March 14, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) during batting practice before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Nats' skipper Davey Johnson hasn't changed his opinion of the Washington Nationals' chances of competing for the relocated franchise's first postseason berth. The 69-year-old skipper told reporters last winter that he decided to return to the bench for a full season in the nation's capital in the, "... last two or three weeks," of the 2011 campaign, "When I had kind of more the mixture of talent I wanted on the ballclub and seeing how they all worked together. That was when I really felt, 'Man, there's so much more we can do here and I need to be here to help see it along."
Johnson made headlines when he stated several times this winter that the goal for the Nats this year was, "A pennant. Winning the pennant. Winning the division. Winning the National League," and admitted, "I couldn't have said that last Spring."
What Johnson has seen this Spring has only made him more confident. And it's not bluster, or an attempt to motivate his team psychologically the manager explained...
"One thing about when you manage and you handle players," Johnson explained, "You need to know what they're thinking too and I know what they're thinking. And they're probably thinking [they're] better than what I'm thinking. But one thing about managing, you need to be right all the time. And so I don't try to blow smoke around, I call it like I see it. I try to be honest, I try to be forthright. I try to be very candid. When I deal with the writers and press I can always know what I'm feeling and what I believe is the truth. I never get caught in a fabrication and everything about my baseball experience and what I'm seeing and what I'm feeling, I would be remiss if I didn't say that that's what our goal should be and it is attainable and it's going to be fun trying to get to the top of the hill."
The Nats' skipper believes this team can compete with the best teams in the National League and not only compete but win. "No question. I felt that way last August," Johnson explained, "and with some of the new additions, I'm more confident. No question." The talent on the Nats' roster is obvious the veteran of 13 MLB seasons as a player and 16 as a manager told reporters today. "As a baseball person it takes you about five minutes to see the talent. You always see talent and you rate it and the talent [on the Nats] is above average. And then you mix in make-up. And the make-up on this ballclub is off the chart, and performance is a direct function of make-up combined with ability."
"The potential of this ballclub," Johnson explained, "and it's still getting its feet solid on the ground, but I liked what I saw in the Spring. I thought everybody was focused, I thought people weren't trying to do too much. I liked the very professional progress getting ready for the season. There were a few little bumps in the road, a few little detours, some players came up with some new thoughts, but by and large, everybody was pretty focused on who they were. They knew who they were, didn't try to be somebody else and my thought process is if everybody just takes care on no.1, and doesn't try to do too much, just does what you're capable of doing and be as good as you can be, this is a very good ballclub. And I see us on that path. You can go man-for-man against any ballclub in our division and I like the way we stack up. Some other clubs have 'done it', but we're certainly capable of doing it. And as a manager it's my job to make sure it's not too bumpy a road and that the ground is real fertile for them to grow. And I plan on doing that."
The team that starts the 2012 season, Johnson said, is even more of his kind of team now. "From the bench to the bullpen, to the starting pitchers, I see a lot of home runs," Johnson said, using the words a reporter provided to describe players who might have a big season in Washington in 2012, "I like the ammunition we've got. It's my kind of bench. It fits with the way I want to manage. There's some guys even on the bench that are pushing some guys that are playing and that's very healthy, so I'm doubly excited. I was excited when we finished up, but I'm more excited going into this year than I was finishing up last year."