A tale of two NL East clubhouses

Updated: May 27, 2012, 12:34 PM ET
By Buster Olney

ATLANTA -- Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson was standing on the floor of the visitors dugout here telling Earl Weaver stories Saturday afternoon, complete with an Earl imitation -- including the requisite profanity -- and even if you wanted to get a word in, well, it was too late.

"I'd been telling Earl that my shoulder was hurting and he needed to play Bobby Grich," Davey said. "But we're playing a left-hander, and Earl says, 'Well, you normally hit [expletive] .900 against this guy, and now you'll just hit .300.' So, he keeps playing me.

"I come into the clubhouse and I look at the lineup card and I see I'm in there, and I say, 'Looking at the lineup is like getting a box of Cracker Jacks. You never know what you're going to get.' Apparently, Earl heard about this, because he called a team meeting and the whole time he's looking right at me.

"He's looking right at me, and he's saying, 'It's your job to [expletive] show up and play when I tell you to [expletive] play.' The meeting ends, and the other guys are looking at me saying, 'Jeez, why didn't he just call you into his office?'"

Johnson laughed. This is a good time to be telling stories, because the Nationals are rolling, leading the NL East by 2½ games, with a staff ERA lower than 3.00, and they're getting a nice boost from Bryce Harper, who hit another homer here Saturday. Johnson has a team of young players, most of whom have never won before, but he likes young players because he finds them to be open-minded and enthusiastic.

"There's nobody dragging themselves into this clubhouse," said Gio Gonzalez, who starts on Sunday Night Baseball against the Braves' Brandon Beachy, in a matchup of early Cy Young candidates. "Everybody's excited. Everybody's fired up. You don't see guys yawning as they're going out to take batting practice. They're into it."

On the other hand, there is a completely different environment in the Braves' clubhouse these days: They are in survival mode.