It has gone overlooked because the expectation remains Davey Johnson will return next season. But the unusual, potentially uneasy situation has not changed: It is November, and the Washington Nationals do not have a manager under contract for the 2013 season.
The Nationals and Johnson continue to work toward a deal that would give both sides what they want – Johnson back in the dugout for his third year and second full season with the Nationals. But no deal has been reached or finalized. Johnson is currently under contract with the Nationals as an advisor for 2013 and 2014, and the language (and salary) of his deal must be altered before his return to the dugout is sealed.
Neither side offered any public comment on the ongoing talks. General Manager Mike Rizzo said at the end of the regular season that he wanted Johnson to return for 2013. Many high-profile Nationals players, including Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, pushed for Johnson’s return. Johnson, who will turn 70 in January, has repeated his desire to remain with the Nationals after he led them to an MLB-best 98 regular-season wins and a bitter, five-game defeat in the NLDS.
“I think I’ve accomplished what was needed to this point,” Johnson told the Post in mid-October, in the days after the season’s final loss. “Is there some unfinished business? Yeah, there’s some unfinished business. But that’ll be up to ownership. That ball is in their court. I don’t have a bad feeling, and I don’t mind waiting until November like last year.”
Last year, the Nationals announced Johnson would return for the 2012 season on Oct. 31.
Johnson and the Nationals have enjoyed a fruitful and amicable relationship since Johnson replaced Jim Riggleman, who suddenly resigned midway through the 2011 season. Even though it seems likely Johnson will come back, it should not necessarily be taken for granted.
Johnson is a prideful man who has parted ways with four teams in the past, often in surprising and acrimonious fashion; in Baltimore, he was forced out on the day he won the Manager of the Year award. In the past, Nationals ownership has shown an unwillingness to pay top dollar for managerial talent.
The Nationals will need to get their situation with Johnson resolved before they can proceed with other offseason matters, including hiring a third base coach to replace Bo Porter, who departed to manage the Houston Astros.
Johnson has been named the Sporting News’ National League Manager of the Year, an award voted on by his peers, and he is a leading candidate to claim the major BBWAA trophy, too.