US Presswire photo
Davey Johnson is widely expected to return to manage in 2013.
Make no mistake, though, there's only one person who will decide whether Johnson returns as manager next season: Johnson.
The veteran skipper is under contract to work for the Nationals through 2013 per the deal he signed last summer upon taking over for Jim Riggleman upon the latter's surprise resignation. That contract stipulates Johnson has a job as a consultant to general manager Mike Rizzo, with the option of returning to the dugout as manager.
Technically speaking, either side could decide not to select that option. But Rizzo has made it clear he wants Johnson to be his manager for as long as Johnson wants to do the job.
Rizzo affectionately calls Johnson "part of the furniture" with the Nationals, too big and vital a piece to the organization to be cast aside anytime soon.
Rizzo has always wanted Johnson to manage through at least 2013. Upon hiring him last summer, he actually tried to lock him up to a three-year deal on the spot, but Major League Baseball wouldn't allow a long-term deal without the club conducting a full managerial search that included minority candidates.
Rizzo conducted that search after the season but still wound up sticking with the man he wanted all along: Johnson.
At the time, both sides said they would address the question of 2013 after the 2012 season was complete. But the unspoken truth was this: As long as Johnson wanted to return for another season, he would return.
And to date, Johnson has given no indication he doesn't want to return.
The 69-year-old has been reinvigorated by this job, falling in love with a team and an organization that is set up to win not only this year but for years to come. He talks repeatedly about his commitment to developing young players and helping them realize their potential.
And he sees a Nationals club that -- while it has a chance to win it all this season -- should be an even stronger contender next season, with Stephen Strasburg unleashed to pitch straight through October, with Bryce Harper maturing and growing into a more experienced player and with still more prospects coming up the pipeline.
Why wouldn't Johnson want to return to that? His health is good. His team's prospects are good. He's having the time of his life.
The final details may not be worked out yet for Johnson's return as manager in 2013. But if you asked both Johnson and Rizzo to reveal how they really feel about the situation, both would undoubtedly say they committed to each other for another season a long time ago.