Why Do The Nationals Want Davey Johnson To Manage Them?

Davey Johnson, a 15-year major league veteran who still holds the major league record for most home runs in a season for a second baseman (42 in 1973, tied with Rogers Hornsby), became a successful manager after his playing days were done.

In 14 seasons as a manager, his teams finished under .500 in a full season only once; he guided a team to a first-place finish four times and one other wild-card appearance (the 1996 Orioles), and was the most successful manager in the history of the Mets, winning 595 games over six-plus seasons and leading them to a World Series title in 1986.

But he was fired 42 games into the 1990 season, with the team just two games under .500, after never having a losing year; GM Frank Cashen said the team "wanted to go in a new direction".

Ten years later, he was dismissed by the Dodgers after a winning 86-76 year; the reason given at the time was that he failed

... to make the playoffs in his two years despite having one of baseball’s highest payrolls

Johnson was a good manager and took three teams to the postseason. The operative word here is "was". While it's clear in baseball's current era that age is not necessarily a detriment to managing -- Jack McKeon was brought back by the Marlins just a week ago at age 80 -- Johnson's contemporaries as managers (Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Cito Gaston) all retired at the end of the 2010 season. Johnson is 68, and while he has been around teams (including the Nats) as a consultant since his last managerial gig, the question remains: will Johnson be able to handle the rigors of the daily grind in the dugout, 11 years after he last held the job? Of the players on the last team Johnson managed, the 2000 Dodgers, just two are still active: Adrian Beltre and Alex Cora, who, oddly enough, is a reserve infielder for the Nats.

One of the reasons given by Jim Riggleman when he abruptly resigned this past week from the Nats' managing job was that he didn't think the Nats were committed to him for the long term, that with guys like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper coming along and the Nats creeping over .500, that they wanted a "big name" guy to take them to the next level.

Maybe, but is that guy the 68-year-old Johnson? How long a commitment does Washington GM Mike Rizzo want from him, and how long can a guy past Social Security age last in that position? Jack McKeon's hire is clearly interim -- he won't be in the Marlins dugout past this season. But what message is Rizzo sending to his team with this hire?

And there's just one more thing. It's quite strange, in my view, for a 68-year-old man to still be called "Davey". Can we now formalize that and call him just plain "Dave"?

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