Davey Johnson calls ‘fun’ team meeting amid skid

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MIAMI — The day after the Washington Nationals matched their season-worst, five-game losing streak, the words “Team meeting, 4:30” appeared on the top of the clubhouse white board in red ink.

Amid the usual pregame clubhouse scene, there was no angst, no disconsolate faces. Most players shrugged when asked about the meeting, knowing only that it was not player-driven. Many felt it was a good idea — good to get the team together every now and then and get everyone on the same page.

Clubhouse doors were closed promptly at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Seven minutes later they reopened, manager Davey Johnson’s message short but sweet.

“It was a fun meeting,” Johnson said. “I wanted to tell them, ‘I’m very pleased with the effort and the production. You guys win games, and when you lose, it’s harder on the coaches and the manager. We don’t sleep as well. So could we start winning a few games, make it easier on this old guy?’ We all got a good laugh out of everything.”

Johnson is not a huge proponent of team meetings. He holds one on the first day of workouts in spring training and then rarely calls them as the season goes on, choosing to pick his spots. The last team meeting he held came in Pittsburgh on May 10 with the Nationals having lost three in a row and their offense sputtering without several key sluggers.

Washington is 59-39 since that meeting and is hitting .262 (. 031 points higher than the Nationals were at that point) with a .319 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage.

The losing streak entering Wednesday’s finale with the Miami Marlins hasn’t kept Johnson awake the same way the team’s struggles before his previous meeting had, especially with the team 77-51. But the offense has gone dormant, averaging 1.2 runs over their streak, and that partly prompted the reminders he gave Wednesday.

“Sometimes you have ‘Chew-out’ meetings,” Johnson said. “This club didn’t need a chew out meeting. I just wanted to let them know that I was on their side, and I appreciate the effort I’ve been getting. Sometimes it’s nice for them to hear it from me as a group.”

Johnson joked that he was inspired watching the speeches at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, thinking to himself, ‘Maybe I ought to give a speech?’ and also said part of his reasoning was so “that way [the media] will maybe think I’m doing my job.”

Several players said the meeting went well and appreciated its brevity. An underlying point was not to panic. If the team had been told in spring training it would be four games up in the National League East during the last week in August, it would be thrilled. There’s plenty of time left for the Nationals to get where they want to go, and they have plenty of means to do it.

“I think losing streaks just make winning sweeter,” Johnson said, noting even the World Series champion 1927 Yankees went through rough patches — which they did, losing four straight in late August.

“You’re going to have ups and downs. I don’t care who you are. It’s just good to step back. It’s about momentum, and it’s a grind. I’ve said this before: This club has got outstanding makeup and if anything they work too hard. [They don’t] need pushing. If anything, [they] need some time to settle and remember everything’s fine. Just because we’re in a little rough stretch, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to now hit 1,000 balls before the game, that kind of thing.”

Notes: Arizona Fall League rosters were announced Wednesday, with the Nationals sending at least six top minor leaguers to the elite prospect league this year. Infielder and 2011 first-round draft pick Anthony Rendon headlined this year’s class along with fellow 2011 draftee, outfielder Brian Goodwin. They will be joined by right-handed pitchers Paul Demny, Christian Garcia and Ryan Perry, as well as infielder Jason Martinson. The Nationals also had two TBA spots on the roster, one pitcher and one infielder.

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