INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — It has seemed like a foregone conclusion since before the Washington Nationals’ season ended unceremoniously in the National League Division Series, but as the Nationals press further into the offseason they still have one important loose end. They do not have a managerial contract ironed out for Davey Johnson.
Johnson, a finalist for the BBWAA National League Manager of the Year award, is under contract a consultant to general manager Mike Rizzo but they’ve yet to finalize a managerial deal.
Rizzo said Wednesday that he doesn’t anticipate any outcome in which Johnson would be absent from the dugout next season.
“I expect him to be the manager of the team,” Rizzo said, leaving very little room for any speculation otherwise.
The Nationals and Johnson have had a good working relationship since before Johnson took over as manager in the middle of the 2011 season and the two sides share a mutual affection for one another. The structure and salary of Johnson’s contract as a consultant is different than as a manager, though, and there are details to be worked out in that regard.
But Rizzo said he’s not surprised that it’s taken this long to finalize a deal.
It wasn’t until Oct. 31 that the Nationals announced Johnson’s return for 2012, 32 days after they concluded the 2011 season. It has been 26 days since the team’s playoff run ended this past October.
“We’re talking and we’re doing great together,” Rizzo said. “We’re doing great.”
Johnson, who will be 70 before the 2013 season gets underway, felt there was still plenty to accomplish after the Nationals were eliminated from the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals. And he’s seen for years how the Nationals were building toward the season that’s now in front of them — one with almost all of their starting players established and one of the best pitching staffs in the league.
Rizzo and Johnson talk often to discuss the team’s plans and personnel as they shape their offseason outlook and there doesn’t appear to be too much stress from either side over the fact that Johnson’s contract is still unsettled. Johnson stewarded the Nationals to a 98-win season and the National League East title, is a favorite to take home his second Manager of the Year honors and is well-respected and well-liked from ownership down to the players.
The two sides will likely iron things out relatively soon.
“I know (Johnson) was in a fishing tournament,” Rizzo quipped about the manager’s offseason thus far. “And he won the damn tournament.”