Johnson’s defining qualities, at least in his halcyon hellion days, were a dazzling lack of accountability to any entity on earth except his players, and the most contagious, cocky self-confidence of any boss in baseball. He took “player’s manager” to a new level. In a tight spot, the organization, the owner, the GM, the media, the fans, could all take a flying leap if Johnson had to take a stand with his players. When the going was good, that was rocket fuel to his teams. When things went bad, Davey took the fall, usually alone.
How much of this Johnson as dynamo is actually coming to the Nats? And should they really want 100 percent of the old Johnson? Sometimes, his intensity was scary. A bit less might actually be good for everybody.
The older version of Johnson that now arrives in the Nats dugout may have lost some zip, as Joe Gibbs did after 11 years away from the NFL. That’s certainly possible. At the least, the Nats will have one of the game’s best thinkers in their clubhouse, analyzing and teaching, for three months.
But there’s a best-case scenario, too. After surgery in February for an irregular heartbeat, he was visibly revitalized in March in spring training. “I haven’t had this much energy in 20 years,” he said then. His reborn enthusiasm for managing has only grown.
“I’m not in playing shape yet. I want to throw BP and hit some wicked fungos,” he said. “I’m usually more prepared than this, but they caught me by surprise.”
It’s conceivable the final Johnson may be just as smart as the old one, but a bit wiser, too. Could he have even learned patience? “That remains to be seen,” he chuckled.
Will the final Davey, for as long as the Nats have him, be the best of them all?