Rachel Levitin: Johnson holds Nats accountable with levity, pride

When Davey Johnson was named manager of the Washington Nationals at the end of June, I was out of the country. Wednesday night’s game was my first encounter with Johnson in a postgame press conference.

Some managers play small ball with each play and others motivate their guys. The best of those guys do both. I’m still not 100 percent positive how to categorize Johnson, but I do know that I see potential in him as manager for the close of the year. Here’s why:

He’s accountable. Besides mentioning the Chicago Cubs’ abilities as an offensive club against left-handed pitchers in Ross Detwiler’s season debut Tuesday night, Johnson took full responsibility for not taking Detwiler out of the game before Aramis Ramirez smashed a two-run homer to left field in the sixth. That two-run home made it a one-run game, but Johnson said the decision to keep Detwiler in for one more batter over instead of going to Todd Coffey was all him.

He laughs. He’s 10 years older than Jim Riggleman, but I get the impression that Johnson’s a kid at heart and likes to keep things light, even in the most serious of times. That’s not to say he doesn’t want to win but he seems to radiate the fact that baseball is fun with his smile and demeanor.

He’s witty. The man’s got personality. When asked about the Nats’ recent streak of one-run games, he responded by saying, “The hotter the fire, the hotter the metal gets.” When asked about the Nats’ inability to send around men in scoring position, he responded by saying there’s a pressure blanket on the team and they can’t quite get it off themselves. When asked about Tyler Clippard’s work this season, Johnson said Houdini couldn’t have gotten out of the jams Clippard has this season. Johnson’s got witticism down pat.

He’s proud. Much like Riggleman, he’s got faith in this ballclub because he sees what the rest of the Nats’ faithful sees - potential. Even when mentioning that Jayson Werth has bottomed out for the season, Johnson was proud of how his team handeled a team of Cubs who’ve waffled left-handed pitchers in 2011. He’s got great hopes and expectations for the season’s duration and believes in his boys.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital this week as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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