It’s not manager Davey Johnson’s style to hold team meetings.
“I don’t believe in having pep rallies and whatever,” he said flatly Thursday afternoon.
Johnson’s team meetings come in a different way. They happen quietly and without much fanfare. They’re individual, as he makes his way to each player, whether on the field during batting practice or inside the clubhouse, and he offers them his message.
“I talked to a few of the boys,” Johnson said. “Told them that it’s too early in October to be thinking about going home and starting your winter.”
The Nationals face a must-win Game 4 in the National League Division Series. One loss and their 98-win season will be lost as nothing more than regular-season success that wasn’t sustained in the postseason.
But there was no panic in the Nationals on Thursday. Multiple players said the day felt like any other. They were loose, joking around and laughing during batting practice, and lacking doubt that they’d be back here on Friday to play again. If they can get there, they knew, they’d have their ace on the mound for Game 5.
“Well, I think you have to have a mentality, you never take anything for granted,” Johnson said. “(With the New York Mets) in ‘86, two runs down, two strikes, two outs, bottom, we come back and score three runs. You can’t take it for granted at any time, whether you’re up or down or whatever, that it’s over.
“That room over there, the guys I’ve got, they have that mind‑set. You take nothing for granted. We don’t feel like we are out of this by a long shot, believe me.”
– Johnson ran out the same lineup he has for every game of this series, and what was generally his everyday lineup for much of the season. And during his pre-game managers session he had some interesting thoughts on what transpired Wednesday night in the New York Yankees game, when Joe Girardi pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning with Raul Ibanez — and Ibanez not only tied the game then but won it later.
Johnson addressed the delicate nature of pulling star players:
“I’ve had that happen to me managing,” he said. “Last comes to mind, I had Ron Gant and Reggie Sanders really struggling against the Braves’ starting pitching, and Ray Knight even suggested I not hit them third and fourth, but I didn’t like that. They got us there. They were going to have to do it to get us to the final dance and they didn’t do it.
“I still think even a slumping star has the best chance,” he added. “That was obviously a great move in New York.
But I don’t have all the history, maybe Ibañez has hit (Orioles closer Jim Johnson) very well and it was a last‑ditch effort to stay in the game.
“hat’s the toughest decision a manager ever has to face. I’ve never really hit for the middle of my lineup, pinch‑hit for them. There’s times maybe I’ve thought about it but I haven’t pulled that trigger.”