The Washington Nationals said goodbye to their legendary manager Davey Johnson this past weekend. Whatever criticism fans had of Johnson, the team made significant progress under his watch.
He led them to their first-ever playoff berth since the franchise relocated from Montreal with a league-best 98-64 in 2012. The team faltered in 2013 and finished out of the playoffs with a 86-76 record. Johnson leaves the franchise in good shape with many good pieces in place for 2014 and beyond.
This leads to the biggest question for the Nationals this offseason: who will succeed Johnson as manager.
It should be only one person: Randy Knorr.
Knorr has been the bench coach for several years. He has experience managing in the Nationals' minor league system. Many of the players are familiar with his style of managing. There would be continuity with the principles that Johnson had during his time as the manager.
The Nationals came on strong in the second half of the season and almost made the playoffs in spite of a disappointing start to the season. There is little need to get rid of the core of the team. It would be smart for the Nationals to build on the strong finish and look to the future.
Although Knorr lacks managerial experience at the highest level, he already has the respect of the players. He has the endorsement of Ian Desmond, and Tyler Clippard would like a skipper who is in-house.
Both are prominent players on the team and would know the pulse of the clubhouse. It should have some clout when Mike Rizzo makes the final decision on Johnson's successor.
Knorr is also not afraid of making tough decisions if the situation calls for it. As acting manager, he pulled Rafael Soriano from a game because he was ineffective that night and went with Ian Krol. Usually, you wouldn't pull a high-priced player like Soriano in a non-save situation.
It says something about Knorr that he had the guts to make a move like that and defy conventional thinking. Managers need to hold players accountable when they aren't playing well. He seems to have the right balance between being fair and being firm. It is a quality that could serve him well if he gets the top job.
Sure, there is a more intriguing candidate named Cal Ripken Jr. who has a name, but no experience. It will depend on who appeals to Rizzo the most.
For the players' sake, it should be someone they trust and a man who knows the organization. Knorr should be the next manager of the Nationals.