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The Athletics went 72-38 after June 1, the best record in the majors. They became the first team in big league history to come back from a deficit of at least five games with fewer than 10 remaining to win a division or pennant. The A’s then lost in five games in the first round of the playoffs to AL champion Detroit.
“We just tried to keep it day to day,” Melvin said. “It’s a credit to the guys each and every day going out there and just worrying about that particular day.”
Johnson received 23 of the 32 first-place votes, Dusty Baker of NL Central winner Cincinnati got five firsts and was second. Bruce Bochy of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants got four firsts and was third.
Washington won its second major postseason award, both in the past two days. Bryce Harper was voted NL Rookie of the Year on Monday.
Washington went 98-64 this year, taking over the NL East lead in late May and staying in first place the rest of the way. Boosted by Harper, Cy Young Award candidate Gio Gonzalez and their fresh “Natitude,” they brought postseason baseball to Washington for the first time since 1933.
The playoffs didn’t go quite so well. Minus Stephen Strasburg _ team execs decided the ace had pitched enough in his first “full” season following elbow surgery _ Washington blew a 6-0 lead and lost the deciding Game 5 of the division series to St. Louis. Voting for the BBWAA awards was done before the playoffs.
Johnson oversaw a diverse roster, one made up of young and old, Washington veterans and newcomers. A four-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glover, two-time World Series champion and the last big leaguer to get a hit off Sandy Koufax, Johnson spoke with a soft, raspy tone but always held his team’s attention.
He would occasionally raise his voice _ he liked to holler “whack-o!” when the Nationals homered.
“Davey Johnson’s legacy was secure well before he became our manager in 2011, but his performance this season has to rate among his best work,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He showed this club how to win despite being engaged in a pennant race for the first time. And he accomplished this with so many young players.”
Johnson managed the New York Mets to the 1986 championship and later guided Cincinnati and the Orioles. He returned to managing in 1999 with the Los Angeles Dodgers for two years.
In June 2011, Johnson was working as a senior adviser with the Nationals when Jim Riggleman suddenly resigned midway through the season. Johnson took over and agreed to be part of a search committee to select a manager for 2012, allowing that he could be a candidate for the post, too.
The Nationals finished 80-81, barely missing out on their first winning season, and Johnson was brought back for another try.
Washington was without major league baseball for more than three decades. The Senators moved to Texas after the 1971 season, then the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. to start in 2005.
Under Johnson, the Nationals put aside their losing past and set up a winning future.
The same is true of the A’s. Fired by the Diamondbacks early in 2009, Melvin was hired as Oakland’s interim manager on June 9, 2011. Three months later, he signed a three-year contract that runs through the 2014 season.
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