Davey's confidence in players a hallmark of his legacy
Stras, Rendon, Desmond appreciate skipper for bringing out best in them
Bill Ladson and Tom Schad
PHOENIX -- On Sunday, the retiring Davey Johnson managed his last game for the Nationals -- a 3-2 loss to the D-backs -- and there is no doubt that he left an impact on the team. In two-plus seasons with the club, Johnson went 224-183, and he guided Washington to its first division title in 2012.
Ian Desmond has often said that he wouldn't have been successful the past two seasons without Johnson. The manager's unwavering confidence in Desmond felt to the shortstop like a long-term contract.
"Davey obviously means a lot to all of us in here. He's done a great job," Desmond said. "He's really brought out the best in us. Hopefully, if one day I get the opportunity to manage, I can do it just like he does."
Johnson was never afraid to give a young player a chance. When Anthony Rendon returned to the big leagues in June from Triple-A Syracuse, Johnson made him the everyday second baseman, and Rendon responded by showing consistency with the bat and glove.
"I've been fortunate to have a manager ... who puts his trust in me and puts me out there. I don't know how else to put it," Rendon said. "He was always out there being hands-on, showing me positioning and what to expect, what to anticipate, just little things out there to help me get by. It's worked a lot. Holding the runners on, that was a big thing."
Johnson is known as a manager who never gave up on players on his roster. Take Dan Haren. Before going on, as he called it, the "phantom disabled list," Haren was having the worst season of his career. After Haren was taken off the DL on July 8, the manager opted to put him back in the rotation, and Haren responded by posting a 3.29 ERA through the end of the year.
"You really won't hear anyone say anything bad about Davey," Haren said. "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."
Of all the players on the Nationals' roster, Stephen Strasburg has known Johnson the longest. Strasburg played for him in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing .
"The one thing about him, is there's no doubt that he's going to fight for you and he's going to be in your corner, no matter how bad it gets," Strasburg said. "I think he's always positive, and it really rubs off on a lot of guys, and I think that's really helped us, even with all the struggles early on in the year -- keep playing hard, and start playing good baseball in September."