It seems weird that only a few days after coming as close to “praising” Johnny B. Baker as much as I could, we’re back here pointing out all the things that caused us to wave gleefully when he left town in 2006. But yesterday’s performance art was truly special.
I think it’s important to get at what Dusty was actually thinking, if that’s even possible. I think what he’s thinking is that the Nationals have as good of a chance of taking the next two throwing Roark and then a maybe-healthier Strasburg in Game 5 as they do in throwing a sick Strasburg and then Gio Gonzalez for a second time. Gio wasn’t horrible in Game 2, but three runs over five innings isn’t dominating either, and the only other time he’s gotten a second start in a series was the capitulation to the Cardinals in 2012. Honestly, Dusty very well may be right about that, given the rough fashion in which Gonzalez has closed the season anyway.
Still, something is weird here. Dusty could have just said Strasburg is really sick and is iffy to even pitch Game 5 if it gets there. Then if Strasburg does take the mound, he’s not going to face any of the “delicate flower” bullshit that you know is coming anyway. But straight up lying about a bullpen session that was actually on Monday is just…weird. He had to know that someone was going to find out about that. Maybe that was the plan all along.
But it’s the stuff beyond Strasburg that is classic Dusty. It’s the mold, it’s the temperature change, it’s the weather, it’s the hotel. It’s never Dusty’s fault, y’see. Get the excuses in now, because if goes balls-up for the Nationals this afternoon, well, what could he do? And if they overcome he’s got a reference point to show everyone all the obstacles that were in the way that he guided his team past.
It may be construed as Dusty trying to protect his players in case of yet another playoff failing, and we know Dusty is desperate to be THE players’ manager. He wants them to know he has their back no matter what. It’s why he sits idly by as his players go off on whatever media member it is today, because they’re the enemy.
But no one else wants to hear this shit when you’re down 2-1 in a series to a team that has only scored eight runs in three games, and been no hit to start two of those games for five and six innings. It looks bad, it looks like you’re shifting the blame, and it’s only going to bring a heavier cudgel when things go wrong and you reconvene for next year. Pretty soon your players aren’t taking any responsibility, and we know what that looks like around here.
It would not have been so hard for Dusty to cover for Strasburg while not airing his true strategy (if such a thing exists), and simply say, “We’ve got to play better, but we also need some luck to go our way. Rizzo’s Texas-leaguer in Game 3 is the only thing standing between us and a 2-1 lead. We’ve pitched remarkably well. The dam will break offensively.” That’s not airing out your players. They know all of this.
But no, Dusty always has to duck for cover, even if it leaves his players out in the rain, too. And because of it, there’s a controversy brewing over them when they can’t have it. Maybe it’s a rallying, us-against-the-world-and-mold ploy. But when does that ever work for ol’ Johnny B.?