Davey Johnson has made it well known that he’s not thinking ahead to the playoffs or how he’ll manage the team in the final days of the regular season.
He’s fully focused on today (with an eye on tomorrow, as he likes to say) and often pumps the breaks when reporters ask questions that he feels are getting too far ahead of where the Nationals are at this point.
But when Johnson was asked today how he feels about contending teams having a problem with him resting starters down the stretch if the Nationals clinch the division early, he didn’t mince words.
“Interesting you brought that up,” Johnson said. “I really don’t give a rat’s ass what somebody thinks about my club and who I put on the field. ... I’m resting my regulars. End of conversation. I have a lot of confidence in the other guys, too, in that they’re fully capable as they’ve shown all year long when they’ve had the opportunity to play. My responsibility is to getting my club ready for the next day. But it’s happened in the past. I’ve had criticism and I’ve said fine. I’m not worried.”
If the Nationals happen to clinch the division in Philadelphia or early in the series at St. Louis, Johnson could sit some starters or adjust his rotation against the Cardinals to align his starters for the beginning of the divisional round. That could benefit the Cardinals, who are trying to lock up a wild card spot, and would thus make things tougher on the Brewers and Dodgers.
But Johnson doesn’t care. He’ll do whatever he feels his best for his club, regardless of how others feel about it. He does have a problem, however, with the playoff format this season, which makes it so that the team with the best record in each league has to wait and see who they’ll play in the Divisional Round.
The top seed will face the winner of the wild card play-in game, so they won’t know who they’ll face until that game is completed.
“I don’t like to criticize Major League Baseball, but from an operational standpoint, to line up your pitching, it’s very difficult,” Johnson said. “It’s great for the fans, but boy, for a manager, it’s tough. It’s actually easier for the clubs fighting for the wild card because they’ll know who they have to beat to move ahead and then if they get it, they’ll know who they’re going to play. I don’t. I shouldn’t be handicapped that way. To me that’s putting a handicap.”
Johnson was asked again about how he’ll attack the final 10 games of the season in relation to trying to finish with the top seed in the National League. Currently, the Nats have a half-game lead over the Reds for the No. 1 spot in the NL.
“I don’t care about the best record,” Johnson said. “I care about winning the division. If (by) winning the division we have the best record, wonderful. If that gives us some advantage, I don’t know yet. But the main concern (is) winning the division. And if we win it quickly enough then you have a pretty good idea who your opponent might be and you can set up your pitching accordingly.”
Speaking of rotation alignments, Johnson announced that he’ll go with Ross Detwiler, John Lannan and Gio Gonzalez - three left-handers - in that order against the Phillies. That would then allow Johnson to go with his right-handers against the Cardinals, a match-up the Nationals’ skipper prefers.
Johnson reiterated that Chien-Ming Wang might get one of those starts against the Cardinals, giving the Nats a six-man rotation for the time being.
Finally, an update on Michael Morse, who is out of the Nats’ lineup today: Morse complained of some pain in his hand yesterday (Johnson didn’t know which hand it was), and got some treatment from the training staff. Johnson is unsure how long Morse will be out.
Morse has battled a left wrist injury for much of the last couple months and also was hit by a pitch on his right hand in late August.