The Nationals will mathematically remain alive into their series-opener in St. Louis tomorrow regardless of what happens tonight in the nightcap of the doubleheader between the Nats and Marlins, but this afternoon’s action might’ve effectively ended any real chances the Nats had at a playoff spot.
Their loss combined with the Reds’ win puts the Nats 5 1/2 games back of both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh entering tonight’s game. At best, the Nats will head on the road sitting five games back with six to play. At worst, they’ll be six back with six to play.
It was a tough loss for manager Davey Johnson and his team, but Johnson did get to enjoy a few laughs and some nice moments before the game, when the Nationals held a ceremony recognizing Johnson’s service to the organization and his baseball career as a whole.
Johnson will be moving away from the Nats’ managerial role after this season, so the team honored him with a video montage, messages from former teammates and players he had managed/currently manages, and a Tiffany crystal presented by Nationals ownership.
“It was fun for me. I was really moved by everything,” Johnson said. “Really nicely done. It brought back a lot of old memories. It was fun seeing me in a Japanese uniform again. It was really sweet. I was really moved by it. The guys were great. I felt like when it was over I should take off my uniform and go crawl in a hole somewhere. It was nice.
“I’m uncomfortable getting an award any way. The tribute was real moving for me, I mean it took me way back. That was the old Tinker Field, I was mingling with all the big leaguers and I was just 10 years old. Here I am going out to pasture managing my favorite team. I like to stay away from those emotions. It got to me.”
Johnson isn’t one for big presentations like this or moments where he’s put in the spotlight. He doesn’t like being elevated above the others with him in the dugout, but he appreciated the moment, especially when all the Nats’ players and coaches came out of the dugout, got in a line and gave turns giving their skipper a hug on the field.
“The players coming out and guys talking about me, that was moving,” Johnson said. “I feel for them greatly. To get something like that coming back makes you happy and sad at the same time.”
During that part of the ceremony, Denard Span approached Johnson on the field and asked him, “You’re not crying behind those shades, are you?”
“And he told me, ‘(Bleep) no,’ ” Span said with a laugh. “But yeah, you could definitely tell that he appreciated just the whole ceremony and us just saluting him off.
“I thought it was very fitting for an unbelievable career. I’m not the emotional type but I felt a little funny inside. It’s just good to see all of his ex-players, and even, what was it, a couple of his teammates speak so highly about him. For the short time that I’ve been here and been around him, just an unbelievable and great baseball mind. He’s seen it all and even this year, I would love to ask him questions about some of my favorite players growing up, just to hear some of the stories he would tell. It’s priceless.”
Dan Haren was in the process of loosening up for the game and getting in his pregame throwing session during the ceremony, but he said he was listening to the video tribute as he was tossing.
“He has so many accomplishments. I didn’t even think of the stuff that he had done and how long he’s been in the game,” Haren said. “It was sad. If I was him, I cry easy, so I would’ve been choked up. So many people saying so many really nice things about him. I think I read an article a couple days ago and I think (Jayson) Werth said he’s the ultimate player’s manager. I think I played for six or seven managers, and I would agree. The guy’s a class act. Very stand-up. Very honest with players, honest with the media, and it’ll be sad to see him move on to the next stage of his life but he definitely left a legacy that won’t be forgotten.
“I think that’s a big reason why we made this push, to get ourselves back into it - to just not go away and that be the way it ends for him. You really won’t hear anyone say anything bad about him. The guy, he’s so easy to talk to. I know his door’s always open but I just appreciate the fact that you can have a real man-to-man conversation with him and things don’t have to be about baseball. I think other organizations I’ve been with that hasn’t been the case. It’s been a real pleasure.”