NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson quickly showed off his marketing skills on Tuesday afternoon by conjuring a phrase that sets the bar very high for his team in 2013.
"World Series or bust," Johnson said during his winter meetings media session."That'd probably be the slogan this year."
It's no "clown question, bro," as teen sensation Bryce Harper came up with last year. But it certainly is on point for the Nats, who were the best team during the 2012 regular season and were on the verge of advancing to the NLCS until Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso and the St. Louis Cardinals happened.
"Last year, for a young ball club, a lot of guys didn't know who they were or played to their potential," Johnson said. "I thought the one drawback we had was the experience of being in big games. Some of our young guys didn't handle that big-game situation. But they did so much and went so far, I feel we're prepared to handle any kind of situation anyone throws at us."
The Nats called off their pursuit of Zack Greinke (and other starting pitchers) on Tuesday's Day 2 of the winter meetings and signed Dan Haren for $13 million, pending a physical. That acquisition, provided that Haren's back and other body parts check out, settles Washington's starting rotation. Haren will join Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.
Johnson was so confident his team would make the playoffs last year that he said before the season that he should be fired if they didn't. "World Series or bust" is kind of like that, especially if you consider Johnson has said this probably will be his last season.
"Shoot, I thought it was my last year 10 years ago," said Johnson, who has survived several ailments — some of them life-threatening — before getting back into the managerial rat race in 2011 after Jim Riggleman resigned. He came back because he knows a winner when he sees one.
"This is one of the best ball clubs I've ever had," said Johnson, who won the World Series with the 1986 New York Mets, one of the best clubs anyone ever had.
The Nats are young, they're stacked, they've gone through the rigors of a pennant race and the horrors of a playoff implosion. Now they have a catch phrase ready to go by Christmas.
World Series or bust, indeed.