by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The Nats have four games left to play before fading off into the non-playoff sunset, and retiring manager Davey Johnson is going out in a blaze of glory.

When asked to comment on a recent column written by John Feinstein which pinned the Nats’ failure to win a World Series in 2012 and to make the playoffs in 2013 on the organization’s decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg, Johnson told the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, “I say he’s an idiot.”

“You do what’s best for today with an eye on tomorrow,” Johnson told the Junkies. “I live by the rule and Mike Rizzo lives by that rule. I mean, look at RGIII. You’re still suffering for decisions you made on him, you know, running him out there.”

And when asked if he thought Washington would have beaten the Cardinals in the NLDS last year if Strasburg was available, Johnson responded, “probably.”

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However, he doesn’t feel shutting down Strasburg created a hangover for his club into 2013.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Johnson said. “We had a little different ballclub this year guys. I mean, it wasn’t the same crew. We had some adjustments to make. Couple new key players; the bullpen a little different; the starters.”

“Everybody’s trying to re-write the book on what went wrong,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s acknowledgment that the Nats would have fared better in the playoffs with Strasburg, who, still rebounding from Tommy John surgery, was shut down prior to last year’s playoffs due to a team-imposed innings limit, created temporary in-fighting on the show.

Davey was then giving an opportunity to back off from his claim.

“I don’t know that that’s true, Davey,” show host Eric Bickel said.

“Well we didn’t pitch, I mean Gio [Gonzalez] gave up I think five runs or something,” Johnson responded.

“Yea, but it was 6-4 in the eighth,” Bickel defended.

“Yea, I know,” Johnson said. “But we didn’t pitch as good as we’re capable of. And I think also having the experience of being in the postseason. A lot of guys hadn’t had it and know how to deal with it.”

“Look at the Cardinals,” he went on. “That’s a very good club. I mean, they gave you quality at-bats under all kinds of pressure. And that’s where we have to get to. We’re not quite there. I think we’re close.”

“Yea guys, you can come at it, everybody has a different viewpoint, you know I mean, the proof is always in the pudding,” Johnson would say.

“Davey, you just ruined the next ten years of my life by saying that,” Bickel said. “I really want you to re-evaluate that. I want to give you one more opportunity, because JP won’t live it down … you’re saying that you would have won the World Series last year if you hadn’t shut down Strasburg.”

“I just say probably, you know, when you’re best pitcher,” Johnson said.

Davey also reaffirmed his belief that the team should look to “promote from within” for his replacement, suggesting either Trent Jewett or Randy Knorr take over as manager of the Nats next season.

Johnson gave a startling answer when asked to name the greatest player he’s ever managed in a career that’s spanned 29 years; one that Nats fans would hope is a glimpse into a very bright future for a rising star on the team.

“I’ve managed so many great ones,” Johnson said. “I usually go to Barry Larkin and if I had a few more years I’d probably say Ian Desmond.”

“Wait a minute, better than Cal?”  Jason Bishop asked. “Better than Cal?”

“The way he’s playing right now, he’s awfully good,” Johnson answered.

“Hold on, I think you’re forgetting about number eight there buddy,” Bishop said.

“No, he was pretty good, but Barry Larkin was, he was MVP when I had him,” Johnson responded.

“Alright, Larkin I’ll give you,” Bishop said. “But Ian Desmond’s not better than Cal.”

“You know, Cal Ripken’s a great player,” Johnson said. “He was slowing down when I had him.”

Listen to the Junkies interview with Davey Johnson below.


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