The Washington Nationals want Davey Johnson to return as manager in 2013. Everything indicates that he will. This is the first step in improving on their 2012 success.
Johnson will turn 70 in January. He just finished his first full season as Nationals manager. Before taking over in June of 2011, Johnson was a special adviser to team general manager Mike Rizzo. Johnson had no plans to become manager, but when Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned took the job. Rizzo was more than happy to give it to him.
The question going into this off season is not whether Rizzo wants Johnson to return. It is not whether Johnson wants to return either. The question is does Johnson feel up to the task physically to manage another season? There are not too many 70 year old managers in MLB baseball. It is a demanding job which takes lots of time and physical stamina.
From all indications Johnson not only feels fit, but is raring to go. He knows that Washington has put together a team capable of getting to the World Series. Johnson and Rizzo have been building a good, young squad since 2009. It would only make sense for the two men who started the process to continue it. They may have their differences, but Johnson and Rizzo work well together.
If Johnson returns it will be a tremendous boost to the Nationals. The players respect him and feel that he gives them the best chance to win. Johnson in turn has confidence in every member of the team and will go to bat for all of them. Respect is a two way street in baseball. Johnson and his players have it for each other.
It is Johnson who got outfielder Jayson Werth on track after he had a terrible 2011 season. Werth finished 2012 as the team’s lead off man and batted .300. In the NL Divisional Series he hit a game winning home run to tie the series at two apiece.
It is Johnson who openly campaigned for 19 year old Bryce Harper to begin the season in the majors. Washington sent Harper to Syracuse, but brought him up in April. Harper rewarded Johnson’s faith by batting .270 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI.
Johnson stayed loyal to closer Tyler Clippard even when the big right hander struggled from time to time. The team intended for Drew Storen to be the closer, but he suffered a spring training elbow injury. It was Clippard who took over the closers role and he finished with a solid 32 saves.
Above all, it was Johnson who guided the Nationals to their first ever winning season and playoff appearance. A team that was 80-81 in 2011 won 98 games in 2012. Washington finished with the best record in all of baseball. This earned them the NL East pennant. There is no question that none of this would have happened without Johnson at the helm
He said that the Nationals would make the playoffs in spring training and then led them there.
Now it is time for Johnson to come back and give Washington a chance to take the next step.