LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Though he has remained out of sight since managing the final game of the season in Arizona, Davey Johnson remains a member of the Nationals’ organization. The 70-year-old former skipper officially is listed as a consultant in the club’s baseball operations department, and general manager Mike Rizzo has repeatedly said Johnson will continue to be a valuable resource to the organization.
Matt Williams spoke to Johnson after getting hired last month, and the Nationals’ new manager immediately extended a hand to his predecessor and requested he report to Viera in February with everyone else.
“I asked him to come to spring training,” Williams said. “He’s not far from the spring training complex. He is extremely respectful of me and the staff and doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. Hopefully he will call and let us know he’s coming, and we’ll make a big to‑do. We’ll have a big cake.”
Johnson’s reluctance to make a public appearance at spring training is nothing new. Prior to his final game as manager, he shot down the idea of a trip to Viera when pitchers and catchers report.
“Whoever is the manager, I think probably me being in uniform in spring training is not a good idea, just out of respect for who’s there,” Johnson said Sept. 29, one month before Williams was hired. “Whoever is in this uniform next year, I want them to be putting it on without them thinking I want it back. Because I don’t.”
Johnson also hasn’t made an appearance this week at the Winter Meetings, despite the fact he lives in suburban Orlando and the fact the Nationals have a contingent of 50 front-office employees at the Dolphin Resort.
“I don’t know how much he wants to be at spring training, because he mentioned earlier on that he doesn’t want to take the spotlight off the new manager,” Rizzo said Tuesday. “But Davey is an important part of the decision-making process, and the counseling process moreso. His input is important. He’s got a big, global view of not only baseball but the whole Nationals team. I’m going to lean on him as much as he lets me lean on him.”
Perhaps Williams and Co. can convince Johnson to change his mind in the next two months.
“I asked him to come into the office and sit down and talk baseball,” Williams said. “I’d love to pick his brain. Hopefully he accepts that and we can do that.”