Thom Loverro: Is Davey Johnson really ready to walk away from the Nationals after this season?

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

It seemed like a relatively innocent question, a chance for Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson to reflect nostalgically on a remarkable baseball career.

"Is this your last Opening Day in uniform?" I asked Johnson in his press conference before the Nationals opened their season against the Miami Marlins on Monday at Nationals Park.

"I never know ... you know," Johnson, 70, said. "It's my last one sitting right here talking to you. But I don't know what life has in store for me. I have no idea. My wife talks about traveling. And then she also wonders what I will be doing for a job. She wants me to keep working. She wants to retire. So we got that little battle going on. I want to keep working. But we'll see."

What the heck does that mean?

When it was announced in November that Johnson, after leading the Nationals to the NL East division title and winning 98 games, would be back for just one more season in the dugout, the explanation that it was a "mutual decision" was pretty much accepted, somewhat with relief that Johnson would return.

That should have been a no-brainer, but it meant the owners of this team, the Lerners, were going to have to pay a manager far more than they ever had. Dusty Baker, who led the Cincinnati Reds to the NL Central crown, had been given a two-year, $8 million contract extension after the season ended, and though the financial details of Johnson's deals have not been reported, it is reasonable to assume that the Baker contract may be a parameter for what Johnson got from the Lerners -- but we don't know for sure.

Johnson didn't get two years. He got one year -- a "mutual" decision -- with Johnson moving on to a "consultant" role after that.

Upon reflection -- and Johnson's comment on Opening Day certainly give cause for reflection and examination -- the mutual decision that Johnson would retire after this year makes little sense.

Who walks away from managing Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper? Johnson has the 108-win 1986 New York Mets again, this time without the cocaine, and he walks away from that?

Johnson, because of a variety of circumstances, was kept out of a major league dugout for 10 years, from 2001 to 2011, when general manager Mike Rizzo asked Johnson to take over the team after Jim Riggleman quit mid-season. And now he walks away with a team poised to win for the foreseeable future?

Johnson's murky answer Monday was just a paper cut on what was a glorious Opening Day for the Nationals. But if this team is center stage in October as expected, it will take more than a Band-Aid to explain why Davey Johnson won't be managing this team in 2014.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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