Robinson proud of his work with Nats

Robinson proud of his work with Nationals

Manager Frank Robinson has done a remarkable job for the Expos/Nationals since the 2002 season. Under his leadership, the team has been competitive despite having a limited budget. It has been in the Wild Card race in three of his first four seasons at the helm and finished the season at .500 or better in those three years.

In 2006, the Nationals are off to a slow start, standing 32-42 entering Friday's action against the Orioles, which has fueled speculation that Robinson's time may be up once the Lerner group takes over operation of the club. caught up Robinson recently and he talked about his future with the Nationals and broke his silence about the team's recent hiring of Davey Johnson as a consultant. Ever since Major League Baseball named the Lerner group as the new owners of the Nationals, there has been non-stop speculation about your future with the club. What is your take on your future with this team?

Frank Robinson: I have no idea. I'm just as much in the dark as anyone else that is not in the know as far as what direction ownership may be leaning. Is it disappointing that you haven't heard from ownership?

Robinson: It's not disappointing, because I understand the situation. Major League Baseball has probably asked them to not make comments or commitments until they are officially named owners of this organization. I can understand that, but the one thing I felt that they could have done is just say to me they would like to sit down and talk to me shortly after [they take over]. That's all. You have been with this organization for almost five seasons. What has been your biggest accomplishment?

Robinson: The biggest accomplishment was getting this team to be competitive and stay competitive for four and a half years -- from the first year until this year. We still have a chance to be competitive. Are we going to win a division title this year? I don't think so right now, because we are in a pretty good hole and the Mets are playing very well.

Last year, I thought we had an exciting first half of the season. We got a lot accomplished here -- not as much as I would like to. I feel very good about each team [I managed] here -- the players' attitude, the approach and energy they brought to the ballpark each day. They went out and played baseball. They didn't worry about the problems, impending sale of the club or [possible] contraction of the club. We went through the whole gamut and they did that very well. I'm very proud of the players that have come through this organization, and the ones that are still here. In your 16 years as a Major League manager, is managing the Expos/Nationals the best work you have ever done?

Robinson: I think each organization that I was with, I felt like when I left there, they were better off on the field than before I took over. I felt in each place I wasn't given enough time and resources to turn those clubs into real winners.

With the situation with Major League Baseball, I've been given the opportunity over a period of time to show what I might be able to do if I had the resources. ... This ballclub has not sunk into a deep hole of pity or stumbling around on the field or be an embarrassment to Major League Baseball. That has a lot to do with the coaching staff and the people that have been here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking the full responsibility of doing that. But I'm talking about the way the team has performed over the years. That's pointed toward the manager of the ballclub and the coaching staff that prepared the players. It's no secret that you were not popular in Montreal, but, in Washington, the fans seem to understand what you are going through with this team. You seem to get a loud ovation every time your name is mentioned.

Robinson: It's a whole different thing. I did nothing [as a player] in Montreal, and the Montreal fans are not baseball savvy like the people in the D.C./Baltimore area. I also followed Felipe Alou, and the Montreal fans were all into Felipe Alou. They thought he was God because he did a tremendous job. In the D.C./Baltimore area, I think it's the people who understand what I did in Baltimore as a player and what I've gone on to do. They saw me manage in Baltimore and the turnaround we had in 1989. And I think they are saying, "We appreciate what you did then and what you are doing now." A lot of the young people are saying, "My father told me about you and now we are seeing you in person." That's nice when people recognize me for that. That's the real difference. It seems like the Washington fans want you to continue to be the manager of the Nationals. How do you feel about it?

Robinson: I think they would like to see me around for a while. I kind of get those vibes. I think they would like to see me manage longer than the one year, and that's very nice. But the fans don't make the decisions. But it certainly feels good to go out on the street and at the ballpark and hear the support of the fans. The bottom line is, it's the production you get out of the team. We know you have not had formal meetings with the Lerners, but do you think they understand what you have done with this team?

Robinson: I think they do to the extent that they have been told. At what depth, I do not know. I'm sure [general manager] Jim [Bowden] has told them a lot about it. I don't know if anyone else upstairs would have filled them in that respect or told them what I've done or the sacrifices that I've made. I know Jim has done that. When the Lerner group takes over, what is the first thing you will say to them?

Robinson: Congratulations. You finally got it done. They have been around and I've had casual conversations with them. Whenever they feel they are ready to reach out to me and sit down and talk about my position, then I'm available. I will put no pressure on them to do that. I would hope in a very short period of time, after they take over the ballclub, they would talk to me about my situation here with this ballclub. How much would it mean to have a formal meeting with the Lerners and team president Stan Kasten?

Robinson: It would mean everything, because you would get an idea of what they are thinking and what direction they want to go in -- what they feel about me and what they think about me. That's what I really want to find out. Do I fit here or don't? If I don't, I would understand that. If I do, in what capacity do I fit in? Is this what I would like to be doing in the present or in the future? ... There are certain things I want to do now and try to accomplish. I want to give back. I just don't want a title and just be around. That's also something that has to be decided. That's my decision to make and I can't make that decision until I sit down with them and have an in-depth conversation.

It would also help with those players going down the stretch. When you are going into the second half of the season, and they feel there's a weakness in [the manager's] office, you have no control over it at all. There would be chaos. It would not be a pretty picture the last two months of the season. If you don't get what you want, what are you going to do?

Robinson: I'm going home. Really? You love this game so much. We don't see Frank Robinson retiring.

Robinson: Well, people ask me why didn't I get 600 home runs or 3,000 hits? I said, "Because, no one wanted to hire me or pay me to play." So if someone doesn't want to hire you, then I'm going home. That's one thing at this stage I could say. I'm going home. ... If I'm not wanted here, I'm not going to say that I'm through with baseball. But I'm going home content, not upset. I will organize my life and occupy the time in a productive way to keep busy. How many more years do you want to manage?

Robinson: Tops, maybe three years. Despite the uncertainty, you seem much more relaxed than the previous three years. Why?

Robinson: There is no sense in beating your head against a wall about things nowadays, because it's not good for your health. What you have to do is put the effort in and know that you did your best and know you have to be able to leave it alone. You have to be able to approach life each day with the idea that you have to give a good day's work. If it turns out great, it's great. If it doesn't, you have given it your best. You are at the mercy of your players. Don't let stuff you have no real control over eat at you. I'm very content where I am now in my life and career. I'm not saying that I'm secure and bulletproof, but I feel very comfortable. When the Nationals hired Johnson as a consultant, you decided not to comment at the time. Why?

Robinson: There were a number of things. No. 1, it's the way I found out ( broke the news to Robinson after the press release came out). Out of the clear blue. There wasn't even a hint or anything like that. We have a past history. I felt like Davey had something to do with me being let go in Baltimore [after the 1995 season] when I was the assistant general manager. Davey was the manager and Pat Gillick became the general manager. They were very good friends. I've been told that I had a job there, not by [Johnson and Gillick]. What job? There was no title given. Later on, I was told by a very good source that Davey had something to do with me being let go. Did you ever talk to Johnson about the situation.

Robinson: No. I don't think it's necessary. Why?

Robinson: Because it's not important now. It has no bearing on my life. It's not going to change anything, although [the source] felt Davey could save my job. I said, at the time, "If I need Davey Johnson to save my job, I don't want the job." Is it true? I don't know, but it was a very good source. I felt it was good information to the point where if I went to lunch with Davey Johnson, he could possibly save my job. Ten years later, how do you feel about Johnson?

Robinson: I was fine with him, but if someone comes into my backyard, which is managing this club, I don't feel good about it. But I can't say who Jim can hire and who he can't hire. Once Johnson was hired as the consultant, the media automatically thought he would be the next manager of the club. How did you feel about the way media responded to the hiring?

Robinson: I didn't like it because that is saying to me that you're out. So in other words, I have not been doing the job. So here's a guy [Johnson] that's supposed to be hired to do another job, and it's supposed to be a short-term job, you guys jumped to conclusions and write it as such. I thought it was a little disrespectful to me as a manger of this ballclub and the position that I've held. You were very calm after Johnson was hired. Why?

Robinson: What am I supposed to be? I still have a job to do here. I'm not going to let somebody disrupt my livelihood and my peace of mind. I move on. Who is more affected by your uncertain future: you or your family?

Robinson: I think they are more concerned about my future and they are more involved in wanting the best for me, for my future, than I am. That's understandable, because they want the best for me. I've been in this game a long time and I understand the back room stuff and the ins and outs than they do. They do concern themselves about me because I'm the husband and the father. As well they should be, because I'm concerned about them.

They always back me, support me and adjust their lives to help me. They understand what baseball has meant to me and does mean for me. They think I can't live without baseball. They think I live eat and breathe baseball. They are not far off. Baseball has been a very important part of my life. I have been involved in baseball over half my life, so it is important. But there comes a time when everything has to come to an end for one reason or another. Sooner or later, I have to go away from baseball.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.