I was 9 years old in the summer of 1986, and I loved the Mets. That seems fairweathered, but the Mets ruled the world, and I was 9. They were on TV (via WWOR) all the time and they had all the talent in the world: Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Kid Carter, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Bobby Ojeda, Mookie Wilson and not-quite-there-yet youngsters Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell and Howard Johnson. They won 108 games and the World Series, and they did it in style. They did it with Davey Johnson.
I was 18 and 19 in the summers of ’96 and ’97, the summers the Orioles were finally good. For the first time in more than a decade they made the playoffs, and they followed it up by leading the AL East from wire to wire. They were a year removed from Cal Ripken toppling Lou Gehrig, their best players were Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson, and the staff was anchored by Mike Mussina in the front and Randy Myers in the back. Davey Johnson won Manager of the Year before clashing with Peter Angelos and leaving Baltimore, sending the O’s into a 14-year tailspin.
I’m 33 now, and the season just turned to summer. The Nationals are on a terrific run, having won a flurry of games to put them on the good side of .500. Their lame-duck manager also just left them midseason, on the brink of unprecedented success. Thanks to Mike Rizzo, they’re in the hands of Davey Johnson, who has a deal in place to possibly manage through 2013.
He’ll need to be deft, because these are the challenges the Nats face over the next 30 months, among others:
— Shepherd a team that’s never won into one that’s a winner.
— Work with a GM who just stonewalled a guy out of town.
— Work with family ownership that’s notoriously cheap.
— Keep Ivan Rodriguez’ 3,000 hit from messing with Wil Ramos.
— Prevent Jayson Werth’s contract from becoming an issue.
— Keep all-world third baseman Ryan Zimmerman happy.
— Handle the comeback of all-time phenom Stephen Strasburg.
— Handle the arrival of all-time phenom Bryce Harper.
That’s a lot to ask, but it’s what the Nats would be asking of anyone. I’m glad they’re asking it of Davey Johnson, skipper of teams I’ve loved before. I’m ready to love again.