If the 2012 Washington Nationals were to improve on what they accomplished during the 2011 campaign but still not make the first postseason appearance by a team based in the nation's capital since 1933, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Danny Rouhier and Grant Paulsen last week that he could find reasons to consider the season a success, but, the general manager said, "... we're here to win games, we're judged on wins and losses and we want to make the playoffs. We're not afraid to say the word this year. The onus of this is on the players, and they have to perform and we're going to let them know that and that's kind of the way I feel. But to answer the question, I think you can have a good meaningful season without making the playoffs this year, but I would probably be a little disappointed that we didn't make it."
69-year-old Nats' skipper Davey Johnson, who said a pennant was the goal this year when he was officially named the manager for 2012 this past October, went a step further than the general manager when asked today by CSNWashington.com's Kelli Johnson if he'd consider the season a disappointment and a failure if the Nationals didn't make the playoffs. "No question in my mind" Johnson said, and if they don't make it, the veteran of 13 MLB seasons as a player and 15 as a manager continued, "'They can fire me.'"
"Strong words," the CSNWashington.com reporter responded.
"We should make the playoffs," Johnson explained, "There's no doubt in my mind."
Now, of course a manager's going to say that, but Johnson was clear about his thoughts on what a difference a year had made when he spoke to reporters this winter after his return to the bench was announced following an 83-game stint as the skipper after Jim Riggleman resigned abruptly last June. "I couldn't have said that last Spring," Johnson said after listing, "Winning the pennant. Winning the division," and, "Winning the National League," as his goals for 2012, "I didn't think the talent was ready, but after being there and seeing the progress that some of the young players made, I think we definitely can contend and I would be sorely disappointed if we didn't do just that."
• Watch the quick clip of Davey Johnson's Interview Below:
• Strasburg On Innings Limit: The idea that the Washington Nationals will fight for their first postseason appearance without Stephen Strasburg, who'll likely have reached his 160-or-so inning limit well before the end of the season, is something that some people still refuse to accept. In spite of all the Nationals have said about their plans for the 23-year-old right-hander in his first full-year back from Tommy John surgery, and how it will mirror Jordan Zimmermann's 2011 campaign, ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian's tone was incredulous when he asked the '09 no.1 overall pick about his innings limit today during an interview for Baseball Tonight.
"The Nationals have basically said you're throwing 160 innings this year and that's it, are you okay with that?" the ESPN analyst asked.
"I'm a huge competitor," Strasburg responded, "I don't like to have the reins put on me, but I know that they have my best interest in mind, but a lot can change, so I'm just going to go into the season ready to answer the bell every time they ask and I'm going to give it everything I've got until they take the ball out of my hands."
Asked if he'd walk into the manager's office and try to convince Davey Johnson to let him pitch if the team were to find themselves in a race for a postseason berth late this year, Strasburg entertained the hypothetical scenario, saying, "Hypothetically, if that were to happen I'm sure I would do something of that sort, but right now we've got a lot of talent in here, but talent can only go so far, so we're really working hard early on here and we're going to keep going that way until we get where we want to get."
Where the Washington Nationals want to get in 2012 is into the postseason for the first time for a team in D.C. since 1933.