Nationals' Manager Search: More Than One Hall Of Fame Infielder On Nats' Radar?

Koji Watanabe

Plenty of names are out there as potential candidates to replace Davey Johnson on the bench in the nation's capital, but Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo has been unwilling to confirm or deny any of the rumors. On Sunday, someone mentioned a new/old name as another possibility...

So... surely you've heard about the Hall of Fame shortstop whose name has come up in connection to the Washington Nationals' search for their sixth skipper, right? The one who is currently working as a baseball analyst on television? The one with ties to the area who has in the past made it known that he had some interest in managing, maybe? No, not Cal Ripken. Barry Larkin. Barry Larkin?

"I think it's a unique opportunity for a manager to come in. Usually when there's a change in managers, it's usually because of a problem..." - Nats' GM Mike Rizzo on ESPN980 on manager search

You know, the veteran of 19 major league seasons with the Cincinnati Reds who retired in 2004 and then took a job as a special assistant to GM Jim Bowden with the Nats in 2005.

The infielder who put up a .295/.371/.444 line over the course of his career as a player, worked with both Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman during his time with the Nationals. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, both players talked to MLB.com's Bill Ladson about the role Larkin played in their development.

"'Obviously, he taught me a lot about the game,'" Zimmerman told MLB.com's beat writer. "'But more importantly, he taught me other things around the game -- how to be a good person, how to respect the game, the other things that you usually wait until you are in the big leagues.'"

Desmond said he spent hours working on both sides of his game with the one-time NL MVP and multiple Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner. "'He really put his heart into it,'" Desmond explained, "'He went the extra mile. That's what it takes to become a Hall of Famer. You have to be thorough and go the extra mile. He was just passionate about the game.'" Larkin left the Nationals after three seasons as a special assistant and joined the MLB Network in 2008.

"A manager has to come in with respect of the clubhouse and respect of the players. They have to be able to trust the manager that he has the players' back..." - Mike Rizzo on ESPN980's The Sports Fix

Larkin was part of Davey Johnson's coaching staff with the 2009 U.S. entry in the World Baseball Classic. Though he never managed at any level of the professional game, he did lead the Brazilian WBC team through the qualifying process and into the tournament last March. Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo brought the Nationals up twice in a discussion of the open managing gigs this winter and mentioned Larkin as a potential candidate for Johnson's replacement in his Sunday column.

Cafardo first mentions the Nationals as a team that might be interested in Joe Girardi if he decides to leave the New York Yankees. Larkin comes up when the Boston Globe reporter names some candidates who could fill the jobs that are available in Washington, Cincinnati and Seattle. Tony LaRussa's name is one thrown out there. "Other obvious names will surface," Mr. Cafardo writes, "such as Reds great Barry Larkin, whose name has also been linked with the Nationals."

It's not the first time Mr. Cafardo has brought Larkin up in connection with the Nationals. In an early August article he wrote that the Hall of Fame infielder's name was, "... one of the most interesting names bandied about as a possible replacement for Davey Johnson in Washington." He also mentioned, "Houston manager Bo Porter, who seemed to be the heir apparent to Johnson had he stayed in Washington."

Larkin's name has also been mentioned in connection to the Reds' managerial opening after Dusty Baker was fired last week. Mr. Cafardo's not alone in mentioning rumors of interest on the Nationals' part though.

National baseball writer Phil Rogers brought up the possibility of Larking being consider as Davey Johnson's successor back in August, writing then that, "General manager Mike Rizzo hasn't indicated what he's going to be looking for in a replacement, but Hall of Famer Barry Larkin heads the list of possibilities if he chooses to turn over a contender to a first-timer."

Larkin, Ripken, Porter, Girardi, Randy Knorr? Trent Jewett?

Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo declined to discuss specific names rumored to be on the list of potential candidates when he talked to ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro this past Friday.

"We've done a lot of the vetting process," the Nats' general manager explained. "We started off with an extremely large list of good candidates and we're in the process now of whittling them down to a manageable few that we'll begin to call to other teams for permission to speak to these guys and to interview them."

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