Johnson on failing to meet expectations, where blame should lie

After Wednesday's loss to Atlanta, a defeat that wrapped up a three-game sweep at the hands of the Braves, we started to see the tone change in comments by Nationals players.

Gone was the talk about how the Nats had too much talent to be playing at such a mediocre pace for much longer. Gone were the comments about how the National League East title was still up for grabs.

At 15 1/2 games back in the division and nine out of the final wild card, the Nats are starting to see that their chances of reaching the playoffs for the second straight season are becoming pretty slim.

So how do the Nats fight a sense of resignation with 48 games still left on the schedule? Davey Johnson says that isn't an issue.

"There's no resignation in that room over there, certainly not with me," Johnson said. "It's probably more frustrating for me because I keep searching and thinking what I can do to make it easier for guys to perform. If I could figure out why guys, some veteran players are having subpar years for me, I would be all over it. But I think, to a man, everybody likes where the organization is at, likes the talent pool.

"There's a small margin between winning and losing. We've had some problems in the bullpen, guys struggling off the bench, having some other guys not getting going, all those things add up. But it doesn't mean I'm disappointed in the effort. It might be that guys are just trying too hard, but I like the effort. ...

"They may just be trying to do too much. A lot of that's maybe not used to being picked to win, consistently playing in important games, I don't know. But I do like where the organization is at."

At one point during his 17-minute pregame session with reporters, Johnson said that the blame for this disappointing season should be spread to everyone equally. The Nats skipper is willing to take his share of it, that's for sure.

This wasn't how Johnson expected things to go in his final season as a manager. He wanted to go out with a bang, obviously, building off last season and seeing his team take the next step. That's not how it all has played out so far.

How tough has this season been for Johnson on a personal level? He can sum it up in a single word.

"Awful," Johnson said, noting he's had more trouble sleeping than in past seasons. "You're searching. What can I do? Is it something I gotta say to somebody? Do I have to start yelling at people? What can I do to get something positive going? You think about different things, you try different things. You talk to different people. But if it isn't working...

"We just gotta keep battling. I believe in momentum shifts and we just haven't had much momentum going. We haven't been able to get everything rolling on the same track and win a few ballgames. Winning cures everything."

Things sure look bleak, but the Nats will continue to plug away and hope to see things improve, if only to indicate that the core talent that they have in place can get the job done next year.

"They're still learning, there's still room to grow," Johnson said. "Now's a time when everyone's written us off, now's a good time to do something special."

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