For generations, that sweltering summer happiness — the hot, competitive kind — was always somewhere else. Now, it’s here.
Now, it’s the Nats who want to go to Baltimore this weekend with the Orioles in a three-game losing streak and send them onto the skids.
“They beat us here two of three [in May]. I’d like to return the favor,” Manager Davey Johnson said. Asked if he’d ever set foot back inside Camden Yards in 15 years since Peter Angelos fired him, he said, “Time flies.” Then Johnson paused to think. He’d obviously never gone back. His temperate words in the years since have been baseball politics. “I went to the reunion of the ’70 [title] team,” he said. “Did we stay for the game?”
So, he’s been back, but not really. This’ll be the first time, and as manager of the team Angelos tried to keep out of “Oriole territory.” Little payback?
Baseball is meant for summer, for heat, beer in the stands and tempers that get short in a hurry. It’s meant for fusses and rivalries, for Joe Maddon to call Johnson “cowardly” and his Nats players “rats” for finking on the Rays’ Joel Peralta on Tuesday night. On Thursday, “Peraltar” was officially notified he’d be suspended for eight games for all the pine tar umps found in his glove after Johnson, on tips from some Nats, asked for a frisk.
Maddon’s words for Johnson were mildly unprintable. Davey shrugged it off (“check the rulebook”) but termed Maddon “kind of a weird wuss.”
Bad teams, and second-tier managers, don’t ask for pitcher frisks or spend 48 hours sparring in the press. But managers who’ve ridden teams to the World Series, like Maddon and Johnson, take pains not to be one-upped.
Who won the manager throwdown? Oh, this one was a clean knockout.
The Rays delayed Peralta’s suspension with an appeal. Real reason: to face the Nats again in the rubber game of this series. The teams won’t play again for years. Maddon called Peralta in start the sixth of a 2-2 game. With two outs and a man on second, he had Peralta intentionally walk pinch hitter Adam LaRoche to get to Danny Espinosa, batting lefty, his weaker side. Maddon, sarcastically called “the guru” by Johnson, watched as Espinosa ripped a game-winning two-run double into the right field corner.
Maddon even gets credit for putting the Nats’ insurance run on base for free.