In the midst of a stretch that matched the winningest two weeks of baseball in team history, Jim Riggleman shocked the Nationals by resigning Thursday, immediately after a victory over the Seattle Mariners. Acting swiftly and decisively amid chaotic, unforeseen circumstances, Rizzo immediately identified Johnson as his choice to replace Riggleman, then persuaded owner Ted Lerner to hold the same conviction.
After resigning, Riggleman sent a text message to Johnson letting him know he hoped either Johnson, third base coach Bo Porter or bench coach John McLaren would have an opportunity to manage the Nationals.
“I’m glad they chose Davey,” Riggleman said in a short phone conversation on Saturday. “I think the world of him. He’s going to do a great job.”
Before coming to the Nationals, Johnson had often repeated he had no desire to manage again. But he grew fond of Rizzo and he believed in the Nationals’ players. His affinity for Rizzo and the organization made him want to manage the Nationals after Riggleman resigned — the Nationals did not have to convince him. “He would enjoy this challenge,” Rizzo said Friday afternoon.
McLaren, who took over for Riggleman on a short-term interim basis Friday night after serving as his bench coach since the start of 2010, will manage Sunday’s game in Chicago. McLaren will then be reassigned to a front-office scouting position. McLaren and Rizzo shared a long conversation after McLaren considered leaving the organization.
“It was kind of a mutual decision,” Rizzo said. “He had an allegiance to Jim Riggleman and had some thoughts about really wanting to get out of the uniform and to trying something different.”
While dealing with tumult in their coaching staff, the Nationals have won one game and lost another. Players have uniformly maintained the managerial shuffling has had no effect on them once the first pitch arrives.
“It’s nothing to us,” starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny said. “We’re focused on ourselves as a team, and we’re worried about each other. There’s nothing else on our minds.”