CHICAGO — Less than 48 hours after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned his post as the Washington Nationals manager Thursday afternoon, the team has likely found his replacement, at least for the remainder of the 2011 season, in Davey Johnson.
No formal announcement was made but, according to a source, the deal was close as the two sides hammered out the final details. According to multiple reports, Johnson, 68, is expected to sign a contract that runs through the 2013 season, seemingly giving him the type of security that Riggleman was never afforded and ultimately led to his decision to resign.
Johnson, who previously managed the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, was the 1997 American League Manager of the Year with the Orioles and led the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series. He has served as a senior advisor to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo since 2009 and has worked in uniform with the team on occasion, mostly during spring training.
“It’s great,” said Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “I think Davey’s a great baseball guy. A lot of us were around him in spring training quite a bit. We’ve got a good team here, a great group of guys. And whoever is the manager, if it’s Davey, whoever it is, I think he’s going to be real happy with what they have here.”
Riggleman’s sudden resignation forced the Nationals to name former bench coach John McLaren as the team’s interim manager, but it was made clear from the outset that would be a temporary designation. Johnson was immediately the man atop the team’s list of candidates to manage the team for at least the remainder of the 2011 season, sources said.
“Davey Johnson is one of the names that we’ve discussed, and we’ve talked to him,” Rizzo said before the Nationals 9-5, 14-inning victory. “We haven’t really nailed down exactly who yet, we haven’t closed any deals so I’m reluctant to say at this point. We should get more clarification in the next couple hours.
“Right now we’re focusing on the remainder of 2011, but we’re going to keep all of our options open depending on the person we get. We’ll keep our options open, and we’ll see where we’re at at the end of 2011.”
Johnson, who is one of only seven living men to have won a World Series title as a player and manager, hasn’t managed a major league team since 1999-2000 with Los Angeles. He last managed in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, leading the U.S. team to the semi-finals.
Calls to Johnson were not immediately returned but former New York Met Mookie Wilson, who played under Johnson from 1984 through his trade in 1989, offered his endorsement of the Nationals choice to ESPNNewYork.com late Friday night.
“All I can say is they got a good man,” Wilson told ESPN New York. “That much I can say. We’ll see how they respond to him. I spoke to him in the spring, and he was very energetic, like his old self. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
“I think he’s up for it. I know he’ll do a good job. I played under him, so I know it. To be successful as a manager or a coach, you have to adjust from year to year and to your personnel. The key to managing or coaching is not actually managing the game, but managing personalities. Davey is a good judge of that. He’s known as being a players’ manager. So let’s just see how that all works out.”
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Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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