Nats GM Mike Rizzo didn’t exactly confirm that Davey Johnson would be his next manager Friday night in Chicago, but he ended the team’s worst-kept mystery during a third-inning interview with Fox on Saturday.
“I think the accurate way to portray it is we’ve come to terms, we’ve agreed to terms, but there’s certain formalities that have to be ironed out,” Rizzo said, adding that the announcement would come “very soon.”
“Davey’s been a guy that I brought in as my senior advisor to the GM two years ago,” Rizzo said. “He’s been a great sounding board for me, a great mentor in many ways for me. He’s one of the guys with the best baseball acumen that I’ve ever been around. So we’re fortunate that he was so close and so available for us, and we’re looking for him to take this thing and hit the ground running and for us to continue to focus on baseball and play great ball.”
Fox play-by-play man Josh Lewin then made a Jack McKeon joke, and asked whether there were any age concerns with the veteran Johnson taking on such a young team.
“I have no worries whatsoever,” Rizzo said. “You know, Davey’s always been on the cutting edge. This is a guy who was employing sabermetrics before there was even a sabermetrician. Like I said, he’s a thinking man’s manager, he’s a player’s manager, he’s a guy who loves the game, knows the game inside out, and he has a track record that’s second to none.”
Later, Lewin asked about the expected length of Johnson’s tenure.
“Well, Davey’s part of the furniture, put it that way,” Rizzo said. “He’s signed a long-term consultant contract, we’re figuring out dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on that. But he’s gonna manage the team through ‘11, we’re going to reevaluate after the season. Davey will be a part of the reevaluation process. We’re going to do a manager search, he’ll be part of the manager search, he’ll be one of the candidates for the manager search. And we’ll see what happens after that. But Davey is going to be in the organization for a long, long time. As long as Mike Rizzo is running the organization, Davey Johnson will be part of the organization.”
Finally, Rizzo was asked about the future of interim manager John McLaren and the team’s other coaching staff members.
“John and I are going to discuss things a little bit later on, but we’ve got an understanding and a plan for John McLaren,” Rizzo said. “I’m not going to go into it right now because it’s still fresh in my mind and John and I have to hammer out a few of those final details also. The rest of the staff, Davey’s going to meet with them when we get to L.A. And he’s familiar with the staff, he was in Spring Training with us, so he knows all these guys and he knows what they can do. And I know that he’s a big fan of a lot of those guys, and I don’t see much turnover if any.”
Of his other answers, perhaps the one of the most interest concerned Bryce Harper.
“My thought process on Bryce and a lot of other players: you know, he’s an extremely gifted player,” Rizzo said. “He’s, as we call him, an accelerated 18-year old player. But he needs to learn the nuances of the game, the every dayness, the grind of professional baseball. And furthermore, I think to get his legs in any Major League clubhouse, he has to show that he’s ridden the buses, he’s eaten in the diners and that he’s done his tutelage in the lower levels. I think that’s important for his development. And plus it’s a position change for him coming out of junior college he was a catcher and [changed] immediately into an outfielder, and he’s a guy with special special skills, and he’s got a great personality and a great makeup. Once he gets to Washington D.C., we hope he’ll never go back.”
Oh, and Rizzo was asked whether he’s spoken to Jim Riggleman since the ex-manager’s bizarre resignation on Thursday.
“You know Josh, we’re moving past the Jim Riggleman situation,” Rizzo said. “We’ve discussed it ad nauseum the last couple of days. And we’re playing great baseball, we need to focus on that. The players need to focus on the Chicago White Sox and beyond, and we’re ready to move on.”