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We’re all in this together

The curtain will go up on Nationals Park for the home slate Thursday afternoon. One week since Rizzo and Johnson met behind the batting cage, they return home with a 4-2 record. In 2011, the most the Nationals got was two games over.

Most believe this season will be different. From the caliber of team on the field to the cocksure nature with which the man in the dugout goes about his job. Right now, it’s working as they planned through daily or near-daily phone calls this winter, aside from a few injuries to key players.

Things can change. When asked for outside perspective on the relationship between Johnson and Rizzo, one official quipped, “Check back around the All-Star break.” Johnson had good relationships with his previous owners and general managers in New York and Cincinnati and Baltimore and Los Angeles. Until he didn’t. And the Nationals took that into consideration during the hiring process.

Johnson says his mindset toward the job hasn’t changed, but it’d be wrong to think that he hasn’t. A confluence of improved health and tragic events helped get him here. After he realized Cardozo wasn’t joking when she called following Riggleman’s resignation, Johnson offered Rizzo two or three other suggestions for the job. Then he discussed it with his wife, Susan. In May, they’d lost Susan’s son, Jake, at age 34, the second child Johnson buried after his daughter, Andrea, died in 2005 at age 32.

“You need another challenge,” Susan told him. Two days later he was waiting at the airport in Chicago, greeting every player, coach and official as they walked onto the Nationals’ plane. The message then was the same as it is now: It’ll be OK, we’re all in this together.

“There’ll be tough times, and there’ll be good times,” Johnson said. “It’s how you handle those things as you go. But I feel very positive about this organization, about Mike and what he’s created. I’m just playing my part in it.”

“He only took the job because I’m the GM,” Rizzo said. “Tomorrow, if we were to say ‘You don’t have the job,’ he walks away with a smile on his face. … We’re very comfortable. There’s a good, secure feeling. It’s all ‘We’ and ‘Us,’ and I think that’s him and I.”