It's by no means the talk of the town, but it is fact that Davey Johnson will be retiring from his position as manager of the Washington Nationals after the 2013 season.
Of course, there's a ways to go before Johnson hangs up his skipper's cap, but it still begs the question: Who will be his successor?
In the past, the Nationals organization has exclusively promoted its managers from within its own coaching staff. Even Manny Acta, who was not employed by the Nats when he was named manager in 2006, got his start as a third base coach for the Montreal Expos.
Needless to say, it seems likely the trend will continue once Johnson retires.
However, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com suggested recently that both Nats "ownership and the front office are believed to strongly favor hiring a high-profile manager, rather than simply promote someone [...] from Johnson's coaching staff."
If that's true, it opens the flood gates—especially with nine other big league skippers' contracts expiring after this season.
So who could be managing the Nationals come 2014? Here's an early look at a five potential candidates, both from within the organization and out.
No matter which approach the Nationals choose to take when the time comes to select a new skipper, Nats bench coach Randy Knorr is the clear frontrunner.
Prior to his coaching career, Knorr spent a successful 11 seasons as a major league catcher, which include the Blue Jays' 1992 and '93 World Series wins; and it's commonly agreed that former catchers make the best managers. Additionally, he already has more than six seasons of coaching and managerial experience—all within the Nationals organization.
From 2006 to the current season, Knorr has served as the High-A Potomac Nationals' manager, the Nats' bullpen coach, the Double-A Harrisburg Senators' manager, the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs' manager and the Nats' bench coach. In 2008 he lead the P-Nats to a Carolina League Mills Cup championship and, of course, in 2012 he helped the Nats to win the NL East title in their very first postseason berth.
There is literally no one on Davey Johnson's coaching staff who is more qualified, or more familiar with every aspect of the Washington Nationals, than Randy Knorr. Even if ownership does want to consider hiring a high-profile name to manage the team in 2014, expect Knorr to be the No. 1 contender this upcoming offseason.
Of all the potential prospects currently working within the Nationals organization, Tony Beasley has the most managerial accolades. Let's rattle them off:
2001 (first year as a manager)
- Lead the Williamsport Crosscutters to a first-place finish; they were named co-champions of the New York-Penn League alongside the Brooklyn Cyclones
- Lead the Hickory Crawdads to a South Atlantic League championship and the fifth-best record in all of minor league baseball
- Named Baseball America's Low Class-A Manager of the Year
- Named Baseball America's Low Class-A Manager of the Year
- Lead the Altoona Curve to the Eastern League Championship Series
- Named Baseball America's Double-A Manager of the Year
- Served as a coach to the U.S. National Team in the MLB Futures Game
- Lead the Arizona Fall League Mesa Desert Dogs to the Championship Series
Clearly this guy knows what he's doing.
Only adding to his experience, Beasley has been a third base coach for both the Pirates (2008-10) and the Nationals (2011). He's currently serving in his second season as manager of the Syracuse Chiefs.
Come this winter, don't be surprised if he's right up there with Randy Knorr in the running for Davey Johnson's job.
Like Randy Knorr, Trent Jewett is a former catcher, although he spent just four seasons in the Pirates' farm system. However, he does have more than 14 seasons of coaching and managerial experience under his belt.
From 1998 to 2000 and 2003-04, Jewett managed the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. In between, he served as the Pirates third base coach from 2000-02. He then managed the Pirates new Triple-A club, the Indianapolis Indians, from 2005-08 before moving to the Potomac Nationals for the 2009 season. In 2010 he managed the Syracuse Chiefs, and was promoted to Nationals' first base coach mid-season. He remained there until 2013 when he moved to third base, replacing Bo Porter.
That's certainly an extensive resume.
Given his plethora of experience and position within the Nationals organization, Jewett will definitely be in the running to succeed Davey Johnson. However, he should not be ranked above Randy Knorr or Tony Beasley, and perhaps not even above any prominent managers the Nats might have the chance interview.
As stated in the intro slide, CBSSports.com writer Danny Knobler has suggested the Nationals are interested in hiring a high-profile manager to take the helm in 2014.
Mattingly is one of 10 "lame duck" managers whose contracts with their current clubs will expire after the 2013 season. Not only that, but thanks to the Dodgers' high payroll and low production thus far this season, his job security has been questioned in recent weeks—and apparently the Nats have had interest in hiring him before.
People who know Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo say Rizzo is and has always been a Mattingly fan. The Nationals considered Mattingly as manager once before, according to sources, although they never officially interviewed him for the job at that point.
It remains a mystery who exactly those "sources" are.
Regardless, it's too early to tell if the Dodgers will release Mattingly, much less if the Nats have any interest in interviewing him. At this point, everything surrounding Donnie Baseball is speculation at best.
When you're talking big name current MLB managers, it doesn't get much bigger than Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. At the beginning of this year, MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson suggested that he could very well be in the running to become the Nats' manager in 2014.
In response to a "Nationals Inbox" question, he writes:
[...] In the past few years, the Nationals have promoted from within. Randy Knorr and Trent Jewett are obvious candidates. However, I'm going to put another name out there. Joe Girardi is in the last year of his contract with the Yankees. If he is not retained after 2013, it would not surprise me if Girardi became a candidate with the Nats. Remember, Washington had interest in Girardi after the 2006 season, but he took himself out of the managerial race.
The key phrase here is, of course, "if he is not retained after 2013."
At the beginning of this season it was hardly looking good for the Bronx Bombers. Right out of the gate, their all-star starting lineup was snake bitten by injury—Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson are all currently on the disabled list.
Yet, somehow, they are only one game out of first place in the AL East.
Girardi has done a bang-up job keeping his team above .500 despite their bad luck. Unless something goes horribly wrong later this season, it seems unlikely that Yankees GM Brian Cashman won't be interested in rehiring Girardi for 2014, and even less likely that, given the option, Girardi would choose to move to the Nationals over staying with Yankees.
At this point in the season, no one in Washington is even remotely concerned with who might be managing the Nats come 2014. The current objective is making the postseason in 2013—and that job rests on the shoulders of Davey Johnson.
Of course, there are obvious frontrunners to be named: Randy Knorr, Tony Beasley and Trent Jewett. As far as any high-profile candidates go, that can't even begin to be definitively addressed until long after the season is over.
Until then, it's anyone's guess; and as it goes in baseball, it seems anything can happen.