to be easy with a new boss.
With Davey Johnson taking over as the Nationals manager, he starts his tenure by losing his first three games. That is not the way to make an impression with the public.
Already, several Nationals fans pined for the days of Jim Riggleman. It’s funny how the former Nationals manager is appreciated after he quit on the team. The guess is people appreciate folks when they are gone.
It shouldn’t be surprising the Nationals would get off to a rough start with a new manager. That’s what happens when the team hires a guy who is trying to be familiar with his new players. The process takes time.
That’s why Riggleman screwed the Nationals by quitting when everything was going right. He had the team playing so well in all facets of the game. Guys knew their roles, and he knew when to use his guys in a proper situation. It was perfect.
Now with Johnson managing the team, there are going to be different philosophies and players will be utilized differently. Some may adapt and some will have a hard time understanding. It’s going to result to losses during the tough times.
It’s up to the team to somehow win during the transitional period.
In Johnson’s first three games, he left a lot to be desired.
On Monday night, Johnson should have spoken to John Lannan about not throwing to first and worrying about runners on base. He should have encouraged his starter to throw strikes and get out of jams by pitching through it.
On Tuesday, the Nationals manager left Todd Coffey too long in the eighth inning when he had nothing left. This is an example where a manager needs to know what inning his pitchers do well. The situational reliever never pitched more than an inning, so why did he go one more after pitching in the seventh? That’s asking for trouble to get him to pitch one more inning.
Yesterday, Johnson bats Matt Stairs cleanup, and he forgets to have someone pinch-hit for his outfielder when Ryan Zimmerman hits a double in the ninth inning. Why should he put his outfielder in a position to fail? He is not a hitter that is going to get key hits. He was better off letting Wilson Ramos play. Anyone would have been an upgrade over the hitter that hit after the Nationals third baseman got on base.
Stairs predictably grounded out for the second out, which moved Zimmerman to third. Talk about a productive out, but it was the second out of the game. All Angels closer Jordan Walden needed was one more out, and he got it when he struck out Mike Morse to end the game. Why gave a free out to the pitcher?
It’s amazing Johnson has a fetish for Stairs. It was understandable to get him at-bats on Monday, but to play him in this series was insane. Even Riggleman stopped playing his bench player altogether.
This type of blind faith cost the team games. This is buffoonery at its finest.
One wonders if Johnson was paying attention to the team this season. If he actually did, he would know Stairs shouldn’t play three games in a row. That’s where he is ineffective if he played everyday.
This is a manager that seems confused with what’s going on. Watching him in the dugout for all three games, he appeared like he was a manager that was new to his job. He stood there emotionless.
The Johnson I knew never stood back. He was always in the top step. He would bark instructions. He would make things happen. He wouldn’t hesitant to sit guys down. He knew what he was doing.
This week was a different story. Maybe he figures it out in the homestand. He better.
The Nationals play the Pirates, Cubs and the Rockies in this homestand. Those three teams are the type of teams they should be beating, especially the Cubs and the Rockies.
If this team plays anywhere close to what they did this week, this season could spiral out of control, and all the good work would mean nothing.
If this season unraveled, the organization would make Riggleman look good for quitting on the guys. That would also mean Mike Rizzo would have to take criticism for not getting a manager that was right for the team.
It’s hard to believe these three losses are what this team is going to be this season, but baseball is such a mental sport that it could snowball quickly. These guys brought into what Riggleman was doing. There’s no evidence they might do the same with Johnson, especially if he managed like he did in three games.
Johnson shouldn’t take the blame for the team losing three games, but he sure didn’t get them a win in their series against the Angels.
He has to figure out how to get this team out of this mess they are in. After all, Rizzo trust him to do so.
There is no mulligan for transitional period, and Johnson knows it.