The Nationals still do not have an official starter for Sunday’s season finale, and the reason, oddly, has to do with Manager Davey Johnsons’ career record.
When asked whether Gio Gonzalez or Tanner Roark would start Sunday, Johnson replied, “That depends on Gio.” He paused and pursed his lips, as if trying to decide if he should continue with his rationale. And then he continued.
Johnson will enter tonight’s game with a 1,370-1,070 career record as a manager. In St. Louis, he said, he told his players he wanted to finish his career 300 games above .500. If the Nationals go 1-1 in the first two games, Johnson said, he would want Gonzalez to start, giving himself the best chance to finish 300 games above .500.
“Some guys have 20 stolen bases, 20 homers,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘300 sounds like a good number. Maybe we can get that.’ So I said to some of the guys, ‘Can we win a couple games?’ Gio knows it. If we win a couple, he’ll go home. If we go 1-1, he’ll take the ball. It’s kind of complicated and stupid.”
Even after that explanation, Johnson changed course and said Roark, the rookie right-hander with a 7-1 record, would “probably” start for the Nationals on Sunday. Johnson insisted he was not consumed by his overall record. “I don’t care,” he said. “Just throwing my two cents in.” But he sure seemed to care.
“What’s the difference between 299 and 301? It was just something I threw out there. My motivation speech – ‘Do something for me, fellas!’ It’s that time of year when you accommodate everybody. I try to accommodate everybody all year. This is a little accommodation for me.”
It would seemingly make sense for the Nationals to start Gonzalez regardless. He stands 4 2/3 innings and eight strikeouts away from reaching 200 in both categories. While it would be Roark’s turn in the rotation, Gonzalez could pitch on normal rest because of yesterday’s off day.
In any event, however many wins above .500 he is, Johnson’s career will end after this weekend series in Arizona. He said he hasn’t been feeling any extra emotion since the Nationals’ ceremony for him last weekend at Nationals Park.
“Not a whole lot,” Johnson said. “It’s just the finality of it all kind of sunk in. It sunk in when I saw a video of me playing in Japan. I enjoy every day for what it brings. It’s time to hang it up, see my grandkids, take on another challenge. Who knows?”