Candid Davey has eye on present, not past or future
With his Nationals managerial career winding down, Johnson opens up to MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Once the 2013 season comes to an end, Davey Johnson will no longer manage the Nationals. Instead, he will become a consultant for the team. Before the club honors Johnson at Nationals Park on Sunday, MLB.com caught up with Johnson to talk about his career with the Nationals and his plans for the future.
MLB.com: Assuming the Nationals don't go into the postseason, you have a week to go as manager. Tell me, what are you feeling right now?
Davey Johnson: Nothing different. I have a job to do. I live for the moment. I don't live in the past or look into the future. I think it is just a waste to live your life [that way]. I get on my wife all the time. I say, "Enjoy the moment. Don't be thinking about what's going to happen down the road." I always felt that way. I enjoy the present.
MLB.com: What do you think of the Nationals' chances of getting into the postseason as a Wild Card?
Johnson: As long as you have a chance, I never take anything for granted. I've been one strike away and two runs down from losing the World Series [in 1986]. The philosophy I've had as a player, or whatever is you hit a fly ball in the outfield and you don't completely shut it down. You run and [the outfielder] might drop it. … If you don't run hard, you are a loser. So I'm not taking anything for granted. We are five games back in the loss column with eight games to go. It's going to be awfully tough and we need some help. We have to take care of business here. Who knows what can happen?
MLB.com: What has made the Nationals successful the last two months?
Johnson: When you win, 25 guys have to contribute. Now with expanded rosters, we have some more guys that can do some things. The starting pitching has been better. The bullpen, with Ryan Mattheus and Xavier Cedeno coming back and Drew Storen throwing better -- all those things shore up little weaknesses. When that happens, you have the best opportunity to play as a group. My job is to look at the overall picture and make sure there aren't any weaknesses, and we had some.
[For example,] our bench was horrendous during the first half [of this year]. I look down there and every one of them was hitting around .150. A lot of it was because of a set lineup. We still had some young guys that were coming off the bench, so they were not going to get to play. When they did, they didn't know how to handle it.
MLB.com: If you had to do one thing over again, what would that be?
Johnson: There is nothing. I spend a whole lot of time picking the best option today, tonight and tomorrow. That's what I live by. I'm not going to go into some of the things. I talked about them before. It doesn't do any good to talk about some mistakes that we made over the winter. We lost three left-handers [Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett and Michael Gonzalez] that were pretty successful here [last year] and we didn't have one that was successful in that job that was in the 'pen [during the first half of this season]. Do I have to dictate a picture? So the figuration of the 'pen changed and the roles changed. That's different.
When you have a set lineup and you have young players on the bench that sat around two or three weeks and they have to perform, that's difficult, too. Some of the guys were struggling and other guys tried harder, and then [there were] injuries. … It's real simple to me. It's not like I'm trying to invent the wheel. I know what goes on on a daily basis. So I know what we were featuring going in. It's very simple.
MLB.com: How do you see the future for the Nationals?
Johnson: It's great. They have a great general, a great front office, great ownership; they have a great farm director, a lot of good baseball people managing in this system. The talent level, the depth in pitching is going to be there next year. That was one of the concerns [I had last] winter. That was one of the reasons I was pushing for Gorzelanny. Not only was he left-handed, but could start. But we missed out on him.
The addition of Ian Krol that we got in a trade, Zach Walters and his performance, Anthony Rendon and his progress [will help]. [Danny Espinosa] will be back and be the player we all know he can be. Ryan Zimmerman has gone through the arm issue and I think he has come out with passing grades. Wilson Ramos [is] healthy and showing that he can be a great No. 1 [behind the plate].
As far as I'm concerned, there is no wish list now. As far as having veteran players, after this year, Tyler Moore will be able to come off the bench, hit left-handers like he is capable of. Lombo [Steve Lombardozzi] did a good job. All the parts are here if we don't lose any of them like we did last year. We lost Gorzelanny and Burnett and also Mark DeRosa. Moore will be [here], along with Scott Hairston, and be able to fill those [bench] roles -- one in the infield, one in the outfield.
|"Any time you get honored, I'm uncomfortable. I know the Nationals are going to play a video of me [on Sunday]. But I'm dreading that, because that's like closure, you know what I mean? When they honor me that tells you, 'You are one old son of a gun. This is it. Get the wood box ready.'"|
|-- Davey Johnson|
MLB.com: You are going to be a consultant for the Nationals after this year. Who do you want to see manage the club in 2014?
Johnson: I do have a consulting contract, but it would be up to what [president of baseball operations and general manager Mike] Rizzo wants. It's his choice on who he wants to come in here. I probably won't be in on that [decision]. He has to do all that homework and all that. He has all that information. He knows a lot more of these people than I do.
There are some guys that I like on my staff that I think would do a good job. I have not made that a secret, and that's Randy Knorr and Trent Jewett. But there are going to be other people in the mix. I don't have any idea what Rizzo is looking for compared to what we have in-house.
I don't think I will have much say in it at all. I may be asked about some of the candidates that I know, and then I can compare and voice an opinion.
That did happen early on in my relationship with Rizzo. I thought Jim Riggleman would be a better fit with a young club than Bobby Valentine. I knew Riggleman as a coach, coming up through the Cardinals organization. I had real good knowledge of Bobby. He coached for me a couple of times. I just thought that where Bobby was at, it would be better to have a low-key guy [like Riggleman] coming in with younger players.
MLB.com: You look vibrant and it looks like you have plenty left in the tank. What are you going to do after the season is over? Could you still manage one day?
Johnson: Yeah, I'll be managing probably somewhere, if somebody wants me. I never worry about that. I'm not going to be looking for a job. I have one job to manage already -- from Florida Collegiate Summer League. They would like me back. I also want the Urban Youth Academy in Orlando. I've been working on that for four or five years. I think I can get that together. I'll be asked to manage a team at the Youth Academy with inner-city kids.
For the last 13 years or so, I've had a lot of different jobs. People have called me up and asked if I feel if I'm a good fit and I could give something back doing it, no matter what level -- whether it's managing at the Netherlands, working for USA Baseball. If I think it's very challenging and it's a good fit, I'll probably do it. I feel like I can help any program.
MLB.com: Based on what you are saying, you wouldn't want to manage the Nationals again?
Johnson: That was determined last year and  was going to be my last year. That was basically the club's decision and I was totally in agreement with it. We did closure on that a year ago. I certainly wasn't Jim Riggleman wanting to say, "Now this is the last year, how about extending me?" I'm not going to be in that situation.
MLB.com: Do you think you are a Hall of Fame manager?
Johnson: I don't even think about that. I really don't. That's the farthest thing from my mind. I have been inducted into three Hall of Fames. One in Texas, one in Baltimore and one in New York. It's a great honor.
Any time you get honored, I'm uncomfortable. I know the Nationals are going to play a video of me [on Sunday]. But I'm dreading that, because that's like closure, you know what I mean? When they honor me that tells you, 'You are one old son of a gun. This is it. Get the wood box ready.'
I don't have an ego. I'm more concerned about [making sure] the people who are around me are successful than worrying about accolades. I'm more about performance, making things work, especially as a manager. Anytime I do something for any organization, I want to leave that organization in better shape.
I'm very fortunate that I've had the opportunity to do a multitude of things in baseball that a lot of people haven't. I wouldn't trade any of those experiences for another day in the big leagues or anything. They all have been a good part of my life. Hopefully, I'll be very productive and useful. That's why when you get honored, it's like closure. 'Now you've done this now, go home.'
I also believe you work until you die. I think we all do that. I'm not quite ready to die yet. [Joking] Although, some of my coaches wished I would.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.