It’s hard to believe Davey Johnson is turning into the company man.
Back in 1986, Johnson tore up a $30,000 for plane damages the Mets caused after winning the National League Pennant, essentially spitting in the face of owner Fred Wilpon.
It took three and a quarter more years for the Mets to have the slow start to get rid of Johnson, and then another three years to get another job when he took over the Cincinnati Reds. He fought with Marge Schott and then Peter Angelos in Baltimore, only lasting a few years at each stop.
Now, Johnson is the man who is coming in to save the Nationals.
And frankly, this may be the best thing to happen to that beleaguered franchise.
If you think the Mets are cursed, try being a Nationals fan. No winning seasons, since moving from Montreal in 2005, and every time the club shows some form of life, bad things happen.
They bring up their savior Stephen Strasburg and he proceeds to get put on the shelf with Tommy John surgery. They sign Jayson Werth to be the backbone of the offense with an obscene contract and he’s hitting only .237 with 10 homers in his first year.
And then the Jim Riggleman decides to nuke his managerial career. Just when the erstwhile skipper has the team over .500 and playing its best ball since moving to the 202 area code, he promptly resigns because his contract is not picked up.
It makes business in Queens look downright efficient.
But the Nats seems to have done the right thing here in hiring the 68 year-old Johnson. They got a manager who has done nothing but win in his career. A 1148-88 (.564) record ranks among the highest of any active manager out there. He finished less than second only twice in 14 seasons – with one coming after taking over for Tony Perez 44 games into the season for the Reds in 1993 – and was only under .500 three times in his career – two of them during partial seasons (1990 and 1993).
“All I can say is they got a good man,” Mets first base coach Mookie Wilson said to Adam Rubin of ESPNNY.com. “That much I can say. We’ll see how they respond to him. I spoke to him in the spring and he was very energetic, like his old self. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
“I think he’s up for it. I know he’ll do a good job. I played under him, so I know it. To be successful as a manager or a coach, you have to adjust from year to year and to your personnel. The key to managing or coaching is not actually managing the game, but managing personalities. Davey is a good judge of that. He’s known as being a players’ manager. So let’s just see how that all works out.”
With Johnson reportedly signed through 2012, he will have some time to put his mark on the Nats. With Strasburg coming back and Bryce Harper waiting in the wings, the Nats just may be turning the corner in the National League East.
Of course Johnson comes with some caveats. He hasn’t managed in the majors since 2000 when he helmed the Dodgers, which was the worst of his four stints and he does seem to wear out his welcome after a while with the Reds, O’s, and Dodgers all jettisoning Davey even with some success on the field.
But as we have seen with Buck Showalter in Baltimore and even Terry Collins with the Mets, old managers can change their stripes and maybe Johnson can too.
Heck who would have thought he would have been the stable internal choice to replace Riggleman, but he will be there starting on Monday.
And now the Nats will be a relevant watch in baseball.