- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tanned and relaxed, or at least appearing that way, Davey Johnson fits in effortlessly in a dugout under the California sun.

He looks right in a baseball uniform, with good reason, and the Washington Nationals manager’s smile rarely disappears as he discusses nuances in his lineup and his team.

He’s a long way from his Winter Haven, Fla., home but that’s no problem. Travel was always in the plans for Johnson this summer, even if touring the world with your wife is a little different than shuffling between ballparks with 25 men.

“[My wife, Susan] had a trip planned for Alaska and one to Paris,” Johnson said at his introductory news conference. “I said, ‘How ‘bout D.C. instead?’ She went for it.”

They both did, actually, taking the unexpected opportunity when Jim Riggleman resigned last week.

When the dust settled, though, there was one name on general manager Mike Rizzo’s list and it carried quite the cachet. Rizzo had kept Johnson within arm’s reach as an advisor for exactly this reason. But Johnson, who has been getting his managerial fix with Team USA and the Florida Collegiate Summer League the past few years, had said the situation would have to be “perfect” for him to take another major league managing job.

With the Nationals, it was.

“I don’t think he ever got it out of him, I really don’t,” said former Oriole Andy Etchebarren, who played with Johnson and then served as his bench coach in Baltimore. “He probably thinks he could do it or he wouldn’t do it. He doesn’t need the money. Only reason is, it’s still itching at him.”

Manager’s mindset

Nearly 40 years ago, long before all but two of his current players were even born, Davey Johnson manned second base for the Orioles. And he knew then how to manage a game better than almost anyone else.

Johnson, “just one of my second basemen,” as Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer remembered him, watched as Pat Dobson gave up a two-run home run to Cleveland’s Tommy McCraw one game in 1972. As soon as the team returned to the dugout, Johnson told Dobson just what he thought of the exchange.

Davey came in and said, ‘That wasn’t a very good pitch.’ ” Palmer recalled. “And Dobby would go, ‘Why didn’t you tell me before I threw it?’ That’s when I knew he’d be a good manager. He was the classic second-guesser.”

In his fifth go-round as a major league manager, Johnson’s years and his winning resume command a respect his predecessor has since said he felt was lacking. And as far as second-guessing goes, Johnson’s not exactly one to be susceptible.

After he opened his tenure as Nationals manager with three straight losses, Johnson stood in the middle of the clubhouse and told his team: “You guys win games, and I lose them. I’ve got three in my column and I’m going to rectify that.”

“He’s a very positive person,” said catcher Ivan Rodriguez. “He’s a very nice guy on the bench, he walks back and forth in the dugout and hits you in the arm like, ‘Lets go, we’re doing fine.’ When you have a guy like that it means a lot.”

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