Nationals announce 2013 season will be Davey Johnson’s last as manager

In the weeks since the Washington Nationals’ season ended unceremoniously, Davey Johnson hasn’t spent too much time reliving how it all unraveled. There was too much for him to do around his Florida home. Too many things to fix. A fishing tournament to win. A charity golf tournament to help plan.

Saturday morning he took one more step toward next year and away from the Nationals‘ Game 5 loss in the National League Division Series. The Nationals and Johnson culminated a long negotiating process 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 think everybody’s comfortable with it,” Johnson said in a telephone interview, on the announcement that this season would likely be his last in the dugout. “I’m comfortable with it.

“We’ve got some unfinished business. I think we can be better. I know we can be better. So I’m all fired up.”

The Nationals and Johnson had been close to finalizing the deal for some time, with Nationals‘ general manager Mike Rizzo saying earlier this week 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.

While they’re in agreement that this will be his final season as manager, there is, of course, always room for a change of heart.

“People say a lot of things,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, likely the leading candidate to assume the managerial job after Johnson departs. “You just let the year play out. If we have another good year he might want to do it again.

“He’s great. He’s the best I’ve ever been around at managing a baseball game, but you’ve just got to play it out. I think (his return) is great for the team. He takes care of us and makes us all feel special. I love being around him. I learned so much from him.”

Johnson, who will turn 70 in January and remains baseball’s oldest manager, is one of three finalists for the BBWAA Manager of the Year award after leading the Nationals to the NL East crown. He was relieved to get his 2013 contract settled before Tuesday’s announcement as the last time Johnson took home Manager of the Year honors he was fired by the Baltimore Orioles on the same day in a contract dispute.

“I’m glad I dodged that bullet,” Johnson joked. “That would’ve been the kiss of death.”

This situation was a different, though. Johnson, who dealt with various medical issues in the past, has been significantly re-energized since taking over as the Nationals‘ manager in 2011 following Jim Riggleman’s abrupt mid-season resignation. Johnson said previously if his health and his wife, Susan, were on board, and the Nationals still wanted him, there was 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.

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. Knorr could be the heir apparent in that case, though base coach Trent Jewett and Triple-A manager Tony Beasley are also considered options.

Johnson, as a consultant, will likely have a hand in choosing his successor.

“I would love to give managing a shot,” said Knorr, a former major league catcher and minor league manager who coached or managed the majority of the Nationals‘ homegrown players on the way through the system. “I would love it.”

“There’s only 30 jobs out there and I think I would be perfect for the job, but there’s a lot of other guys out there that can manage, too. I think I’d do a great job with it, but that’s up to Mike and Davey… I’m not going to do anything different. If they don’t see me in that respect, then that’s what they see. But I think I’m probably the best guy if Davey’s not going to do it anymore.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • **FILE** In this April 23, 2013 photo, Cuba's former pitcher Conrado Marrero, the world's oldest living former major league baseball player, holds up a baseball with his signature at his home, two days before is 102nd birthday, as he holds an unlit cigar in his mouth in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

    Oldest ex-MLB player dies in Cuba, 2 days shy of 103rd birthday

  • Washington Wizards guard John Wall, left, and Bradley Beal celebrate the Wizards' 101-99 win as Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich walks off the court after missing two free throws during the overtime period of Game 2 in an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    HARRIS: D.C. not yet spellbound by Wizards, but they’re no illusion

  • Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III watches Baylor and Central Florida play during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

    Robert Griffin III to drive pace car before Richmond NASCAR race

  • Washington Wizards forward Nene, left, guards Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer during the first half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Early returns show projections of physical Wizards-Bulls series were correct

  • Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) celebrates after catching a 25 yard touchdown in the first quarter as the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles in Monday Night NFL football at FedExField, Landover, Md., Monday, September 9, 2013. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

    Dan Snyder: DeSean Jackson ‘really a good guy’

  • Celebrities In The News
  • ** FILE ** In this March 19, 2013, file photo, Justin Bieber performs during a concert at Bercy Arena in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

    Justin Bieber apologizes for Japan war shrine trip

  • FILE - This Jan. 8, 2014 file photo shows singer Chris Brown, right, arriving at the District of Columbia Superior Court in Washington. After a brief postponement, singer Chris Brown's trial on an assault charge is scheduled to begin in Washington. Brown's trial had been set for Monday but was delayed while lawyers tried to work out whether his bodyguard will testify. It's unclear whether the trial will start Wednesday, as Brown's lawyers seem to want, or if further legal maneuvering will delay it.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

    Chris Brown assault trial delayed again

  • Justin Bieber seeks delay in Fla. DUI trial