Nationals honor manager Davey Johnson as his final season winds down

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Nationals manager Davey Johnson, responsible for the organization’s first and only post-season appearance since moving to Washington in 2005, was honored before the first of two scheduled games against the Marlins today. Johnson is retiring after the season and will act as a consultant to the team going forward.

CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman described the event:

A touching video tribute featuring highlights from both Johnson’s playing and managing career preceded a string of thank-yous from former teammates, current coaches and most players on the Nationals roster. Managing principal owner Ted Lerner and general manager Mike Rizzo then presented Johnson with a personalized Tiffany and Co. crystal that read: “In celebration of your decorated baseball legacy and your contributions to the Washington Nationals.”

The crystal included the date “Sept. 21, 2013,” permanent evidence that this ceremony was originally planned for Saturday night but had to be postponed one day after the Nationals’ game against the Marlins was rained out.

Johnson had been saying he didn’t want a long, elaborate ceremony, and the Nationals kept this one fairly brief.

The Nationals lost to the Marlins in the afternoon game by a 4-2 score, which clinched the NL East for the Braves. They will play again this evening. Despite a late-season surge — the Nats are 23-8 since August 20 — it has been a difficult year in Washington as many expected the team to defend last year’s NL East title and make a deep run into the playoffs.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.