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Thom Loverro: Nationals can't manage without Johnson

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Photo - Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Nationals have an option to retain manager Davey Johnson for the 2013 season, when he will be 70 years old.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images The Nationals have an option to retain manager Davey Johnson for the 2013 season, when he will be 70 years old.
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

The whole planet is a twitter with anxiety and anger over the Washington Nationals' planned shutdown of star pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

But maybe the shutdown that Nationals fans should be most worried about is that of the manager who has taken them to these heights.

It is entirely possible that for the second time in his career Davey Johnson could win a manager of the year award and not return -- though the circumstances are far different than the first time.

In 1997, his Baltimore Orioles led the American League East wire-to-wire and made their second straight AL Championship Series appearance. Johnson was named AL manager of the year.

He then resigned with one year remaining on his contract. But that was because of a clash of wills with owner Peter Angelos that lasted nearly his entire tenure as manager.

Johnson said he did not want to go into the final year of his contract as a lame duck and sought an extension, and Angelos would have sooner drank asbestos milkshakes than give Johnson a contract extension.

That's not the case this time in Washington. There doesn't appear to be any tension between Johnson and Nationals management despite a reported shouting match during a closed-door meeting with general manager Mike Rizzo following a sweep by the Phillies on Sunday.

Johnson came into the organization as an advisor to Rizzo and then took over as manager in midseason last year when Jim Riggleman quit. He was retained this year when the Nationals exercised their option, as per his contract, according to reports, and the team has an option for 2013 as well.

All indications are the decision to return is pretty much up to Johnson.

When asked whether he was going to come back to manage the team next season, Johnson responded, "Premature question."

It's one Nationals fans better hope he later answers with "yes."

There may be all sorts of reasons Johnson may choose not to manage next year. He will be 70 years old, and there is no denying a major league season -- one that could go into the postseason -- is a grind. But Johnson appears to be in great shape and has shown no signs of being unable to handle the demands.

One of Johnson's former pitchers, Dwight Gooden, compared the Nationals earlier this year to the 1984 New York Mets, the young team that won 90 games in Johnson's first year.

The Mets went on to win 98 games in 1985 and 108 games and a World Series in 1986. There's no reason to believe such good times aren't in the Nationals' future.

You would think Johnson would want to stick around to see the rest of the show. It should be a good one.

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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