Johnson, 68, signed a three-year consulting contract that will keep him in the Nationals organization through 2013. The Nationals hold an option for the contract that, if exercised, will make Johnson the manager for the 2012 season as well. The Nationals will conduct a managerial search at the end of the 2011 season, which will allow the franchise to fulfill MLB’s requirements in interviewing a minority candidate.
Rizzo did not formally interview any other candidates to fill the position suddenly vacated by Jim Riggleman’s shocking resignation, turning immediately Johnson, who had been a senior advisor in the Nationals front office since November 2009.
“Davey’s a perfect fit for this job at this particular time,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy with a track record that’s beyond reproach. He knows the system, he knows the staff, he knows the major league club and he’s a terrific baseball guy and a proven, winning manager.”
Rizzo had filled his staff with advisors and assistants with managerial experience, including Bob Boone, Bob Schafer and Pat Corrales. Rizzo did not assume he would ever need a manager in a midseason pinch, but he was prepared.
“You try and surround yourself with the best possible people that you can,” Rizzo said. “And in Davey’s case, I leaned on him for a lot of things in the two years that he was here, and I feel fortunate that he was in arm’s reach when I needed him most.”
Johnson will meet the Nationals at O’Hare Airport this evening to join the team charter to Anaheim, where Johnson will manage his first game since the final day of the 2000 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since 2000, Johnson had turned down six managerial interviews, and had on several occasions told reporters he did not want to manage again.
Rizzo, though, could sense Johnson warming to the idea this spring – “seeing him pick up the fungo and hit some fungoes, seeing maybe the gleam in his eye, the itch in his eye,” Rizzo said. Johnson has come to know not only the major league Nationals, but he’s also watched every single minor league player in the Nationals system. Johnson’s affinity for Rizzo and fondness toward the organization made him want to get back into the game right here, right now.
“The end result has been remarkable,” Rizzo said. “I think my staff has done a remarkable job of holding this thing together in real trying times. We feel that we’ve put this thing together and got a guy in there that is the perfect person for this organization and this job in very short order.”