PITTSBURGH — After a frustrating loss Friday night to cap a frustrating few weeks of baseball, Davey Johnson did one thing he hadn't done in a while, and then something else he hadn't done in a really long time: He held a team meeting, and he took a round of batting practice.
"I wasn't too keen on last night," Johnson said, referencing the Nationals' 3-1 loss to the Pirates, their 13th loss in 21 games. "It was probably more for me, so I feel like I'm doing something."
The meeting, held before the Nationals took the field at PNC Park for batting practice, didn't feature any tirades from Johnson but rather a reaffirming of his belief in his players.
"It was more to let them know where I'm coming from, and for them to be aware that I understand what they're dealing with," he said. "It wasn't where I was chastising anybody, because I know the makeup and I know the effort we're getting. If anything, it might be we're putting more pressure on ourselves than we should."
The Nationals enter today's game with a 15-15 record, ranking second-to-last in the NL in batting average and on-base percentage, and Johnson admits he can do a better job managing this roster than he has.
"When I don't have everything functioning the way I want it to function, the way I think it should function, I take responsibility," he said. "I just wanted them to be aware that even though I'm kind of quiet and kind of patient, I was looking in the mirror and I'm going to try and make sure I'm not leaving any stone unturned as far as the pulse of this ballclub."
Johnson isn't a fan of team meetings in general and held only two last season: One on May 10 in Pittsburgh, one in Miami on Aug. 29 (though the latter was actually a fake meeting, with Johnson telling his players he only wanted media members to think he was speaking to them a five-game losing streak).
That first meeting bore a striking resemblance to this one, though. Each came before the Nationals' 31st game of the season, in Pittsburgh, with Stephen Strasburg starting that day.
Johnson, though, insists he didn't realize any of that when he gathered his players this time.
"I had no idea," he said. "I mean, that never entered into my mind. ... Maybe after 30 games, it's somewhere deep down in my subconscious: I gotta have a meeting."
Even rarer than a Johnson-led meeting is a Johnson round of batting practice. But he took 40 swings in the cage this morning, more than he claims he's done in 30 years. The 70-year-old said his legs gave out after a while. He also wound up with a blister on his left hand (he wasn't wearing batting gloves).
"I wanted to see if it was still that hard to hit a baseball," he said.