By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
6:37 PM EDT, June 25, 2011
It has been 14 years since Davey Johnson managed in Baltimore, but he still holds the distinction of being the last skipper to lead the Orioles to the playoffs or to get them above .500.
Now, he'll be charged with trying to guide the club just south of Baltimore to its first postseason.
Johnson, 68, agreed to become Washington Nationals manager on Saturday, according to multiple reports. Johnson, who hasn't managed since 2000 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, had been a Nationals' senior advisor since 2010.
"It's going to be a short adjustment if there's any at all for Davey. I can guarantee you," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who has managed against Johnson in the past. "He's been watching them a lot, very familiar with them. The situation that got thrust upon the Nationals, they are very fortunate to have someone like him so close by, and familiar with their organization. So I think it will be a very smooth transition. I'm glad we are through playing them."
Johnson replaces Jim Riggleman, who resigned abruptly Thursday following the club's 1-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners. Fourteen years ago it was Johnson who tendered a surprising resignation with one year remaining on his contract.
On the day he received the 1997 American League Manager of the Year Award after leading the Orioles to a wire-to-wire championship and a loss to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, Johnson stepped down as Orioles' manager amid a contract dispute with club owner Peter Angelos.
Angelos and Johnson have since repaired their relationship and last summer Johnson said he had some interest in returning as Orioles manager before the club hired Showalter. Angelos did not return calls seeking comment on Saturday.
Johnson has compiled a 1,148-888 record (.564 winning percentage) in 14 seasons as manager and only twice in that span failed to lead his team to either a first or second place finish.
An all-star second baseman that played 13 seasons in the majors, including 1965 to 1972 with the Orioles, Johnson managed the Orioles in 1996 and 1997. He compiled a .574 winning percentage, the second highest for a full-time Orioles manager. Only Hall of Famer Earl Weaver had a better percentage.
"I enjoyed playing for Davey. Obviously those were the two most successful teams that I ever had in my career, and he was the manager," said former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson. "We had great teams, really talented teams. And, to be honest, that's the type of team that he is probably at his best with, with veteran guys and a talented group of guys."
Regardless of the players' experience, Anderson said he expects Johnson to get a lot out of his team.
"He has done it all, let's face it," Anderson said. "He played for a long time. He managed for a long time. He has quite a track record in his career. Obviously, he has managed talented teams, but he has managed them well."
The Nationals squad he is inheriting — which was 39-37 heading into Saturday's game — is a mix of young players and established veterans, but there should be little adjustment for Johnson, Showalter said.
"A guy like Davey, because of his track record and his status and success level at different stops, it's going to be more them adjusting to him," Showalter said. "(With) his resume, or his track record, he's going to walk in with a lot of instant credibility."
Anderson said he talked to Johnson last month and his old skipper told him that he didn't want to manage again. Yet Anderson said he wasn't surprised that Johnson, who led Team USA to a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics, decided to get back into big-league baseball.
"It's clear he loves it. If he came back to manage the Olympics, he obviously likes staying in the game," Anderson said. "He always seemed enthusiastic about the game and it's clear he loves baseball and always has. So that's not a surprise, and his age certainly is not a factor."
MASN broadcaster and former Orioles player and coach Rick Dempsey said he thinks the Nationals' organization and its players will benefit from Johnson's innate ability to produce winners.
"He's special. This is a big plus for the Nationals right now. I hope he stays there for a long time," said Dempsey, who was on Johnson's coaching staff in 1999 and 2000 in Los Angeles. "He'll do a great job if they let him do things the way he wants to do them. There's just a difference about him. Everywhere he's been, he's been a winner."
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.
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