The story of Davey Johnson’s career: he wins baseball games like crazy but then he is either forced out of by management before he’s ready to go, after which said team suddenly starts losing lots of baseball games.
In light of that, you’d think the Nats would maybe, you know, not want history to repeat itself. But they seem to think they’ll avoid what happened to the Mets, Orioles, Reds and Dodgers after Johnson was kicked to the curb. Here’s his response to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post when the idea of this being his last season as Nats manager is brought up:
“I don’t like that,” Johnson said one warm afternoon this spring, spitting tobacco juice inside the dugout at the Atlanta Braves’ spring training stadium. “That sounds like finality. Obviously, it’s my last year managing the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are more comfortable with that than me, because I don’t really go to that point. I think you basically work till you die.”
And, reading the rest of Kilgore’s piece, you definitely get the sense that his players love him.
Will yet another team cut bait on Davey when everything is going so well on the field? Are the Nationals really convinced that they’ll do better than everyone else who has gone that route in the past?
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.