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By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor - Archive - Email
We have a scapegoat in D.C.
Davey Johnson Davey Johnson has already announced he will step down at the end of the season.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Washington, D.C. is notorious for placing blame anywhere other than where it actually lies.

Those in the government, though, apparently don't have the scapegoat market covered in our nation's capital as that way of thinking seems to have trickled down to the baseball team down there.

There's no denying the Washington Nationals are the biggest disappointment in baseball this season. After a shocking 2012 campaign that saw them win 98 games and reach the playoffs for the first time since 1981, expectations were through the roof.

And rightfully so.

Of course, things haven't gone as planned, as the Nats currently sit 15 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and are nine games behind in the wild card chase.

In other words don't count on any postseason baseball in the District this October.

And despite the fact that manager Davey Johnson has already announced that he will be stepping aside at season's end, the vultures are circling around D.C., as some don't want to wait until the end of the season.

They want him gone now. Like yesterday.

Johnson's no dummy. He knows how this works. He's well aware that you can't fire the whole team and that the manager is usually the one to go when things start to turn sour, especially when the manager boldy claims in the winter that it's world series or bust for the upcoming season.

But even a seasoned veteran like Johnson would admit that firing him two months before he retires would truly be in poor taste.

And I'm not exactly sure how much of the blame you can pin on his shoulders.

Yes Johnson's laid-back approach has gotten him into trouble before. Each team he has left before - the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers - have all changed direction and moved towards a more fiery leader.

That appears to be the case this time around as well, as we are already hearing names to succeed Johnson. Names like Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams, Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr, Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett and even Houston manager Bo Porter, who was the Nats' third base coach for two years until taking the Astros job..

None of whom will ever be described as being laid back.

Maybe Johnson made the mistake of giving too much rope to a clubhouse that really hadn't earned it yet and failed to reel it in. But still, there are a lot bigger problems on this team than the fact that Johnson doesn't hold team meetings or get up in players' faces.

How much does this team miss veterans like Mark De Rosa or Mike Morse?

General manager Mike Rizzo may have gotten more than anyone ever would have dreamed of from Seattle for Morse, but at what cost? Some think he was the heart and soul of that team.

You can blame Johnson for his mismanagement of the bullpen all you want, but look at what he had to work with. When was the last time a team had to rely on Zack Duke?

The Nationals were a fun team to watch last October. Nattitude, remember?

Rafael Soriano has been fine in the closer's role, but was he really needed? The bullpen was as good as any in baseball last year and it seemed to be a tight-knit group as well. Rizzo blew that all up and brought in a guy in Soriano, who, let's be honest hasn't smiled since 2003.

There is something to be said for team chemistry.

Is it Johnson's fault that Ryan Zimmerman is a shell of the player he once was? Zimmerman's shoulder is not right. In fact it's so wrong that there is talk that the team will look to deal Adam LaRoche this offseason and move Zimmerman to first next year.

How about the great signing of Dan Haren? He's only been one of the worst starters in the league this season.

If you want to blame Johnson that's fine, but let's not let Rizzo off the hook here either. He is the one who put this team together and barring a complete overhaul this offseason, the group is going to look awfully similar in 2014.

Remember last year when people around D.C. were telling us that shutting Stephen Strasburg down was not a big deal because the Nats were going to contend for years to come anyway?

I harken back to LaRoche's comments at the time.

"I get their side," LaRoche said. "But our side is, the playoffs aren't guaranteed."

No they certainly aren't.

But let's go back to blaming Davey Johnson, the guy who's leaving anyway.


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