After reiterating much of what he said last night about appreciating being voted the BBWAA's Manager of the Year and it being more about the organization and the players than anything he did, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson got right into the Hot Stove talk with ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro in an interview on The Sports Fix this afternoon. The Nats' skipper wants his first baseman back. "The biggest thing is, hopefully we re-sign Adam LaRoche," the Nationals' 69-year-old manager said. "He was like our MVP over there [at first base]. He was a big guy in our lineup. Big run producer. All of our infielders are gifted infielders, but they turn base hits into outs and if they made a bad throw he caught it. So, he's the no.1 thing, hopefully we can get him back in the fold."
"Other than that," Johnson said, "I'm really proud of the organization and the Lerner family and [GM Mike] Rizzo and company. Because the depth that showed up in the system... I mean, we lost 2-3 catchers it seemed like and the system kept on providing quality replacements and kept us right in there. [Steve] Lombardozzi. Tyler Moore. Calling up [Bryce] Harper. These guys didn't miss a beat. They played like veterans. Outstanding pitching staff... there's not a whole lot, I really like the depth that we have in the system, the one problem we have coming in next year is we're going to be more of a set lineup and I've got guys that are going to be on the bench, Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and [need] to get them more playing time. Sometimes injuries help get your bench in shape and give them a lot of experience, but hopefully we're not going to have those injuries next year."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked some about where Jayson Werth would hit in the lineup in 2013 in an MLB Radio interview last week, saying he could continue to lead off or move down depending on what the Nationals do this winter. Davey Johnson said this afternoon that though it does, of course, depend on any potential moves, he really likes having Werth and Harper at the top of his lineup. "I really like Jayson Werth and [Harper] 1-2," Johnson said, "I mean, they're not only run producers, but they got on base. They were outstanding at getting on base and both of them [are] outstanding base runners. I wouldn't trade those two guys for any [1-2] combination in baseball."
"They did an outstanding job," Johnson continued, "and they set the table for [Ryan Zimmerman], LaRoche, Michael Morse and then my 'hammer', Ian Desmond. The good news about next year is there is a higher ceiling for these guys, these guys have more potential to do more, so there's not a whole lot for me to do over the winter, except I'd like for us to sign [Adam LaRoche]."
Johnson also looked back to the ninth inning of the Nats' NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals one more time, telling ESPN980's Mr. Sheehan and Loverro that he was proud of what the team accomplished, but he thought inexperience cost them down the stretch and in the postseason. "We got, what I call 'inexperience,' because some starting pitchers, when we got to crunch time, weren't as aggressive in the strike zone, exited the game too early, didn't pitch as well as I know they're capable of pitching and of course, the same thing at the end of Game 5 in the division series championship, [Drew] Storen who was outstanding, had been a rock in the bullpen the last three weeks and when [Tyler] Clippard struggled, he was there. And then he had the same thing as some of the starters, he got too fine, tried to make too good of pitches, instead of relying on his stuff and making them put it in play."
Looking back at that top of the ninth inning in Game 5 and the at bat where he let Pete Kozma hit with two on and two out instead of walking the bases loaded, Johnson said he did what he had all season. "I know they've got one guy on the bench," the Nats' manager said, "They're going to have to pinch hit for the pitcher, but I like to give the guy a chance to not have to walk the bases loaded and give in to a hitter."
"And we [did] that all year," Johnson said, growing animated, "I mean, that's the way I played it all year in case nobody's been paying attention. I don't put that guy on intentionally and put a guy in a situation [with] a pinch hitter up there where if he walks him we lose the game. But that's what you do..."
"What if the count had been 2-1 or 3-1 on Kozma?" Mr. Sheehan asked.
"Well first of all, if he'd got behind on him I would have put him on," the Nationals' skipper explained, "But it happened early, so... but I don't spend any time worrying over that. If you think of all the options and you think of the way you've done things all year long to get where you're at, you stay with that. That's what I did."
Johnson did drop one other little bit of information in at the end of the interview, telling the hosts that he asked Tony Tarasco to take over as the Nats' 1B coach in 2013. Tarasco, a veteran of eight MLB seasons who has been serving as a minor league coordinator in the Nats' organization, would take over at 1B according to Johnson with the speculation being that Trent Jewett, who coached 1B in 2012 would become the third base coach, taking over for Bo Porter who left for Houston and his first managerial job in the majors.
• NOTE: The audio of Davey Johnson's interview with ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro hasn't been posted yet, but you can listen at the ESPN980 Audio vault to that interview and all the interviews from the Sports Fix. LINK.