News & Politics

Who Will Be the Washington Nationals’ Next Manager?

Local sports pros weigh in with their predictions.

Whoever becomes the Nationals’ next manager, we’re sure Screech will approve. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

Washington Post baseball writer
Thomas Boswell weighed in this week on the search for
Davey Johnson’s replacement as manager of the Washington Nationals. The decision could come any
time between now and mid-November, but likely soon after the World Series. Boswell
focused on Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer
Cal Ripken Jr., who has given big hints that he’d “like to come back to baseball.” Boswell stated
quite frankly, “Unless the Nats are confident they know him to his depths, not just
his image, they should be careful.” Others said to be in consideration are Nationals
bench coach
Randy Knorr, who Nats insiders say is a favorite of team president Mike Rizzo;
Dusty Baker, available and interested since being fired last week by the Cincinnati Reds after
his team lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a wild-card game; and Arizona Diamondbacks
third base and infield coach
Matt Williams, a former star third baseman.

We asked
The Sports Fix’s
Kevin Sheehan,
The Sports Junkies
Eric BickelNats Xtra’s
Byron Kerr, and Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckermato weigh in on the potential candidates.

Kevin Sheehan, cohost, ESPN 980’s

The Sports Fix

Sheehan says Ripken is “the biggest PR bang,” but “is he ready, and are the Lerners
willing to pay?” He says Knorr has “stability, respect and the right price,” and he’s
“in-house.” Baker is a “regular-season winner [with] recent postseason misery” and
he considers him a long shot. Out in front, Sheehan believes, is Williams, whom he
calls “the favorite.”

Byron Kerr, cohost, MASN’s

Nats Xtra

Kerr also cites Ripken’s fame and local legend status but points out he “has never
managed at the major league level.” Knorr, he says, has been endorsed by “several
players” and has that “in-house favorite” advantage. Williams benefits from a “positive
connection” the Nationals have with the Diamondbacks, he says, including having previously
managed Nats second baseman
Anthony Rendon. Baker, he says, “has the pedigree, but do the Nationals prefer a younger candidate?”

Erick Bickel, cohost, 106.7 FM’s

The Sports Junkies
/Comcast SportsNet’s

Table Manners

Ripken is Bickel’s “sentimental choice,” he says, but he thinks Rizzo “won’t make
that move.” Of Knorr, he says “players love him” and “he even called out Bryce Harper
for not hustling on a routine play.” Bickel considers Baker “solid” and “experienced”
but worries there’s “a scent of retread to him.” He believes Williams has the edge
if Rizzo decides to go with an outsider. “Rizzo likes him.”

Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider 

Knorr is “overwhelmingly” the choice of the Nats clubhouse, according to Zuckerman. Ripken’s knowledge is “unparalleled” and he’d “command instant respect” but he’s also a “huge unknown.” Williams is “tough-nosed, but well-liked” and one of baseballs “next up-and-comers.” Baker is “the most experienced and successful candidate out there, and clearly he wants the job,” says Zuckerman, but he “has a history of coming up short in the postseason.”

And who would the experts pick as “dark horse” candidates? Sheehan put forth
Tony LaRussa, a longtime MLB manager now without a team and a candidate for the Hall of Fame,
a “major long-shot, but a team ready to win now might be attractive.” Kerr named Ray Knight, a familiar face to those who watch the MASN game broadcasts, where he cohosts the
pre- and post-game with
Johnny Holliday. He managed the Cincinnati Reds twice and has a “good rapport” with Rizzo. Bickel’s
dark horse is
Trent Jewett, the Nats’ third base coach. “If for some reason they don’t go to Knorr he could
be the choice, and the players would support it.” Zuckerman picked Charlie Manuel, who was manager of the Philadelphia Phillies until he was fired in August after a losing streak. “Werth reveres him,” Zuckerman says. “At 70 years old, he’s basically another Davey Johnson, which would make his hiring a bit odd. But if the Nats truly want a guy who can step in and help lift a very good team to a championship, he’s got the credentials.”

Should there be more candidates? Boswell says that’s not really an option. “The pool
of truly appealing managers has shriveled,” he wrote.