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As a manager, he led the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series and has won almost 300 games more than he has lost. Last season, after taking the Nationals to the postseason for the first time in their history, he won his second Manager of the Year award.

“I’ve got to think if he gets one more world championship he’ll be under serious consideration for the Hall of Fame,” said former Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez. “He’s one of those guys. Everywhere he goes, he wins. He had a very nice playing career, but I just think he’s transcended in managing. He’s always been a good judge of talent.”

For those who spend their time with Johnson, learning from him, listening to him, his story is more than just the accolades. Last year, Werth thought about what Johnson gave up in his own life to take over for Jim Riggleman in 2011. For Werth, it’s Johnson who “really turned the ship around and got it going in the right direction — or a direction.”

He saw a quote from Mike Mussina in which the former Orioles and Yankees right-hander explained that Johnson’s success comes from the fact that, when the game starts, he believes his players are prepared, and that he’ll have the right guys in the right spots.

That it is the confidence Johnson exudes that makes him so good.

“He believes in his guys,” Werth said. “[Mussina] just hit the nail right on the head.”

 To figure out where Johnson’s Hall of Fame case rests on the precipice of the 2013 season is to wade into a gray area. Managers are voted in by the veterans’ committee, which will already have La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox to debate in the coming years.

Still, some feel that Johnson’s body of work and his impact on the game already speak loudly enough to echo through the halls in Cooperstown.

“To me, regardless of what happens this season, he’s a slam-dunk Hall of Famer,” Rizzo said. “I think his legacy is cemented in Major League Baseball and, as far as managers go, he’s as good or better than anybody I’ve ever been around. That’s really all I can go on.”

Others stopped a little short of that proclamation. Palmer said Johnson would “certainly get into the mix” if the Nationals win the World Series. Hernandez concurred.

“One more world championship and I think he’s on his way,” Hernandez said. “I wouldn’t say he’s a lock, but he’s well on his way.”

The question, then, becomes how do you evaluate a man’s life’s work to deem him worthy? Players can be evaluated on a multitude of statistics, combined with the eyewitness accounts of those who watched them at their best, when they dominated an era of the game.

Managers must win.

Johnson’s .564 winning percentage ranks 19th in major league history and comes in at No. 12 among those who have managed at least 10 seasons. He also leads all active managers with at least 1,000 games under their belts. He’s got one World Series title — though, as Palmer pointed out, “If Jeffrey Maier had somehow stayed home with the flu it could’ve been more.”

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