WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 02: Kurt Suzuki #24 celebrates with Roger Bernadina #2 of the Washington Nationals after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park on September 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
St. Louis Cardinals' starter Jake Westbrook tried to bust Kurt Suzuki inside, but the Washington Nationals' catcher crushed the 89 mph 0-1 fastball, sending it out to left and just over the Exxon sign on the wall to give the Nats a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning of Sunday afternoon's game. It was the second home run in 19 games as a National for Suzuki and the 3rd of 2012 for the 28-year-old former Oakland A's catcher.
When Suzuki arrived at the dugout and celebrated the home run Davey Johnson was the first to greet him. "Wack-O!" Johnson yelled. Go ahead, watch the video... Don't hear it clearly? Try the Adam LaRoche home run from Monday's game. Cubs' catcher Wellington Castillo set up inside, but right-hander Jeff Samardzija threw the Nats' first baseman a waist-high heater that never quite made it in. LaRoche crushed it, sending a towering home run to right and into the second deck to give Washington a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second.
"Wack-O!" you hear a voice yell out again as LaRoche comes into the Nats' dugout. Davey Johnson talked about the changes Suzuki has made since the trade to D.C. in Sunday's post game, explaining that the catcher was in the process of getting back to hitting like the player Johnson had coached with the US Olympic qualifying team back in 2006. "I thought when [Suzuki] first got here," Johnson said, "he actually had a little bigger swing, he was kind of swinging up on the ball, and a little longer swing."
"[Suzuki] had a nice short, quick stroke," Johnson said, back when he had coached him the first time, "But when he came over he was a little long, but he's getting back to it."
Davey Johnson must have shown him "The Move" as the 69-year-old skipper refers to it.
"The Move" as Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell explained recently, is, "... at the core of a hitting theory that Johnson has gradually infused throughout the Washington Nationals organization."
Davey Johnson talked to reporters at length last week about the previous "regime's" fondness for having hitters concentrate "going the other way," which resulted in team that got pounded inside by opposing pitchers. "The book on us, and I don't mind telling you because everybody in the world knows it," Johnson said, "Pound'em in, with hard stuff." When other teams did that, "We weren't able to do much," the manager explained. So the 69-year-old skipper went about teaching his hitters "The Move."
The Washington Post's Mr. Boswell explained "The Move" in an article and a chat a few weeks back and went into detail about what Johnson had shown reporters about the motion Hank Aaron had taught him when the two were teammates in Atlanta that turned Johnson into a 43 home run hitter as a 30-year-old in his ninth MLB season after he'd previously hit no more than 18 in a year.
"'WACK-O!' Johnson would exclaim, walking up to a Nats player and showing him 'The Move,'" Boswell wrote.
"Johnson would smack the back of his left hand downward," the WaPost writer explained, describing the movements the manager made from the podium as he demonstrated "The Move" for reporters during a recent press conference, "from his right shoulder to what would be a waist-high pitch, showing how you could have a short, quick swing that got the bathead’s sweet spot to the ball while it was still at or in front of the plate."
Mr. Boswell tried to break down and further explain the mechanics of "The Move" in a chat with readers, this time with Ian Desmond as an example:
"[Johnson has] taught [Ian] Desmond 'The Move' that makes you a power hitter (he says) that he learned from Hank Aaron the year he hit 43 home runs. After Desmond's 17th HR on Sunday you may have seen him in the dugout grinning and demonstrating a move where he rolls his left hand over __like a golfer 'pronating' his wrists, to use Ben Hogan's old term for his golf 'move' through the ball."
"It's just real simple," Johnson told reporters, "Pitchers try to keep hitters from extending. And that's why they change speeds and either get [hitters] way out front and then throw it hard in so they can't extend their arms and the bat. And we were kind of helping with that, and it was easy to keep us from extending."
Not any more.
"Rick Eckstein has done a great job," Johnson explained, praising his hitting coach for the changes he's helped the Nats' hitters make. "He's got them still staying inside the ball, but hitting it where it's pitched. Not having to cheat to get to the fastball in. Just become better hitters. And we're not 100% to where we need to be, but I think we'll get to [it]."