Nationals Top 5 Offseason Storylines: Nats' Next Manager?

Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE

The Washington Nationals are in the market for a manager again now that Davey Johnson has retired following the Nats' 2013 season finale on Sunday. Cal Ripken? Randy Knorr? Matt Williams? Trent Jewett? Where will the Nats turn for their sixth skipper?

General Manager Mike Rizzo chose not to talk about the Washington Nationals' search for the next Nats' sixth manager while Davey Johnson was still on the bench. Rizzo, who brought Johnson back to the majors in 2011, eleven years after he had last managed the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000, said he would discuss the search for the next skipper when the season ended.

"'I think that’s probably job No. 1, because a manager is going to have input on what we do with the roster construction and that type of thing.'" -Mike Rizzo to CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman

"We're worried about the game against St. Louis, the three in Arizona," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier last week. "We'll discuss it after the season in respect to Davey. We've got a manager in place right now, we're not going to discuss his predecessor while he's still managing the ballclub."

"I think it would be disrespectful to talk about the new manager when the old manager is standing four feet from me," Rizzo joked with MASN's FP Santangelo during an interview this past weekend in Chase Field in Arizona.

When he spoke to reporters, including CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman before the second game with the D-Backs on Saturday, Rizzo did, however, say that finding a new manager was the no.1 priority this winter. "'I think first of all, after the season we’re going to start the search for a manager,'" he explained, "'I think that’s probably job No. 1, because a manager is going to have input on what we do with the roster construction and that type of thing.'"

The 52-year-old General Manager and VP of Baseball Ops also said he'd seek the advice of the outgoing skipper, since Davey Johnson will remain a part of the Nationals' front office as a consultant.

"'Of course we will,'" Rizzo said. "'It’d be a resource I’d be foolish not to tap into.'" Johnson has stated repeatedly over the last few months, his belief that the best options come from within an organization, with someone who knows the talent and has worked with the players he'll manage. Randy Knorr and Trent Jewett are atop the list of in-house candidates. Bo Porter probably would have been if he hadn't taken over in Houston.

"The ideal is to manage in your system, so you know the talent in your system." - Davey Johnson on ideal manager

As for seeking the opinions of the Nationals themselves?

"'I don’t think that’s a place for the players to dabble in,'" Rizzo told reporters in Arizona. "'It’s an organizational decision, and it’s got to be an organizational fit.'"

Some have offered their own opinions though. Jayson Werth told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore that Cal Ripken would be his first choice, though he acknowledge he would likely have no say in the matter. He also said Knorr would be a strong choice too. Ian Desmond told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson, that he thought Randy Knorr, who managed the shortstop in A-ball in 2005, should get the job after working his way up and serving as Johnson's bench coach the past two seasons, though he was sure to say he "wouldn't ever doubt" any decision his GM makes.

Tyler Clippard, who was open about how Drew Storen was treated this season, "declined to say who he wanted as manager," MLB.com's Mr. Ladson wrote, but he said he'd prefer a choice that didn't alter the chemistry the team has built up in the past few seasons. "'Somebody who is more familiar with the dynamic of the clubhouse is going to be more beneficial to the organization,'" Clippard said.

In addition to Cal Ripken, another potential candidate from outside the organization whose name has come up repeatedly early in the process of finding the Nats' next manager is Matt Williams.

CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote today that, "Matt Williams is still considered the leading candidate to take over for Davey Johnson as Nationals manager, if the team hires from outside the organization," though he went on to wonder about whether or not the Nats will go outside. "[P]eople who speak regularly with Nationals management now believe bench coach Randy Knorr also has a strong chance to get the job," Mr. Heyman wrote.

Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell weighed the options in a chat on Monday when one WaPost reader mentioned Cal Ripken's lack of experience as a manager. The WaPost writer noted that none of the three options mentioned had managed in the majors:

"[T]he 'leaders' for the Nats spot are -- 1 and 1a --probably Matt Williams and Randy Knorr. They'd probably both be good. But neither has managed in the majors. To be blunt, Ripken's on field exerience would put him well ahead of Knorr for any meaningful definition of experience-pertinent-to-managing."

The Nationals are in the enviable position of having an opening on the bench of a team that won 98 games a year ago and surged late this season with a 34-20 finish over the last two months of the season during which they showed signs of being the team many thought would compete for a second trip to the postseason and more.

Do they hand that team to Randy Knorr, who has managed in the organization and knows it well? Matt Williams, who has a history with Rizzo from when both were in Arizona during Williams' playing days? Do they go with Cal Ripken, described by the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell as knowing, "as much about baseball at the granular and the theoretical level as anybody in the sport in the last 50 years," and give him his first managing gig at any level? They have some tough choices to make with a number of good candidates. And those mentioned above are just the options being discussed publicly...

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