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Johnson wins Manager of the Year

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Johnson wins Manager of the Year

The awards just keep rolling in for the Nationals. A day after Bryce Harper was named N.L. Rookie of the Year, Davey Johnson has been honored as the league’s best manager.


Johnson managed the Nationals to 98 wins and a N.L. East division title in his first full season with the team in 2012. They improved their record by 18 victories from the season before and jumped from third in the N.L. East to first.

This is Johnson’s second time winning a league manager of the year award, he took the honor in the American League with the Orioles in 1997. He is just the fifth manager in MLB history to win the award in both leagues and the first in Nationals history to win one at all.



After winning the award in 1997, Johnson left the Orioles because of a rift with the owner. On Tuesday after learning he had won the award once again, he joked about avoiding the same fate.



“If we didn’t win the division I thought I was going to get fired, and if I won this award I thought I was going to get fired,” he said. “Hopefully I can live through getting this award and manage the Nationals in 2013.”

Johnson originally joined the organization in June of 2006 as a consultant. He took over the Nats on June 17, 2011 after two managers resigned midseason, moving to the dugout from an advisor role. The Nationals finished 40-43 under Johnson in 2011 with an 80-81 record overall.

After watching the team closely for several years, and managing them for half a season, Johnson knew he had a talented roster heading into 2012.

“I was at spring training the one year before and I really had two spring trainings to get to know the whole organization. That was really critical for me,” he said.

“I really had a lot of confidence after my second spring training with the front office, with the ownership, with everybody. And my evaluation of talent after 2011, I think it was pretty correct.”

Johnson and the Nationals collectively reached another level this season, reaching the playoffs for the first time since the club moved to Washington. It was the first playoff appearance for the franchise since 1981 and just the second in the organization’s history. 



“Guys really didn’t overachieve, they just played up to their potential. There’s still a higher ceiling there for a lot of the players. It was a fun year for me and with another year of experience it is going to set us up to be even stronger and better.”

A World Series winner as both a player and a manager, the Nationals are the fifth team Johnson has coached. He began with the New York Mets in 1984 before stints with the Reds, Orioles, and Dodgers. In 16 seasons as an MLB manager Johnson holds a 595-417 record overall (.588 winning percentage).

In 2012 Johnson had to manage through injuries to many key players. He lost Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, and Drew Storen all for significant amounts of time. Throw in a potential distraction involving Stephen Strasburg, a national story about him being shut down that lasted for months, and 2012 was not without adversity.



Johnson pointed to his veterans and organizational depth as two important factors in the team surviving as well as they did.

“The improved bench and the young guys stepping up, those were the keys,” he said.

“That’s a tribute to the organization that they could do that. The pitching held us in there so that we had a chance to beat anybody. Those guys had to contribute, they had to do things. And my bench was outstanding, my bench won a lot of ballgames.”

Johnson beat out Dusty Baker of the Reds and Bruce Bochy of the Giants for the award. Johnson received 23 first place votes and a total of 131 points in the Baseball Writers' Association of America's voting system.

Johnson becomes the third manager in franchise history to win manager of the year after Felipe Alou in 1994 and Buck Rodgers in 1987.

Before the 2012 season Johnson had all but guaranteed the Nationals would be a good team, telling CSNwashington that he could be fired if the team didn’t make the playoffs. When asked for a similar proclamation, the Nats skipper cited his plan to retire after 2013 as having nothing to lose.

“World Series or bust, it’s going to be my last year anyways,” he said.

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Nats weight home field advantage against staying healthy as playoffs near

Nats weight home field advantage against staying healthy as playoffs near

Though they’re still fighting for home field advantage in next week’s division series, the Nationals understand they’re in a strange part of their season.  

Sure, playoff seeding is plenty important. These last regular season games count, et cetera et cetera. But Washington already clinched the NL East title, and already knows its playoff opponent is going to be the Los Angeles Dodgers. So it’s not a surprise that players are willing to admit how difficult it can be to keep their foot on the gas pedal these days.

“Once you win the division, there’s that exhale, that sigh of relief,” said Jayson Werth after Friday night’s 7-4 loss to the Miami Marlins.”..You kind of let off the throttle a little bit.”

And when a team takes that approach, health becomes the top priority. It’s a mindset that was on full display Friday night when Werth was removed from the game in the seventh inning as a precaution due to back and side tightness.

 “We can't afford to lose anybody else,” manager Dusty Baker said. “So we decided that, it was wet, on the chilly side, and I decided I couldn't take a chance on him being injured too.”

Werth said that team trainers ruled out a strain or a pull, and that he’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday afternoon.  

Still, any injury the Nats suffer this time of the year feels magnified, especially given the last week: Bryce Harper jammed his left thumb, Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and Daniel Murphy was shut down until the playoffs with a glute strain. Not to mention that Stephen Strasburg will likely miss the club’s entire October run.

“The biggest thing is right now is to get everybody healthy for the postseason,” Stephen Drew said. “I think that's key. We got some guys out and hopefully we'll be ready for the playoffs.”

So while every team says it’d like to head into the postseason firing on all cylinders, the Nats’ case shows that it’s not always realistic. Bottling up momentum and carrying into the biggest games of the year is the ideal, of course. But sometimes heading into the tournament with all your horses in tact works too — seeding be damned.

“Obviously home field advantage is important to us, and we want that,” Werth said. “But at the same time, we also feel like we’ve done our job a little bit. So there’s a balance there.....you don’t want to do something where you can put yourself in jeopardy, where you can really get hurt.”

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Cole struggles early, bullpen cracks late as Nats fall to Marlins

Cole struggles early, bullpen cracks late as Nats fall to Marlins

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 7-4 loss over the Miami Marlins on Friday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: If the Nationals want to sew up home field advantage in their first playoff series, they still have more work to do — and only have two more games to do it.

The Nats were unable to help their cause Friday night, falling to the Marlins 7-4 in a rain-soaked affair that began nearly two hours after its scheduled start time.  

While the offense couldn’t come through late, it was starter A.J. Cole that put the Nats in a bind in this one. The 24-year-old rookie right hander forcing Dusty Baker to go to his bullpen early after yielding four runs (two earned) on six hits in just three innings of work.

But all it took was one inning for the Nats to even things up. Anthony Rendon and Stephen Drew opened the fourth with back-to-back solo home runs, and RBI hits by Jose Lobaton and Trea Turner make it 4-4 heading into the fifth.

The bullpen subsequently cracked, however, yielding a runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to give the Marlins a 7-4 edge. The offense couldn’t mount a late rally, and that was all she wrote.

What it means: The magic number for home field advantage in the NLDS remains at two. As of this post, the Dodgers have yet to complete their game against the Giants, so there’s still a chance it could fall to one by Saturday morning.

Rendon reaches homer milestone: With his fourth-inning solo shot, Rendon became the latest Nats hitter join the 20 home run club. In fact, the Nats tied the 1965 and 2003 Braves as the only National League clubs with six players with 20-plus long balls in a season. (Interestingly enough, the Cardinals mathed that feat the Nats later in night after a Matt Holliday home run.)

But back to Rendon: For all the talk that the Nats offense sans Wilson Ramos will suffer, remember that Rendon has been one of the team’s best hitters since the All-Star break. Since then, he’s notched 11 homers, 20 doubles and 51 RBI. In other words, he’s fully returned to his ‘Tony Two-Bags’ form of 2014.

More accolades for Turner: D.C.’s favorite rookie had another one of his patented performances Friday night, going 2-for-3 with an RBI single, a triple and two stolen bases. He became the fourth player in MLB history to notch 10 home runs and 30 steals in less than 100 games, joining Rickey Henderson, Bobby Bonds and current Nats first base coach Davey Lopes. Since the break, he leads the team in both extra-base hits and steals. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Harper struggles: In his first game back since injuring his left thumb, Bryce Harper looked looked very much like a hitter trying to regain his timing at the plate. In four at-bats, he struck out four times — three of them swinging. It’s just one game, of course, but he and the Nats are quickly running out of time to rev up for October.

Up next: The Nats will continue their quest to gain home field advantage in the middle game of this three-game set. Washington will send Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86 ERA) to the hill to oppose Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 5.02 ERA).