Nationals Manager Davey Johnson ambled into the visitors’ dugout of Marlins Park for his usual pre-game chat with reporters but, this time, General Manager Mike Rizzo joined him. And as they settled onto the bench to talk, Johnson grabbed Rizzo by the neck, put him in a headlock and both were all smiles. All seemed well.
And, all is well, they both insisted. Both engaged in a heated discussion following a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, which capped a sweep at the hands of their rival, and a four-game losing streak. The door to Johnson’s office was closed and he could be heard shouting: “You come down and manage the team.” Johnson later dismissed the conversation as a discussion with his boss.
On Tuesday, both Johnson and Rizzo reassured that their relationship was fine and the animated conversation was the result of frustration following a stretch of uneven play.
“Davey and I talk after every day, by the way,” Rizzo said. “We’re in his office, as you guys see, we talk about the goods and the bads of each and every game. I was a little too emotional probably. We’re both pretty passionate. And I was a little frustrated. I probably could have tabled it to the next morning or the next day at breakfast. But I didn’t and we had a little discussion. It lasted two minutes and then we calmly talked and left the room 15 minutes later. Like I said, it wasn’t the first time we’ve discussed things loudly and it probably won’t be the last.”
Added Johnson: “It’s normal business as usual. I admire Mike because he can get it right out. I kind of keep it in. He gets it out and it’s over with. I wish I could do that. [Lou] Piniella was good at that. Vent and it’s over. Points were well taken.”
Rizzo said that the discussion wasn’t the first nor the last the two will have this season. He has long respected Johnson, someone at the top of his wishlist when he assumed the Nationals’ full-time general manager’s job in August 2009. Rizzo hired him as a special adviser in November 2009 and later Johnson served as interim manager last season following Jim Riggleman’s resignation and returned as manager this season.
“There’s no one with higher respect level for Davey than me,” Rizzo said. “I love the guy. And yeah, it’s two passionate baseball guys that give a darn and we probably could have picked a better time to go talking to him. That’s how we do things: we get things in the open. There’s great communication between the two of us. And there’s a high level of respect.”
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