Davey Johnson signed a 3-year consulting contract after taking over for Jim Riggleman on the Washington Nationals' bench in late June of 2011. Johnson agreed to assume managerial duties immediately and then help the team choose a full-time manager once the season was over. After leading the Nats to a 40-43 record (80-81 overall) and a 3rd place finish in the NL East, Johnson and the Nats' brass decided that he was the man for the job in 2012.
Toward the end of the 2011 season, Johnson's first on an MLB bench since he'd left the Los Angeles Dodgers eleven years earlier, the Nats' 68-going-on-69-year-old manager assessed what he'd seen from the players on his roster and determined that he wanted to return for 2012 because he thought he could take the team to the next level.
"I like the way we stack up against everybody in our division," Johnson told reporters in late October of 2011, "I'm not just sticking out my chest and saying some hot air. My baseball instincts tell me that that's where we need to be, that's where we need to go and that we can get there."
The Nationals almost got there. They finished 98-64. They did win the division, taking the NL East for the first time, but they dropped the NLDS to St. Louis, losing Game 5 to the Cardinals after entering the ninth inning of that decisive game with a two-run lead at home in the nation's capital. Before the postseason even began, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters including the Washington Post's Barry Svrluga and Adam Kilgore that he wanted Davey Johnson to come back for the 2013 campaign:
"'I want him in that chair next year,' Rizzo said. 'I’ve asked him to be in the chair next year. I think he wants to be in the chair next year, and we’re discussing it.'"
"Last year, when the year was over," Davey Johnson told the WaPost reporters, "they went through the manager’s search and I gave them the recommendation that they should hire me." Johnson said then that he was happy to wait as long as it took for the Nationals to make their decision on who would manage the nation's capital's Nats in 2013:
"'I’m comfortable with what my decision will be on who I recommend, because when the season’s over, I’m a consultant again,' Johnson said. 'I could be pointing the finger right here again.'"
As of today the Nationals still hadn't officially announced that it's Johnson who will manage the Nationals next season. When FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal spoke to the soon-to-turn-70-year-old skipper about the fact that he hadn't been named the manager yet, Johnson told the reporter he wasn't concerned:
"'I'm not mad at anyone. I love the Nationals. I love the Lerners,' Johnson said, referring to the team's owners.
"'It's just what it is. I'm perfectly comfortable waiting. I want to be back. It's not like I don't want to be back.'"
FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal noted in his article Monday night that the Nationals lost one possible eventual replacement for Johnson when 2012 Nats' 3B coach Bo Porter decided to join the AL West-bound Houston Astros as their new manager late this past season, leaving Randy Knorr, who managed at Class-A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse before becoming Johnson's bench coach last season, as the likely in-house candidate, "... if the negotiations between Johnson and the team somehow collapsed."
Why the delay in announcing that Johnson will return?
Neither FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal or the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore had any speculation in their articles on the subject on Monday.
Johnson joked with the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore after the Nationals were eliminated by the Cardinals that he might have pulled a "La Russa" and retired if Washington had been able to win the World Series this year, but having fallen short of that goal he said he felt there was some "unfinished business" left to take care of in 2013. Will Johnson return to finish what he started?