“He would be my No. 1 choice,” Werth said.
The Nationals’ season inched closer to the end Saturday night with their 2-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dan Haren ended his seesaw season — and likely his Washinton tenure — with seven scoreless, four-hit innings. With a day left in his managerial tenure, Davey Johnson ensured his career record will finish at least 300 wins above .500, the bizarre goal he set this week. Denard Span smacked his league-leading 11th triple, and Chad Tracy filled in for Adam LaRoche with his fourth homer of the season.
One more game remains, but the business of the offseason beckons. “Job No. 1,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said, will be choosing their next manager. No decision will be more elemental. It will help dictate the shape of their winter, the success of next season and the course of their future.
The search will begin Sunday at around 7 p.m. on the East Coast, right around the time the final pitch of the Nationals’ underachieving season is thrown. Rizzo betrayed nothing about his approach to picking Johnson’s successor. “We’re not going to discuss the manager search until the season is over,” he said.
Still, possible candidates surfaced in speculation around the league and in the Nationals’ clubhouse. Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams has ties to Rizzo. Nationals bench coach and organization staple Randy Knorr has emerged as a clubhouse favorite. Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Clippard and Ryan Zimmerman have all endorsed him.
“I’d like to have Randy just as much,” Werth said. “I think Randy makes more sense than anybody.”
Werth understood that Knorr would be a more logical fit. Ripken already has a full life that he finds enriching and includes a baseball business empire that has made him wealthy beyond the salary he made as a player. He broadcasts for TBS. He runs a charity in his father’s name.
But Ripken seems more open to returning to baseball now than ever. If a team called, he would listen. He may be hesitant to accept a position from a team other the Orioles, but with his youngest son now off to college, Ripken has shown more public openness to a position inside the game.
“When you’re around the baseball environment, when you’re here, it’s your peaceful place,” Ripken said in an interview in July. “It’s what you grew up knowing. There’s some side of me that would want to test what you know at the big league level.”