When he took the helm for the Washington Nationals mid 2011, many questioned whether Davey Johnson would be able to connect with players and keep up with a game he had not managed in over ten years.
Many believed that Johnson’s age, 68, would be a hindrance in his connection with players, and many believed that he would flame out as a manager. Those people were wrong in their questioning, as the Nationals played markedly better under Johnson, finishing a game below .500 and following that finish up with a 98 win season that included an NL East title and an NLDS appearance. Johnson was named the 2012 manager of the year, an award he had won in 1997 with the Baltimore Orioles, and was rewarded by being fired due to a rocky relationship with owner Peter Angelos.
Of course, 2013 has not gone as well as 2012 or even part of 2011 went when there was hope for the following year with a full season of Johnson at the helm. His track record and resume could make him arguably one of the best, if not the best manager in baseball history as far as records and team production go. Looking at teams Johnson managed, he has never managed a team for a full season that has finished lower than second place. Overall, there has been one team he has managed that has finished below third place, and he has only managed two teams that finished in third as well. Johnson’s biggest attribute is his relaxed nature which players respond to and enjoy playing for.
As we now know, this season will be Johnson’s final season as manager as he has said he will retire and his contract dictates he will move back into a front office role which he held prior to taking over as manager. Many believed Johnson would go out on top, finishing in the World Series, perhaps even with a victory. Sadly, there is a question as to whether or not Washington will finish in the playoffs or even over .500.
So, if the situation were different, would Johnson still be managing this team?
There’s a pretty strong possibility that Johnson would not be managing this team and could have even been fired before the All-Star Break. There have been moments this season where Johnson’s managerial decisions could have been questioned, such as using Fernando Abad in the ninth inning versus the Cleveland Indians in a tie game when he had Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano in the bullpen. Johnson also tends to throw in the towel when his team falls behind by a large deficit, which just looks bad.
Whether it is personality or just the team underperforming – and it is almost definitely the latter – there is a very strong chance that if he was not retiring, Johnson would not be managing this team right now. Needless to say, as sad as it may sound, Washington is probably ready and willing to move forward without Johnson to put this nightmare season behind them.