Some of his players don’t know the hard numbers that define his career. They see only the man whose infectious confidence set their standard and helped establish their identity as a team. The man who constantly hammers home one fact about the players on his teams: They almost always play up to their capabilities.
“When they decide whether he’s a Hall of Famer, I just hope character comes into play,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche. “Because that should go a long way with him.”
When the Nationals announced in November that this would be Johnson’s last season in their dugout, though his contract as a consultant runs through 2014, it seemed like he was signaling for retirement.
He emphasizes now the fact that it is a mutual agreement — and retirement is the wrong word.
“I will be working even if I’m not here,” he said. “I know the organization feels that this should be my last year. I didn’t really make that decision, as much as I felt that that was what they wanted. So I’m very comfortable with all of that.”
While Johnson often jokes about Susan’s “honey-do” lists and the tasks piling up for him around the house, he’s not exactly ready to be put out to pasture, either.
The next opportunity might be doing more work with MLB’s Urban Youth Academy to help bring one to Orlando. Maybe it’ll be with the Florida Collegiate Summer League, or back with USA Baseball.
Maybe it’ll be something completely different. He won’t know until the phone rings. He just knows there will be something.
“I’m still going to be working at something that I think is challenging and that I’m the best candidate to do,” he said. “That’s always what turns my wheels.”
It’s possible that when the 2013 season is over, Johnson still will not have written his final chapter in the game.
But if it is, everyone knows one more World Series certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause.
“I could see how this year plays a lot into [his legacy],” Werth said. “I hope we win. I want nothing more than to win. Not only for myself, but for him.
“I wouldn’t mind sending the old man off into the sunset on top.”