A sleep-deprived Davey Johnson is the best kind of Davey Johnson.
Johnson was in rare form this morning when meeting with reporters before today’s 11 a.m. game, ripping jokes - many of which were self-deprecating - and telling stories that even he admitted made him look a bit nuts.
The ball got rolling when Johnson was asked why he decided to switch up his lineup by flipping Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth, putting the free-swinging Desmond in the No. 2 hole and Werth in the No. 6 spot.
“I don’t know. Because I’m supposed to do something!” Johnson said with a laugh. “I had an epiphany last night about 9:30 and I called Desi and said, ‘Desi, I’m changing something. I’m just going to flip you and Werth. Heck with it.’ I said, ‘Don’t change nothing, just keep hacking. Keep the fan on.’
“That was Frank Howard’s saying, ‘Turn on the fan.’ He used to always say, ‘Give it its head and let it buck.’ He’d yell that all the time to a player. ‘Give it its head and let it buck! Turn on the fan!’ Keep swinging.”
Johnson paused for a second and looked out over the assembled reporters in front of him.
“I am going crazy,” Johnson quipped, sending everyone into a chorus of laughter.
A minute or so later, Johnson went on about the lineup change.
“I didn’t even explain it to Werth,” he said. “He’ll figure it out, that I’m an idiot.”
Johnson has done the whole frustrated routine. He’s sat at numerous postgame press conferences and tried to answer questions about why his team is struggling so mightily from an offensive standpoint despite all the talent they have in the order. This morning, about 12 hours after he had been in the press conference room discussing another disappointing loss, Johnson chose to take a different approach and crack a few jokes.
Regardless of how Johnson approaches things, the Nationals still rank second-to-last in the majors with just 3.64 runs scored per game, and their on-base percentage is a miniscule .295 as a team.
“I don’t know. I don’t have the answers,” Johnson said, repeating a message he delivered last night. “I still love this ballclub. I still like the talent and I like the makeup. My Ouija board is just, I’m having a problem with it. It seems like when we hit, we all hit. And when we don’t, we don’t hit. Everything’s cyclical and we’ve been in that cycle for a long time. It’s time to come out of it and be more normal. ...
“This year hasn’t been normal because I don’t know, normally you don’t have the median of runs scored ... I don’t care who’s pitching, you generally don’t have two (runs) and under a lot and then a bunch over. There’s generally more consistency in average and runs per game. If you look at our lineup, from the start of the season, everybody was capable of hitting 20 home runs. That’s kind of a rarity so not only were a lot of them table-setters but run producers.
“I’ve thought about just throwing a bunch of names in a hat and picking them out, but I ain’t to that point yet.”
Johnson is excited for all the July 4 festivities today at Nats Park, which include Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, singing the National Anthem, and Neil Diamond performing a new song during the game.
“I always liked him. Good singer,” Johnson said of Diamond. “Is he older than me? Not many are.”
Johnson recently had dinner at Gen. Dempsey’s house, and after the men discussed the military history in Johnson’s family, they talked about something that the Nats skipper spotted.
“I was very impressed that he had a telephone with what seemed like a whole bunch of red buttons on it,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have my glasses on, but I think countries were on there. My wife did ask about when the grandchildren were over, or children, did you have to worry about the phone, them picking up the phone (and hitting one of the buttons). I know it would be a problem in my household if there were some red buttons on the phone. But I’m anxious to hear him sing.”
Johnson’s anxious for something else, too.
“I’m hoping the fireworks start around 11:15 with some loud sounds,” Johnson said.
The leader in the clubhouse for press conference of the year.