Davey Johnson Back in the Game

by Eddie Mayrose

It’s been a wild couple of weeks for the Washington Nationals. First, and foremost, they’ve opened eyes around the baseball world by putting together an incredible hot streak that saw them register 12 wins in 13 games, raising their record above .500 at a later point in the season than at any time since they were the Montreal Expos.

Then, in a very bizarre twist, the Nats saw their skipper, Jim Riggleman, take his ball and go home when he couldn’t secure a contract extension. It was an act of virtual career suicide, as it’s hard to imagine any other franchise hiring a leader prone to abandon his troops mid-battle.

Riggleman, rumored to have had trouble with some of Washington’s more veteran players, maintained that his lame duck status undermined his authority. Whether that’s true or not, Riggleman decided he’d had enough, opening the door for what could be a great story.

Davey Johnson, plucked from the ranks of consultant and thrust into the dugout after an 11-year hiatus, takes the reins of a team eerily similar to the New York Mets squad he inherited in 1984. And we all know how that turned out.

Johnson has always been a manager with a keen eye for player development, who allows the players to police themselves in the clubhouse. Those skills will be critical as the Nats’ roster, dotted with some solid veterans and one superstar in Ryan Zimmerman, will soon welcome the game’s top two prospects: Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Can you say Hernandez, Gooden and Strawberry?

Whatever happens over the course of the rest of the season in D.C., rest assured that the final building block is likely in place. Johnson will lobby hard for Harper to be in his 2012 lineup, hand the team over to Zimmerman and Jayson Werth and watch his charges start their climb up the NL East ladder.

“Down in Front!”

Gotta love that Mets’ medical staff and its diagnostic talent. Angel Pagan, thought to be out two weeks with an oblique strain, ends up waiting six to return. David Wright’s six-to-eight-week stretch with a back injury will end up being closer to 12 and now we find out that Ike Davis will likely need season-ending surgery. Worse, his condition may have been aggravated by the boot prescribed by the Mets’ quack staff. Too bad, as the Amazins, miraculously hanging around in the Wild Card race despite their depleted ranks, could really use a couple of big bats in the middle of the lineup … Not that many sports fans have it marked on their calendars, but the College World Series from Omaha is one of my favorite events of the year …The more Tiki Barber tells the world he’s still capable of playing in the NFL, the more I wonder about his ability to evaluate talent. Isn’t he the guy that told us that the idea of Eli Manning winning a Super Bowl was laughable? … No way to tell yet whether the Knicks’ first-round pick, Iman Shumpert, will make it in the NBA. However, you have to like the fact that they finally went after a guy whose forte is defense …My favorite line of the NBA draft was supplied by ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who pointed out how important this draft would be to the Cavs just a year after losing LeBron James. “If there was ever a city that needs for something good to happen, it’s the Cavaliers.” Thanks for the geography lesson, Stu …I’m wondering, now that Alex Rodriguez has his average up around .300 with 50 RBI, is he still done? …As the AL East race heats up and the Yankees and Red Sox jockey for position atop the standings, neither should get caught sleeping on the Rays, currently just two games back with a wealth of young pitching.

Eddie Mayrose appears weekly with Craig Mish on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Network — Sirius Channel 210, XM Channel 87 and can be seen by Fios customers on “Down in Front” with co-host Tom DeAngelo. Check local listings.

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