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Maddon, Johnson ignite war of words

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Maddon, Johnson ignite war of words

The Great Pine Tar Incident of 2012 is over as far as Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon are concerned. The war of words between the two big-league managers, on the other hand, is just heating up.

One day after Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected before throwing a pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning for having an excessive amount of pine tar in his glove, the attention shifted to the two veteran managers, who traded verbal insults via the media and turned this already spicy story even hotter.

Following Tuesday night's game, Maddon directed his anger at Johnson, saying his counterpart's decision to have umpires check Peralta's glove based on information he got from the pitcher's ex-teammates with the Nationals was "real cowardly" and "kind of a wuss move."

Asked for his response on Wednesday, Johnson started off in a cordial manner, keeping his focus on the actual incident.

"My only comment to him is: 'Read the rule book,'" Johnson said. "It's simple. I've been involved in every conceivable kind of thing you can think of about players trying to get an edge mentally or physically, and that's part of the game. When somebody goes a little overboard, you call it out. It's that simple."

Except it wasn't nearly that simple, and Johnson didn't stop there. He turned the conversation into a back-and-forth with his fellow manager.

Asked if he might try to talk to Maddon about the whole matter, Johnson said: "No, I didn't know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyway. I understand where he's coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players. Striking out at whoever he thinks is causing your players any grievance. So I understand where he's coming from. But he doesn't know me from a hole in the hill. Or I him, for that matter. But I do know the rule book, and I do try to follow it."

Johnson also took shots at Maddon's presence on Twitter and made a crack about his perceived intellectual superiority. (Maddon received an honorary doctorate from Lafayette University in 2010, decades after he dropped out of school to pursue his baseball career.)

"I looked him up on the internet and found out he has a tweeter, so he can get to more people than me," Johnson said. "And so I don't want to get in a shouting match with him. He's got a bigger following. But it was interesting reading. You can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine's from Loyola, in humanities, and I'm proud of that, too."

Told that Johnson mentioned his "tweeter," Maddon paused and then shot back.

"Um, most men have tweeters," he said. "And I would never use my tweeter for an advantage."

Maddon's biggest beef appears not to be the fact Peralta was caught and ejected but that the whole thing happened only because someone in the Nationals clubhouse who was teammates with the right-hander in 2010 tipped off Johnson about his pine tar use, and that Johnson then used that background information in the game.

Maddon felt that was a major violation of baseball etiquette and suggested the rest of the sport would take notice and develop a negative opinion of the Nationals organization because of it.

"This is one of their former children here that had really performed well, and all the sudden ... he's going to come back to this town and they're going to rat on him based on some insider information, insider trading, whatever," Maddon said. "So if I'm a major-league player, in the very near future to want to come to play for the Nationals, I'd have to think twice about it."

Major League Baseball rules mandate that any pitcher found with a foreign substance is subject to a mandatory suspension, but the league hasn't ruled yet on this case, so Peralta remains active and available to pitch tonight.

Maddon added he wouldn't hesitate to use Peralta in this game if the right situation arose.

Despite the back and forth between managers, it's not all bad blood between the two sides. Maddon spent several minutes during batting practice chatting with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, a conversation that ended with smiles and a pat on the back.

Maddon was Rizzo's manager when the latter played in the Angels' farm system three decades ago.

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X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

The Nationals got a dose of good news on a night All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos went down with a potentially serious knee injury, as Bryce Harper's X-ray came back negative, meaning there are no broken bones in his left thumb.

Harper, 23, suffered the injury sliding into third base on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. He had the X-ray on Monday morning and the team is of course pleased to hear the results.

"He could be back within a couple days, a few days. That’s big right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "The swelling’s down, so I think his strength is up, I heard. It’s very positive. We still got time for him to get well.”

Getting Harper back soon would be huge for a Nationals team that just saw Ramos go down and recently saw Daniel Murphy injure his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg strain his right flexor mass.

Murphy's injury is also not expected to be serious. Baker even said on Monday that it's "very likely" he will be ready to go for the playoffs. But that's four of the Nats' five All-Stars now injured to varying degrees with just six games left in the regular season.

At least with Harper, they may have dodged a bullet.

[RELATED: Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope injury isn't serious]

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Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

The Nationals know this feeling all too well, the anxious wait for test results to determine the severity of an injury to a star player. The latest, with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, includes an MRI set for Tuesday morning.

Ramos suffered a right knee injury on Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the sixth inning, the same knee in which he tore his ACL and MCL back in May of 2012. Ironically, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was also there for that one, in Cincinnati as the skipper of the Reds.

The Nats will hope and pray that this time it's not as serious.

"He doesn’t look too good tonight," Baker said. "You could tell he was in pain. We have to wait till tomorrow to come up with something definitive.”

Ramos buckled to the ground and pointed to his knee after a relay throw to home by Ryan Zimmerman sailed high over Ramos' head and required him to jump to catch it. The Nationals were playing on a wet field following a 20-minute rain delay and they believe the injury could be related.

“That probably had something to do with it. Yeah. Last time he hurt his leg it wasn’t an impact play either," Baker said. "We just got to pray for Wilson and hopefully he’s OK.”

The Nationals have already seen Stephen Strasburg go down with a right flexor mass strain, an injury that has put his postseason availability in question. Bryce Harper is currently out with a jammed left thumb. And Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup for seven straight games with a strained left buttock.

Harper received good news on Monday that his X-ray was negative, but that's four of the team's five 2016 All-Stars who are banged up with just six games and 10 days left to go until the playoffs begin.

That's an unusual string of bad luck at a bad time to have it.

"My dad told me, ‘Don’t say what else can go wrong because something else can go wrong.’ I’m thinking what else can go right? I don’t think like that. I don’t allow myself to think like that," Baker said. 

"Those thoughts come into everybody’s head, but you’ve got to dispel them and try to figure out a way to get out of this mess. Bryce’s X-rays came out negative, so that’s a positive note in itself. It just seems like down this stretch you lose a guy, gain a guy. Like Stephen Drew. I’m glad we got Stephen Drew back. And who knows? Somebody else might step up and be the hero, the least likely of people. That’s how I think.”

Ramos earned his All-Star nod with a breakout season at the plate. He's batting .307 with 22 homers, 80 RBI and an .850 OPS. He has the lowest catcher's ERA in baseball and has emerged as one of the best backstops in the game, right before he's set to hit free agency this winter for the first time in his career.

Losing Ramos would be devastating for the Nationals at this point in the year.

"He’s a leader of this team. It’s a tough break, really is," Drew said. "It didn’t look too good. My thoughts and all these guys on this team hope for the best for him and we’ll be thinking about him.”

Everyone in the Nationals' clubhouse is pulling for Ramos, but Baker knows the Nats will have to keep going if his injury is serious. Backup catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino will have to step up in his absence, however long it is.

"I feel badly because you know how we all feel about Wilson, but it’s part of the game," Baker said. "You hate (for) it to happen this late, right before the playoffs, but our next step is try to figure out a way to play without Wilson. I’ve been mixing and matching this year and most of my life. Therefore it’s another obstacle and I just got to try to go back to the drawing board and figure out something."

[RELATED: Nationals on playing the Dodgers in NL Division Series round]

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