CHICAGO — After two-plus days of upheaval and uncertainty, the Washington Nationals and their managerial situation will finally stabilize Sunday. Davey Johnson will join the team in Chicago, travel with them to Anaheim and is expected to make his Nationals’ managerial debut Monday evening against the Angels.
The contract details for Johnson’s agreement with Washington are still being worked out but the deal is all but finalized.
“It’s dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s kind of stuff,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who declined to discuss much more about the situation with reporters following the Nationals' 3-0 loss to the White Sox.
Johnson, 68, will be the Nationals‘ manager for at least the remainder of the 2011 season. The Nationals do plan to open a managerial search after this season, Rizzo said, and Johnson is expected to be both a candidate and a decision maker in that search.
“He’s signed a long-term consultant contract,” Rizzo said during the FOX broadcast of Saturday’s game. “But he’s going to manage the team through ‘11, we’re going to reevaluate after the season. Davey will be a part of the reevaluation process.”
When former manager Jim Riggleman resigned Thursday afternoon, the Nationals scrambled to name 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 take on the full-time job. McLaren will now be leaving the on-field coaching staff and moving into a front office role as an assistant to Rizzo.
Johnson has served as a senior advisor to Rizzo since November 2009 and his managerial record speaks for itself. After 13 seasons as a player in the big leagues, Johnson went on to manage 14 seasons for the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. His career managerial record to this point is 1148-888, a .564 winning percentage.
“I know a lot of players love playing for him,” said Jerry Hairston Jr., who was drafted by the Orioles when Johnson was the manager there. “He’s a very knowledgeable guy and … bottom line, he knows how to win. He’s coming into a really good situation.”
Johnson, who won World Series titles as a player with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970, managed the New York Mets to a title in 1986, becoming one of only seven living men to have accomplished the feat as both a player and manager.
“I enjoyed playing for Davey,” former Oriole Brady Anderson told the Baltimore Sun. “Obviously those were the two most successful teams that I ever had in my career — and he was the manager. We had great teams, really talented teams, and to be honest that’s the type of team that he is probably at his best with, with veteran guys and a talented group of guys.”
The 1997 American League Manager of the Year for leading the Orioles to 98 wins and an ALCS berth, Johnson last managed a major league team in 2000 when he led the Dodgers to an 86-76 record. But he was relieved of his duties at the end of that season when the Dodgers did not make the playoffs. His teams have finished first or second 11 times and they’ve won five division titles and one pennant in addition to the 1986 World Series.
Since leaving his last major league managerial job, Johnson managed the 2009 USA team in the World Baseball Classic as well as four other Team USA squads, including the 2008 Olympic team. He will become the second-oldest manager in Major League Baseball, behind only Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who is 80.
Despite his age, Anderson, for one, was not surprised to hear Johnson would be returning to an on-field position.
“It’s clear he loves it,” Anderson said. “If he came back to manage the Olympics, he obviously likes staying in the game. He always seemed enthusiastic about the game and it’s clear he loves baseball and always has. So that’s not a surprise and his age certainly is not a factor.”
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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 email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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