Davey Johnson is going to step away from his job as the Washington Nationals' manager after this season. He hasn't changed his stance on that matter. In fact, he reiterated it this past Wednesday when the topic was once again brought up during his weekly interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies. Though he doesn't plan on managing in the nation's capital after this season, he did, however, say that he thinks he'll still be involved with the game he's been a part of as a professional since he signed as an amateur free agent with the Baltimore Orioles in 1962.
"You know, I love the game of baseball," the 70-year-old Nats' skipper told the show's hosts, "and I'll be doing something with some baseball team somewhere. And it's never mattered to me whether it was college ball or the minor leagues, doing the World Cups, doing the Olympics. I love baseball. I love the Nationals organization. I think they've done a great job. And I think that it's time for them to move forward, get a young energetic young man in there."
Asked about an "energetic young man" named Cal Ripken, who said in an interview recently that he would at least consider the Nationals' gig if he was asked, Johnson said he's not sure that it's the direction the 53-year-old Hall of Famer will go.
"Well, I love Cal," Johnson said, "He's as good a baseball man as it gets. He's tremendously talented physically, but he's also very bright. And I don't know that that's what he wants to do. I always think of him as -- he's done a lot in Baltimore, building ball fields for the youth and I know he owns a couple minor league clubs, but he's good. I mean, the Ripken family, you talk about a baseball family? His dad was a coach of mine. I coached Cal. Not that I did anything for him. I just let him play."
Johnson said that the fact that Ripken's been away from the game for so long since retiring as a player would be a concern for him if he was hiring a manager. The current Nationals' skipper is expected to be involved in the search for his successor, and he said, as he has before, that a manager from within the organization who knows the minor league system is the ideal person for the job, but then again, it's Cal Ripken.
"We're talking about a Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken," Johnson said. "He knows how the game is played. I think the biggest thing for a young manager, is handling the pitching staff. I think that's the crux of managing. You've got to handle the pitching staff well. If you handle your pitching staff well, you can be successful. The X's and O's, the bunt plays, the hit-and-runs, basically, it's just individual matchups, with your players against the opponent."
So who is it going to be? Cal Ripken, Matt Williams, whose name has come up in connection with the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo, Randy Knorr, who has managed in the system and is currently the Nats' bench coach? Bo Porter, who some thought was in line for the gig before he took over on the bench in Houston? I asked ESPN's Buster Olney what he was hearing when I spoke to the ESPN reporter in advance of tonight's Sunday Night Baseball matchup between Davey Johnson's Nationals and the New York Mets...
Federal Baseball: "Davey Johnson is supposedly done after this year. There has been some talk about Randy Knorr. The Nationals love Bo Porter, even though he's locked up with the Astros now. Matt Williams. There have even been some whispers about Cal Ripken from Ripken himself that he's interested in getting into the managing game. Where do you think the Nationals turn for Davey Johnson's replacement assuming he does step aside as all signs are saying he will?
ESPN's Buster Olney: "Well, I covered Cal [Ripken] for two years and unless he absolutely has changed [from] the time that I covered him, I can't imagine him being a guy that the Nationals would necessarily take a shot at because -- not that he doesn't know the game and couldn't be a great a manager -- but when you take on someone who's that big in terms of his overall stature, it becomes -- and I've had general managers say this to me all the time -- you have to be aware of the possibility that it's not going to work out, so you almost have to create an exit strategy. And I tell you what, you bring in somebody like Cal Ripken, you basically better be prepared to be married to him for years.
"And I don't know, unless Cal goes and manages, if anybody would necessarily do that. Because no one really knows how he's going to succeed in terms of handling a pitching staff. So I couldn't see that. I've heard a lot of the Matt Williams stuff, because of Mike [Rizzo's] history with him and he's someone who has a lot of stature. And I think a lot of it is going to come down to exactly what Mike is looking for: Is he looking for a name? Is he looking for a guy that he can have be the face of the franchise?
You know, Davey because of his history, was able to do a little bit of both. I mean, not only was he a successful manager, but he also had a track record especially in that area because he had played with the Orioles. And so, if [Rizzo] is looking for someone that he knows firsthand, then I think Knorr and Bo Porter would have an advantage. And if he's looking for a name, somebody with a little more stature, then I imagine Matt Williams is going to be really attractive."
Federal Baseball: "Yeah, I wasn't buying any of the Cal Ripken stuff either until I looked into it a little and saw an interview with him where he kind of hinted that if the Nationals were to ask he would at least consider it, so I'm not sure what to make of that either, but stealing him away from Baltimore and kind of taking him away from the [Orioles] would be a big publicity [PR] thing for the Nationals, but I agree with what you're saying, basically, that you have a guy like that coming in in his first job and if he doesn't work out, how do you fire Cal Ripken?"
ESPN's Buster Olney: "Oh, exactly. Stature, in that case, as they say... you hear this from teams all the time when they talk about bringing a sibling on board, like a manager's brother, there's always a thing of, 'Oh, man, what happens if it doesn't work out?' Then how tough is that going to be? And so I'm sure that's the exercise the Nationals would go through."
Thanks again to Mr. Olney for taking the time to talk with us. And thanks to ESPN for giving us the opportunity to talk Nats with Mr. Olney.
• Note: Buster Olney is working in the nation's capital this weekend as part of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast of the series finale between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets on ESPN2. The telecast begins at 8:05 p.m. EDT on Sunday. The game is also available on ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio and WatchESPN. Baseball Tonight starts at 7 p.m. to preview the game.