The Washington Nationals and Davey Johnson culminated a long negotiating process on Saturday morning when they formally announced the manager’s return to the dugout for the 2013 season.
And while both sides had left little doubt about that outcome throughout, their announcement came without ambiguity for the future as well. The 2013 season will be Johnson’s last as the Nationals’ manager and he will shift into a consultant’s role for the remainder of his current contract, which runs through 2014.
“I love managing this ballclub in this town,” Johnson said in a statement. “For that, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Lerner Family and (general manager) Mike Rizzo.”
“As everyone knows, we have some unfinished business to tend to in ‘13. I have a feeling this upcoming season will be filled with many memorable moments.”
The Nationals and Johnson had been close to finalizing the deal for some time now, with Rizzo saying earlier this week that he not only “expected” Johnson to be the manager next season but that an announcement could come “anytime now.” Johnson’s consulting contract ensured that he’d be part of the organization but the language, structure and salary of his managerial contract needed some ironing out before they could make it official.
Johnson, who will turn 70 in January and remains baseball’s oldest manager, was left with a sour taste in his mouth after the Nationals’ Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series. Unfinished business, he called it. And he knows, perhaps better than anyone, the type of team the Nationals will have returning to the field in 2013.
He’d previously said if his health and his wife, Susan, were on board, and the Nationals still wanted him, he saw no reason why he wouldn’t return.
Johnson has now led four different organizations to the playoffs and will go into the 2013 season looking for his second World Series championship ring as a manager. He won his first with the New York Mets in 1986 and also won two rings as a player with the Baltimore Orioles.
A well-liked and well-respected figure in the clubhouse, Johnson took over the team in 2011 after the abrupt resignation of then-manager Jim Riggleman and provided a steady hand as their young team transformed into a major league-best 98-win unit in 2012.
Should he indeed retire after the 2013 season — and should he do it with another World Series title — he’d have the credentials to possibly make him a Hall of Fame manager.
Meanwhile, the Nationals will have plenty of time to find a suitable replacement for the affable Johnson but the preference from the outset is to promote from within the organization. Bench coach Randy Knorr appears to be the leading candidate in that case with base coach Trent Jewett and Triple-A manager Tony Beasley also considered options.