11/13/2012 5:41 P.M. ET
Davey runs away with NL Manager of Year honors
After leading Nats to MLB's best record, skipper has now won award in both leagues
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
It marked the second time Johnson won the award. He won the American League Manager of the Year Award in 1997 as a member of the Orioles. The 69-year-old Johnson is the second member of the Nationals to win an offseason award this week. On Monday, outfielder Bryce Harper was named the NL Rookie of the Year.
For Johnson, he thought the award was an organizational one because the front office, led by the Lerner family and general manager Mike Rizzo, supplied him with the players who helped him win his fifth career division title.
"I was proud to be part of the organization because [it] provided me with a lot of talented players," Johnson said. "To me, it was like an organization award. ... I had 25 guys who really [worked hard] under tough circumstances. Hopefully, I didn't hold them back."
For a brief moment, Johnson thought about the last time he won the award with Orioles, who accepted his resignation a few hours before he was named the winner in 1997.
"If I won this award, I thought I would get fired," Johnson said jokingly on MLB Network. "Hopefully, I could live through getting this award and manage the Nationals in 2013."
2012 NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR VOTING
It was last Spring Training when Johnson told a reporter he should be dismissed as manager of the Nationals if they didn't finish the season in first place. Johnson's job was never in jeopardy, as the team won its first division title since moving to Washington after the 2004 season. The Nats finished with the best record in baseball, going 98-64. They had the best record despite losing Jayson Werth, Michael Morse and Wilson Ramos for lengthy periods because of injuries.
But finishing in first place doesn't tell the whole story about Johnson. He has instilled confidence in his players, and it affects their attitude. Ian Desmond, for example, had the best year of his career. He became the second player in Nationals history to reach 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season.
But Desmond didn't downplay the fact Johnson played a key role in him having the best season of his career. Johnson told Desmond that he was going to be the everyday shortstop no matter what happens during the season.
"Davey has been real nice to have around for me, personally. He always believed in me," Desmond said. "When we came in during Spring Training, he said, 'You are going to play every single day. I don't care what you do. You are out there, you are my shortstop, no matter what.'
"To me, that was like getting a multiyear contract. That's all I needed was someone's word to say, 'Hey, you are the guy.' The audition kind of went away. Now it's like, 'Go out and play your game.' He believes in you, you go out and perform and just play the game the way you know how."
It was Johnson who put in a new hitting philosophy: Stop going to the opposite field all the time and hit the ball where it is pitched.
According to reliever Drew Storen, Johnson is more than just an X's and O's manager. He loves to joke with the players.
"He is really connected to us," Storen said in September. "He gets where we are coming from, and I think he does a great job putting people in positions to succeed. He tries to stay out of our way and let us play to our potential. That's one thing that he does really well.
"He is not afraid to cut it up with you, just like you would with a teammate. That's pretty awesome. That's why we respond to him."
Pointing out that he has unfinished business after watching his team lose to the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, Johnson recently signed an extension to manage the Nationals in 2013. It will mark his last year as a manager. He will then become a team consultant in '14.
"Now we can talk about winning. Everybody expects us to win," Johnson said. "Now you have to step it up. Now you have to play to your potential. There isn't any guesswork. If you want to be there, you have to step up. ... I think everybody will. They figured it out. There are not going to be any surprises. The performances should even be better for everyone. Jayson Werth, Zim [Ryan Zimmerman] and those guys, they are going to do their thing.
"There isn't a whole lot of moves we need to make during the offseason. It depends on what we do with [free agent Adam] LaRoche. I think Christian Garcia [can be a starter] and I want him starting. He has got nasty stuff."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.