"If he doesn't win [there] should be an investigation in my opinion," Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro in an interview on Monday when discussing the BBWAA Manager of the Year Award and the job Nats' manager Davey Johnson did in 2012. "I think he had a terrific season for us and was one of the main reasons that we did what we did this season and I feel good about him managing the club in . You're talking about one of the great managers, to me, of all time." The Nats announced late last week that the soon-to-turn 70-year-old veteran of 16 seasons on an MLB bench will return for a second full season at the helm in D.C. in 2013 before returning to a consultant's role with the organization.
Johnson led the Nationals to a 98-64 record (an 18-game improvement over the Nats' 2011 record), an NL East title and the first postseason appearance by a team from the nation's capital in 79 years. Asked Sunday in an interview with MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette what the veteran bench manager had done right, the Nats' GM said what impressed him most this season was the way Johnson handled all the different personalities on the roster.
"The way he can relate to all groups of players," Rizzo explained, "You've got the wily old veterans, the young players, kind of the superstar potential-type of guys, some guys that have an ego, the guys that you have to get out of [their] shell a little bit. This guy does a masterful job of motivation and he's also a terrific teacher."
"He's as good a hitting guy as I've ever been associated with," Rizzo said, "And he and Rick Eckstein, our hitting coach, do a marvelous job with that and just the calmness and the aura that he portrays in the dugout and in the clubhouse, on the team plane, in the hotel, it's wonderful to watch."
After his first full season on the bench in D.C. after taking over for Jim Riggleman in the middle of the 2011 campaign, Johnson is now (138-107) as the Nats' skipper. The division title he led the Nationals to in 2012 was the sixth of his career as a manager and the 90+ win season was the seventh of his second career. Johnson also joined Billy Martin as the only two managers in major league history to lead four different teams to the postseason.
When Johnson was named the Sporting News' Manager of the Year a few weeks back, he said it meant a lot to him to be recognized by his peers. "To be recognized by my fellow comrades," Johnson said, "a particularly accomplished bunch, makes this award especially meaningful." Johnson beat out the Cincinnati Reds' Dusty Baker and the San Francisco Giants' Bruce Bochy to win the Sporting News' Manager of the Year. The two manaagers are his competition for the BBWAA's NL Manager of the Year Award which will be announced tonight at 6:00 pm EST on the MLB Network.
Baker led the Reds (97-65) to an NL Central division title, and the second-best record in baseball behind the Nationals. Bochy led the Giants (94-68) to the NL West crown for the second time in the last three years and then went on to win the World Series, though the Manager of the Year Award is based on the results from the regular season.
If Davey Johnson wins tonight it will be the second times he's won a Manager of the Year Award. Johnson led the 1997 Baltimore Orioles to a 98-64 record and a first-place finish in the AL East that season, only to resign on the same day he won the BBWAA's award. Johnson already has a contract for 2013, so there's no worry of that happening to him again should he win the award tonight.