More than a decade ago, Davey Johnson got the job that Mike Scioscia hoped might be his someday.
Scioscia never did wind up managing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Instead, he soon began a successful career in the Angels' dugout, and he'll be across the field Monday night when Johnson returns as a major league manager for the first time since 2000.
The 68-year-old Johnson takes over the Washington Nationals, four days after Jim Riggleman's abrupt resignation. Scioscia said he's always been a fan of Johnson's, and they were set to see each other when Washington visited the Los Angeles Angels.
“I'm surprised that Davey hadn't gotten opportunities to manage in the big leagues since he left the Dodgers,” Scioscia said. “As far as Davey's understanding of fundamentals and being able to apply them into a team, he's as good as it gets. He's terrific.”
“Davey has an extraordinary baseball mind,” he said. “He's very insightful, and he blends a lot of the old-school fundamentals with some of the new-age thinking on evaluating. He was one of the first managers to dive into computer analysis of performance, and really made a study of looking at players from a statistical database before a lot of managers went in that direction.”
Scioscia refuses to be dragged into any lingering controversy regarding his divorce from the Dodgers.
Scioscia caught more games than any player in Dodgers history. He helped them upset Johnson's New York Mets in the 1988 NL championship series with a clutch home run off Dwight Gooden.
But after one year as the Dodgers' Triple A manager, Scioscia left the organization when Johnson became the Los Angeles manager in 1999. The following season, Angels general manager Bill Stoneman offered Scioscia his first big league managerial job.
After 11 years, one World Series championship and six division titles, it's safe to say everything worked out quite nicely for the two-time AL manager of the year.
Johnson is managing his fifth big league team after stints with the Mets (1984-90), Cincinnati (1993-95), Baltimore (1996-97) and the Dodgers (1999-2000). He took over a 40-38 team that entered Monday 8.5 games out of first place in the NL East and had won 13 of 15 games -- including a three-game series at the Chicago White Sox in which the Nats won two of three under interim skipper John McLaren.
Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was a teammate of Scioscia's on that 1988 World Series championship team, and was with him at Triple A Albuquerque as a coach. He said he believes that if Scioscia had gotten the Dodgers' job instead of Johnson, he'd still be managing them.
“Davey loved Mike. Davey treated us great when we were there,” Hatcher pointed out. “Davey came in there to manage and the new regime wanted him there, but there was no animosity or bad feelings between any of us.
“I mean, we were with the Triple A team, but Davey kept us involved in what was happening with the major league team. Then we moved on and went our own way.”