UPDATED 5:42 P.M.
CHICAGO – The Washington Nationals are set to name Davey Johnson (photo gallery) as their manager for the remainder of the season and at least through 2012 in an announcement that could possibly come today, completing a surreal three days by placing one of the most accomplished managers of this generation at the helm of baseball’s hottest team.
Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo confirmed the hire during a third-inning interview during the Fox broadcast of the Nationals’ game against the Chicago White Sox. “I think the accurate way to portray it is we’ve come to terms, we’ve agreed to terms, but there’s certain formalities that have to be ironed out,” Rizzo said, adding that the announcement would come “very soon.”
(Dan Steinberg has a full transcript of Rizzo’s remarks on the Bog.)
Johnson, 68, has managed 14 seasons with four teams and compiled a 1,148-888 record, leading three teams to the playoffs. He last managed in 2000, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1986, Johnson guided the New York Mets to the World Series title. In 1997, he managed the Baltimore Orioles to 98 wins and the American League East crown. After being named Manager of the Year, he resigned after a dispute with owner Peter Angelos.
Johnson joined the Nationals prior to the 2010 season as a senior advisor. General Manager Mike Rizzo hired Johnson for the experience and baseball wisdom he has gathered after more than four decades in professional baseball, which began with his rookie major league season in 1965. At the time, Rizzo said he looked forward to spending spring training, “sitting in a golf cart next to Davey Johnson.”
In the midst of 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, and then he convinced owner Ted Lerner to hold the same conviction.
Before arriving with the Nationals, Johnson has often repeated he had no desire to manage again. But he grew fond of Rizzo and he enjoyed and 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.
Johnson’s contract, which runs through the 2012 season, also includes an option for 2013. Riggleman resigned because he wanted the assurance of a guaranteed season in his contract following this one, which Johnson received.
On the Fox broadcast, Rizzo said that Johnson will “manage the team through ’11, we’re going to reevaluate after the season.”
Johnson takes over a team that has surged to within 3 ½ games of the National League wild card playoff spot by winning 12 for 13 games, including an unforgettable 14-inning, 9-5 victory over the White Sox on Friday night.
Johnson will take over Monday in Anaheim, when the Nationals begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. Interim manager John McLaren, who took over for Riggleman on a short-term basis Friday night, will manage today and Sunday.
After Riggleman resigned Thursday, he sent a text message to Johnson letting him know he hoped either Johnson, Bo Porter or McLaren would have an opportunity to manage the Nationals.
“I’m glad they chose Davey,” Riggleman said in a brief phone conversation this afternoon. “I think the world of him. He’s going to do a great job.”