Managing the expectations

Davey Johnson and Bryce Harper were in New York last night to receive some hardware.

Back in the U.S. after a lengthy trip to Africa with his wife, Johnson was presented with his National League Manager of the Year award, and Harper was given his NL Rookie of the Year at the New York Baseball Writers’ Association Dinner.

Here are the dapper Johnson and Harper making their acceptance speeches. Harper sure can rock a tux.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Nationals will have to adjust to being the hunted this year.

After years in the basement in the National League East, the Nats have risen to the top, and are coming off a 98-win season that gave them the best record in baseball.

They’ll enter spring training this year with completely different expectations hovering over them. Last season, pundits expected them to contend for a playoff spot. Now they’re a favorite to bring home the title in many people’s eyes.

“We’re going to have to learn how to deal with having the bull’s eye on our back,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “I think the maturity of the club will handle it. You’ve got a leader of the team who has been there before and knows how to do it and isn’t afraid of it.

“But we’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore. People know we have a good club and they’re going to be shooting for us every time out. It’ll be up to the players to react to that and to handle it in a way that positively motivates them and not negatively.”

The leader of the team that Rizzo references is obviously Johnson, a guy who is probably one of the best managers at helping to keep teams on an even keel.

Whether the expectations from outsiders are high or low, Johnson finds a way to manage them. Last year at this time, he was trying to get his players to believe that they were good enough to win the division and make a run at a World Series. This time around, the Nats will be dealing with all eyes being on them.

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