By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009
When Mike Rizzo was given the Washington Nationals' full-time general manager's job in August, he imagined a dream team of accomplished scouts, executives and baseball thinkers surrounding him in a revamped front office. Near the top of his list of dream hires was Davey Johnson.
On Wednesday, Rizzo completed the stunning overhaul of the franchise's braintrust by officially naming Johnson as his senior adviser -- Rizzo's 17th hire, including part-time international scouts, for the Nationals since the end of the regular season.
"Hiring Davey Johnson is huge for me," Rizzo said recently. "He's someone I've always admired. He has a brilliant baseball mind."
Johnson, 66, is best known as a four-time all-star second baseman in the 1960s and '70s, and an accomplished manager who led his teams to first- or second-place finishes in 11 of his 12 full seasons, including a World Series title with the 1986 Mets.
But around the Nationals, he is equally well-known as Stephen Strasburg's first manager on a major international stage -- having managed the U.S. team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, on which Strasburg, now the organization's top prospect, was the only amateur.
"When I first laid eyes on him, I really got nervous because he was so good. He reminded me of a little more advanced Dwight Gooden," Johnson said of Strasburg during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. ". . . Everything about this kid is outstanding. I love him. He's got the poise, everything for a number one [starter] that you'd ever ask for."
Officially, Johnson's specific role is undefined. He will attend spring training with the Nationals -- in uniform -- assisting Manager Jim Riggleman's coaching staff, and Rizzo said he later plans to use Johnson for special scouting assignments. But Johnson's biggest role may be simply as a sounding board and a source of ideas for Rizzo.
"Just to be around someone with his knowledge and his database," Rizzo said, "makes me that much better."
Johnson, who also served as a consultant under former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden beginning in 2006, said he has known Riggleman since 1981, when Johnson was managing in the Mets' farm system and Riggleman was just starting his coaching career.
"It took me about five minutes to realize this was a good baseball man. I liked him the minute I met him," Johnson said. ". . . I'm a baseball person. Probably to you I'm a dinosaur. But I love the game of baseball."