Nationals manager Davey Johnson is close to finalizing terms with the organization on a contract to return in that position for next season, according to multiple baseball sources. The deal will not be announced officially until final legal details are resolved. But he will again be the oldest manager in baseball at age 70 when the season begins next April, which also could be his last.
Both the Washington Post and the Washington Times reported on Friday from Major League Baseball’s General Managers Meetings in Indian Wells, Calif. that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said the deal is still not complete, but that he expected it could be done at any time.
Johnson, who took over on an interim basis prior to the All-Star break in 2011 after then-manager Jim Riggleman resigned, led the Nats to a 98-64 record in 2012 and the team’s first N.L. East title since it moved to the District from Montreal in 2005. This week he was named a finalist for the National League Manager of the Year Award, voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Johnson previously won that award after managing Baltimore to the American League East title in 1997, but was promptly forced out by owner Peter Angelos that same day. Johnson joked several times about that experience this summer when asked about the possibility of winning it again.
Johnson has a career record of 2,283-1,286 over 16 seasons. He has a .564 winning percentage, second among active managers behind only Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees, and ranks 19th all time. The Nats, of course, lost in the N.L. Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.
It wasn’t an easy season for Washington despite that gaudy record, which was the best in the majors. Johnson’s club missed several key regulars to injuries, including slugger Michael Morse (lat muscle tear), who didn’t play until June, and outfielder Jayson Werth (broken left wrist), who missed three months. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder) spent time on the disabled list and shortstop Ian Desmond (oblique tear) missed 28 games in July and August.
Johnson did get lucky with the health of his starting pitchers. But he also had to manage a bullpen that missed closer Drew Storen (right elbow surgery) for three months and that added replacement parts midstream when Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge proved ineffective. And he had to manage the Stephen Strasburg controversy, which was a distraction all season after the Nats said they planned to shut down their ace pitcher in early September.
Johnson is up against Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker, whose team won the N.L. Central with a 97-65 record, and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, whose team won the N.L. West at 94-68 and, eventually, the World Series – though votes were tallied before the playoffs. Johnson was named The Sporting News Manager of the Year last month after to a poll of 17 of major league managers.
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