Johnson: Nationals’ infield best defensive unit I’ve been around

Davey Johnson has been in baseball more than 50 years.

He’s played with some of the best, and managed some exceptional players and teams, as well.

And of all the infields the Nationals’ 69-year-old manager has seen in his time in professional baseball, he says the best defensive unit he’s even been around is the one he’s writing onto lineup cards this season.

“I’ve never had an infield this talented,” Johnson said. “Now, I’ve had Hall of Famers at different positions, but as a group, I haven’t had an infield that has four guys that can do what these guys can do. And that’s saying a lot.”

It sure is, especially when you consider that Johnson himself was a part of an Orioles infield which could pick it with the best of them back in the day.

With bulky Boog Powell at first, Johnson (three career Gold Gloves) at second, Luis Aparicio (nine Gold Gloves) and Mark Belanger (eight Gold Gloves) at short and the legendary Brooks Robinson (who won Gold Gloves in 16 straight seasons from 1960-1975) at third, the O’s were filthy defensively.

But Johnson puts Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman (a group with one collective Gold Glove) a notch above that group in Baltimore, and he does so without thinking twice.

“I’ve been around a lot of good infields, but (there’s) no question in my mind,” Johnson said.

Having a healthy LaRoche has been a major benefit to the Nats’ defensive prowess on the infield this season, as the veteran first baseman has picked a number of tough throws in the dirt and helped give his fellow infielders confidence to try and make tricky plays they otherwise might avoid.

“You take more chances throwing off balance,” Johnson said. “I’m a firm believer you don’t throw off balance, but with somebody of that caliber over there, you feel if you get it close enough in the range where even if it bounces, he can make the play. I don’t know how many errors he’s saved already this year just by making it look easy.”

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