WASHINGTON -- Baseball's new playoff system gives an advantage to division winners, and it's also supposed to give an edge to the team with the best record in each league.
Many people think it does. Davey Johnson isn't so sure.
The Nationals manager said Monday that he plans to rest his regulars once the Nationals clinch the National League East. The Nats entered play Monday with a 4 1/2-game lead over the Braves, with a magic number of six and 10 games remaining on the schedule.
"I don't care about the best record," Johnson said. "I care about winning the division."
That could be bad news for the Brewers, because the Nationals play a three-game series in St. Louis beginning Friday night. The Brewers are chasing the Cardinals for the final playoff spot; they were 2 1/2 games behind entering play Monday.
"I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks," Johnson said. "I'm resting my regulars. End of conversation. My responsibility is to get my club ready for the postseason."
The Nationals have already clinched a playoff spot, and barring a complete collapse they'll avoid the wild-card play-in game. If they finish with the best record in the league (they began play Monday a half-game ahead of the Reds), then they would open on the road against the winner of that play-in game.
The team with the second-best record also opens on the road, likely against the NL West champion Giants.
Theoretically, the team playing the wild-card winner has the advantage, because teams in the play-in game would need to use the best pitcher available. The Braves, for example, are expected to start Kris Medlen in the wild-card game, making him unavailable for the first two games of the Division Series.
But Johnson sees a disadvantage for the team with the best record, because that team wouldn't know its opponent until the last minute.
"It's very difficult to set up your rotation for the playoffs, because you don't know who you're going to play," he said. "It's great for the fans, but for a manager it's tough. I shouldn't be handicapped, and to me, that's a handicap.
"I don't even know what the advantage of the best record is."