Johnson Back In the Saddle Again

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, June 25, 2011 | , , | 4 comments »

Davey Johnson expected to be named Nationals manager. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)
The Washington Nationals plan to hire 68-year old Davey Johnson as manager of the club, according to multiple sources.  The announcement could come as soon as today and Johnson is expected to take control of the team for the start of the series with the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.  Johnson has been serving the Nationals as a Special Assistant to the General Manager since 2009.

According to reports, Johnson will sign a contract the runs through 2012, with a club option for 2013.

This is an interesting and exciting move for the Nationals, in the wake of Jim Riggleman's resignation and somewhat bizarre media tour.  GM Mike Rizzo has long been thought to want a veteran, experienced, winning Major League manager once this team was ready to compete and contend, and he really couldn't have a better choice than Johnson, who fills all those qualifications and has the benefit of familiarity with the organization and the players in the system.

It's also an interesting decision for Johnson, who told a group of fans and media at this year's Nats Fest that he believed his days in the dugout were done.  Johnson hasn't managed since 2000 with the Dodgers, and it'll be real interesting to hear from him, once he's available, why he made the decision to return to field duty.

Johnson won a World Series as manager of the New York Mets in 1986 and won A.L. Manager of the Year in 1997 with the Baltimore Orioles.  He's also served as skipper of the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 14 years as a Major League Manager.

As a player, Johnson played with five clubs, most notably for the Orioles and Atlanta Braves.  He was a four-time all-star second baseman and won the gold glove at that position three times and played in four World Series with the O's.  His best year as a player came in 1973 with the Braves when he tied the record for most home runs by a second baseman, with 42.  He hit 43 total that year, with one pinch-hit home run.

Johnson has a history as a manager of taking teams to "the next level", assuming command of a young and coming team and taking them to the playoffs.  In his 14-year managerial career, Johnson has finished lower than second in his division just twice, his first year with the Reds in 1993 and his first year with the Dodgers in 1999.  He has led five division champions and won more than 90 games six times in his career.

Johnson also has a history of not getting along with his bosses.  The Mets dismissed him in 1990 after growing tired of his easygoing managerial style, despite being the Mets all-time winningest manager, a distinction he still holds.  A disagreement over a personal matter with Marge Schott in Cincinnati led to his dismissal there, and a highly publicized spat with Peter Angelos of the Orioles, over a Johnson-mandated suspension of Roberto Alomar, led to his resignation in 1997 on the same day he was named Manager of the Year.

Since 2000, the last time Johnson skippered a Major League team, he has managed the Netherlands national team and the U.S. Olympic and World Baseball Classic teams.  He has served the Nats in an advisory position since 2009.

4 comments

  1. Sue Dinem // June 25, 2011 at 3:39 PM  

    "Easygoing" an interesting euphemism for his clubhouse during his Mets days, which made most fraternities look like like a convent in comparison. People should be worried about our young talent because NOBODY (besides me) is mentioning that it was under Johnson's watch that Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were enabled/allowed to piss away their potential.

  2. Dave Nichols // June 25, 2011 at 3:55 PM  

    Sue: appreciate the comment. I think the culture back in the 80s was very much different than what it is today. while it's true that Gooden and Strawberry didn't develop much past their ridiculous first few seasons, it also wasn't Davey holding their coke spoons for them.

  3. Sue Dinem // June 25, 2011 at 5:22 PM  

    Perhaps not, but that was the last time he was given a team full of youngsters vs. a team full of veterans. The question (*ahem*) should be asked: What has he learned from that experience?

  4. Maddy // June 26, 2011 at 5:54 PM  

    Dave,
    I could be wrong but I don't think Alomar was suspended over not showing up to a minor league function as the story goes. I believe he was fined $10,000 and the story goes, he directed the fine to a charity in which Susan Johnson (his wife) worked for. This irked Angelos and pushed into a corner he resigned. Many say he was "forced out" but he wasn't as he received no severance.