“Felt funny waking up,” Johnson said. “Felt funny for a while.”
Game 162 for the Nationals, a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks populated by rookies, call-ups and reserves, served as Game 2,445 for Johnson. He made all-star teams, won World Series, protected players and clashed with owners. He assumed control of the Nationals 21
2 years ago and viewed himself as a problem solver. He shepherded baseball in Washington to heights unseen in 79 years.
In Johnson’s last season, a year he branded “World Series or Bust,” the Nationals finished 86-76 and second in NL East. Their late-season surge ultimately marooned them four wins shy of the postseason. Johnson departed after a season of unmet expectations but still steadfast he left the franchise in better condition than he found it. On Sunday, not before scheduling a Wednesday tee time, he bid farewell.
“It’s kind of like birthdays,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “I don’t really like them. Holidays, the end of stuff — I try not to think about it. Did you see that clip of Mariano [Rivera]? That was just devastating. That hurt. I hate the end of stuff.”
The day’s emotion pulled on everyone, but Johnson tried not to allow it to drag on him. He talked about managing in the Florida Collegiate Summer League next summer and a trip to Bora Bora and coaching baseball in Australia. Johnson does not see the end. He sees what will come next.
“It’s not like I’m dying tomorrow,” Johnson said. “Good lord. There’ll be something I can do.”
Johnson’s final act came in the eighth inning, when he took the ball from reliever Ryan Mattheus after Arizona’s two-run rally. Tanner Roark had put the Nationals in position with seven one-run innings, a cap to his sensational first two months in the majors.
“Time to go home,” Johnson said afterward. “Put me out to pasture.”
The Diamondbacks recognized Johnson before the first pitch with a list of his achievements, which someday may land him in the Hall of Fame. He won division titles with four different teams, and he finished his managerial career 1,372-1,071 — a .562 winning percentage, highest of any living manager.
After the public address announcer quieted, the crowd rose and cheered. Johnson waved his hand, danced a jig and scampered back into the dugout.