- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

Davey Johnson is coming back to town this weekend. The former Orioles manager will be signing autographs tomorrow as part of a two-day show at the Capital Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. He is looking forward to seeing some old friends and Orioles fans.
"There's still a strong connection there for me," Johnson said. "There always will be."
The connection is still likely strong for Orioles fans as well, but in a maddening way. They connect Davey Johnson's presence in the Orioles' dugout as the only success the franchise has enjoyed in nearly 20 years, and his departure represents the connection to the horrible decline of the franchise.
It's not rocket science. The Orioles were 186-138 during Johnson's two seasons managing in Baltimore. In 1996 and 1997, they reached the American League Championship Series.
Since then, the Orioles have gone 298-364, including this year, and finished with a Moses Malone-like place in the standings fourth, fourth, fourth and fourth. You don't need a stadium to fall on you to figure out that the Orioles were better off with Davey Johnson than without him.
But owner Peter Angelos isn't the only one who made that mistake. It took the New York Mets nine years to recover from firing Johnson. The Cincinnati Reds haven't made the playoffs since Johnson left. And the Los Angeles Dodgers, who fired Johnson in his second year there after they went 86-76 in 2000, had the same record last season with Johnson's replacement, Jim Tracy.
It all comes down to style something that Johnson was never quite able to master. Baseball was his life, but being a major league manager just didn't seem to fit his style, even though he was better at it than nearly every other manager he faced. He might have been better suited as an owner, answerable to no one.
Now he has adapted to a new lifestyle that of teacher. Johnson is teaching a class in coaching baseball in his hometown of Winter Park, Fla., at Rollins College, where he is also advising the baseball coach as well.
"I'm enjoying it," he said. "We went to a game the other day, and there was this guy who hit a double. I told the class that this guy has great speed. He's stolen 46 out of 52 bases, and I know he wants to steal third. But with the timing of the pitcher's and catcher's throws to third, there is no way he will make it. But he'll try. Sure enough, he took off and he was out. Now I told them if you are coaching third, you have to make sure that guy doesn't run."
Johnson said his class is hardly a breeze for students. "I told them the first day of class, 'Let me tell you something. My first year in the big leagues as a manager, I had to release four guys right from the start. I had to call them into my office and tell them to their faces that they didn't have a job anymore. So it won't be any problem for me to slap an F on you, and I won't even have to tell you about it.'"
He also has been helping Rollins coach Bob Rikeman, who is thrilled to have Johnson around the program. "We lucked out," Rikeman said. "Something like this could have gone haywire, but it has been a great thing for us. We have had to talk to some kids who may not be getting the message, and he handles them well. He has been a faucet of information."
Johnson emphasized, though, that he turns the faucet off he is not the baseball coach, nor does he want to get too emotionally involved in the success or failure of the kids.
"I don't want to start living and dying with it," he said. "I've done that too long. That is stress, and I don't want to deal with that right now."
There isn't much stress in Johnson's life these days. He teaches, he plays golf and he fishes to raise money for muscular dystrophy. "I just won a fishing tournament at Mosquito Lagoon," he said. "I was the celebrity champion."
What about managing again? Johnson is 59, and his name has not resurfaced since he was fired by the Dodgers. He says he has no interest in getting back into the game.
"I don't need it anymore," he said. "I've been out there and done it. It is all encompassing, and takes up your entire life. I'm enjoying spending time with my wife and family and giving back to the community. I wish I could have stayed around longer, but enough is enough. I had a good career."
This is the kind of career Johnson had. He had a record of 1,148-888, and his .564 percentage ranks 12th all-time. His teams finished first or second in 11 of the 12 full seasons he managed. He was simply one of the best managers of his time, and sooner or later someone who wants to win badly enough will come calling and ignore all of the management baggage that kept Johnson from probably having a Hall of Fame managing career.
"People didn't think I cared enough, but I cared more than most," Johnson said. "I just wanted to see it done right."
In major league baseball, that is a firing offense.

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