With 100 games left to play, it's anyone's guess at the moment whether the Nationals can play .600 baseball the rest of the way, and finish with 91 -- or more -- wins, about what should be required for any shot at a playoff berth.
Whether the Nats can return to the postseason is in some question; what's not in doubt is that when they're introduced on Opening Day in 2014, somebody other than Davey Johnson will be the manager.
Replacing Johnson as skipper involves some intrigue to be sure. Do they stay within the organization? If not, do they pursue a candidate with previous big league experience? Will age be a factor? Will they consult with any of the current players on what criteria they require? Will Johnson be allowed his say on who should take over? It's a cinch that, internally, a list is being prepared that will only grow as the season progresses.
For better or worse, here are a few names I suspect will be discussed, whether they make the "short list" or not:
Randy Knorr » A career backup catcher, Knorr has been Johnson's bench coach the past two years and previously spent time as bullpen coach with the club. He also managed several of the club's current players in the minor leagues. Knorr turns 45 this fall and would seem well-positioned for a fairly seamless ascension to skipper.
Trent Jewett » Like Knorr, Jewett has managed in the Washington farm system and has been on Johnson's staff the past two years. Another former catcher, Jewett never reached the majors as a player but has won more than a thousand games as a minor league manager. He'll be 50 next March.
Tony Beasley » Tony is the current Syracuse manager and was on Frank Robinson's staff in 2006. A Virginia native, Tony is a Liberty University alumnus and has successfully managed on every level of the minor leagues. He'll be 47 in December and once, while coaching for Pittsburgh, sang the national anthem before a Pirates home game in 2008.
Don Mattingly » I know, I know, Mattingly is still managing the Dodgers, who are going through some tough times this year. However, the scuttlebutt out of SoCal is that Magic Johnson has someone else in mind to manage his ballclub, and Mattingly, 52, was a candidate for the Nats job before joining Joe Torre's staff a few years ago.
Several ex-big league skippers are part of the Nationals organization, including Bob Boone, Chuck Cottier and Ray Knight. Knight, MASN's pre-game analyst, is the youngest of that group at 60 and assures me he's not looking to manage again. There hasn't been a player-manager since Pete Rose with the '86 Reds, and that's extremely unlikely, though I think someone like Ian Desmond has the intangibles you'd be looking for.
Washington's next manager will be someone hired for the long term. I'm sure Mike Rizzo and the Lerners are in no rush. Somewhere, though, a list is in progress.
Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to "Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at email@example.com.