ANAHEIM, Calif. — There will be plenty up on the main sports page soon about new Nationals manager Davey Johnson — and plenty more in the coming days — but before the Nationals and Angels get set to open a three-game series, let’s talk about Johnson’s managerial style.
Or rather, let’s hear him talk about it.
“Every team you manage is different,” Johnson said. “When I came in (in Baltimore), it was kind of like a used car lot. We didn’t have a whole lot of speed, and we tried to hit home runs all the time. It took me a while to get in the swing of things. Cincinnati was kind of a race horse. So that made that a little different. This ball club here is very intriguing to me, because it has a lot of speed – we’ve done very well stealing bases. Everybody in the lineup can actually go deep.
“There’s getting to know exactly how I play it. I definitely think this club has been an underachiever offensively. I don’t like to give up outs. I’ll bunt when I have to. I’ll hit and run when I feel like it. I think this club hasn’t quite come into it’s own. It doesn’t really know how good an offensive club it can be. It definitely has a chance to be a good one.”
Johnson said he’d like to institute a more set lineup — something that former manager Jim Riggleman rarely could adhere to.
“There’s no doubt about that,” he said when asked if he’d like the lineup to remain more stagnant. “I think players, as well as managers, they like consistency. That goes the same with starting pitchers or relievers. They like to know basically when they’re going to work. If it’s a relief pitcher, he likes to know if he’s coming in in the ninth inning, eighth inning, seventh inning, and that’s all me getting to know the talent and making decisions which are going to be best for the ballclub. That’s what they’re paying me to do, but I definitely would like a more set lineup. We still have some young guys that are still establishing and still learning about themselves. I think they’re doing great and I think they’re only going to get better.”
Johnson shook hands with each player personally when they arrived for the team charter flight from Chicago to Anaheim Sunday night. He also met and had personal conversations with each one something that was “well worth my time and I think worth their time.”
He did, however, hold a brief meeting before batting practice with the team.
“I’m going to actually say to them some of the things I’ve said here,” Johnson said. “I want them to know why I took this job. I want them to know what I feel about the talent on this ballclub. I want them to know that I’m going to give them my e-mail address and my phone number so that if they have a problem off the field you guys won’t be getting all over me and then we’ll go out and have fun and play baseball.”
Johnson then spent the majority of batting practice chatting with players and coaches while keeping a close eye on the hitters from behind the cage. Several players before the game noted that Johnson has a presence about him that commands more respect and most said there was little drama about the entire transition.
“There’s a lot of talent on this ballclub,” Johnson said. “The makeup is off the charts. I had a great plane ride with them coming out from Chicago. I think all of us are kind of excited.”