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This will be Davey Johnson's 17th and final season as a manager.
Davey Johnson never expected to be back in a big-league dugout in the first place. So, really, everything that's happened since he donned the uniform again in 2011 has been gravy.
"Shoot, I thought it was my last year 10 years ago," he said earlier this winter.
Johnson, though, didn't agree to become the Nationals' manager 1 1/2 years ago just for kicks. He sensed a franchise on the verge of something big, and he wanted to help it reach those previously unreachable heights.
The Nationals did achieve something they'd never achieved last season, winning their first NL East title while posting baseball's best record. Now the bar has been raised, the goal now reaching -- and winning -- the franchise's first World Series.
"I really like the challenge," Johnson said. "And I said at the end of the year in '11 that I wanted to be around because I thought this ballclub, if we do the things I thought we were capable of doing, we could win the pennant. We came so far, and I've been with clubs where we made progress, like the New York Mets when I first came in -- we won 90 games, then 98, then 108. I think our organization, we're primed to take that next step."
Either way, whether the Nationals win the World Series or fail to reach the playoffs, Johnson, 70, plans to step away at season's end. He's not officially retiring -- he remains under contract with the Nationals as a consultant -- but he won't manage again.
And that adds yet another layer to the most-anticipated season in Washington baseball history.
"Davey's been in this game for a long, long time," said outfielder Bryce Harper, a mere 50 years younger than his skipper. "For him to go out on top is something he wants, and I want to give that to him."
There are myriad reasons why the Nationals have morphed from one of the sport's worst franchises to one of its best. Drafting Stephen Strasburg and Harper No. 1 overall in back-to-back seasons. Mike Rizzo's overall draft and roster-building success. The development of in-house prospects like Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen.
Near the top of that list, though, is the presence of Johnson in the dugout and in the managerial office. Though the organization was beginning to make strides in 2011, Johnson's midseason arrival following Jim Riggleman's surprise resignation signaled a new era for the franchise. The Nationals now had a World Series-winning manager running the show, and he wouldn't have taken this job if he didn't think he had a chance to win another.
Under Johnson's stewardship, the Nationals have gone 138-107. They've also established a new identity, one both of success and a bit of attitude, a direct reflection of their manager's bravado.
The end for Davey, though, has now arrived. His farewell tour begins this week in Viera, continues through September and perhaps into October.
He chose to return for one more season because of the potential he sees in the 2013 Nationals. And in the dream scenario, he'll get the opportunity to ride off into the sunset in the ultimate style.
"We made giant steps last year," Johnson said. "But I think we're in a perfect position to show the world that we're a pretty good damn ballclub, and we can go farther into the postseason. And I want to be a part of that."