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In praise of Davey Johnson

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
All Davey Johnson does is win. (Getty Images)

Nationals manger Davey Johnson is once again proving what we already knew: that he's one of the best managers in the history of the game.

What he's done this season is remarkable enough. His Nats will soon clinch the NL East title, and they might wind up with the best record in all of baseball (although, to hear Johnson tell it, he doesn't much care about that). He's changed the team's offensive offensive approach and shown a deft touch with the pitching staff. The desired results have followed, as they always have for Johnson's teams.

Consider that in Johnson's career, he's managed 13 full seasons (counting the current one and the strike-shortened campaigns of 1994 and 1995), and in only one of those did he post a losing record (in 1999, his first year with the Dodgers). This season will mark his sixth division title, and he of course guided the Mets to the World Series trophy in 1986. Across his 13 full and three partial seasons on the job, Johnson has a winning percentage of .564, which ranks 13th all-time among managers with at least 1,000 games in the dugout.

Johnson's also 289 games over .500 in his career, which is good for 18th place all-time, just ahead of the legendary Miller Huggins. It's also worth noting that of the 17 names ahead of Johnson on that list, 14 are in the Hall of Fame for their managerial accomplishments. The three who aren't in Cooperstown? Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. Rarified air, that.

Even more impressive is that Johnson's teams have combined for an average finish in the standings of 1.9, which ranks second only to Charlie Manuel on the all-time list (again including managers with 1,000 or more career games). The difference, of course, is that Johnson has managed almost 600 more games than Manuel and done it with five different teams.

As a player, Johnson learned the craft of managing under the legendary Earl Weaver, and his anti-small-ball approach can certainly be traced back to Weaver's influence (the Nats this season rank 15th in the NL in sac bunts). Once his playing days were done, Johnson, not surprisingly, got off to an incredible start as a manager. As a minor-league skipper, each of his first three teams won pennants, and then with the Mets he became the first NL manager ever to win 90 or more games in each of his first five seasons. All he's done since then is keep winning.

The shame of it, of course, is that Johnson wasn't a major league manager from the end of the 2000 season through the first 79 games of the 2011 season. That's a full decade the game was without Johnson as a dugout leader. That's baseball's loss, but, as the 2012 Nationals have reminded us, Johnson's skills haven't eroded in the least.

If you like, think of this as the greatest season in franchise history, but also think of it as further evidence that Johnson the manager should one day be in the Hall of Fame.

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