MIAMI — Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo followed manager Davey Johnson out into the visitors’ dugout at Marlins Park on Tuesday afternoon with a smile on his face.
He sat down next to the man he’s gone on record as saying he “loves” on multiple occasions and the two addressed the loud conversation they held immediately after the Nationals’ loss Sunday afternoon, the team’s fourth straight.
Before they began to speak, Johnson threw his left arm around Rizzo’s neck and put him in a headlock. They both laughed.
“It wasn’t our first discussion, and it’s not going to be our last,” Rizzo said. “There’s nobody with a higher respect level for Davey than me. I love the guy. [It was] two passionate baseball guys that give a darn.
“That’s how we do things. We get things in the open. There’s great communication between the two of us and there’s a high level of respect.”
Both Johnson and Rizzo acknowledged that the timing of it was poor and Rizzo admitted to being “a little frustrated” when he entered Johnson’s office to talk, as they do after every game.
“We talk about the goods and the bads of each and every game and this was just that,” Rizzo said. “[I] was probably a little too emotional. We’re both pretty passionate and I was a little frustrated. I could’ve probably tabled it to the next morning or the next day, but I didn’t. We had a little discussion. It lasted two minutes and then we talked [calmly] and left the room 15 minutes later.
“Like I said, it wasn’t the first time we discussed things loudly and it probably won’t be the last.”
Last year, when a conflict arose in the clubhouse that involved former manager Jim Riggleman and a former player, Rizzo debated stepping in and involving himself in the issue. Johnson, then a consultant to him, told him not to. He told him his responsibility was to manage the manager and allow the manager to manage the players. Rizzo took Johnson’s advice then and likely was attempting to do so again on Sunday when their fuses were sparked.
Players were within earshot of the conversation, though several said they couldn’t make out what was being said, but most brushed it off as nothing more than a heated moment between the two men.
The crux of their public statements on Tuesday addressed exactly that. They reiterated that what went on was a product of the type of solid relationship they have. And it can get fiery at times.
“[The conversation] was normal business as usual,” Johnson said as the two brushed off any speculation that it signified a rift between them or panic in the organization after a few losses.
“I admire Mike because he can get it right out. I kind of keep it in. But he gets it out and it’s over with. I wish I could do that. … Vent and it’s over. But his points were well taken.”