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Davey Johnson Is Back In the Neighborhood

The last time the Baltimore Orioles had a winning season, Davey Johnson was our manager. As a matter of fact, the last two times the Orioles had a winning season, he was our skipper. He came to the O's in 1996, after leading the Reds to back-to-back first place finishes. An indicator of what was to come, he was not brought back for the '96 season by the Reds because he was living with a woman out of wedlock. That woman is now his wife.

Johnson arrived in Baltimore following the mess in Cincy and made a difference immediately, leading the O's to the AL Wild Card and a spot in the ALCS, where they would eventually lose to the Yankees in the now infamous Jeffrey Maier series. The next season, the Birds went wire-to-wire, running away with the East and looking like the team to beat in the American League. Once again, the Orioles would lose in the ALCS, this time to Cleveland.

As had been the case in Cincy, Johnson was unceremoniously cast aside after back-to-back winning seasons. Since that season, Orioles fans have longed to return to the days when Johnson was leading a competitive club. In the 13 seasons that had come and gone prior to the Buck Showalter hiring, the Orioles had many, many managerial changes. Each time, the phone lines at local radio stations would catch fire, with fans clamoring for this to finally be the time that our savior returned. "Bring Back Davey!" became the battle cry for thousands of frustrated, disappointed, and desperate O's fans. Their pleas always seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Most fans are sated now with Buck Showalter in charge. There is more hope in Baltimore now than there has been since the Davey Johnson years, but many would still tell you that Davey is still the guy they wish they saw when they peered in the dugout. He has been the pinpoint of light in what has been a prodigiously dark tunnel. He was the hero of our winning-starved city for two magical years, and most depressingly, he was still out there, waiting for his next job. It seemed like the perfect script. We would be forced to suffer long enough to pay the penance for the sin of making our manager leave, but when the debt had been satisfied, he would return to lead us back to the Promised Land.

That dream is no longer a reality, because finally, our manager has another home. The Washington Nationals have named Davey Johnson their new skipper in the wake of the Jim Riggleman fiasco. Riggleman had accomplished a great deal in 2011, leading the Nationals to a winning record as late in a season as they had ever experienced. He assumed, incorrectly we now understand, that his success meant he had earned the right to discuss a contract extension. For a guy like Riggs who has always worked on a year-to-year basis, devoid of any jobsecurity, it was finally time to settle down and know that when next season started, he'd be in the same place. It wasn't to be, and the contractdispute that followed ended the Riggleman era in Washington, and ushered in the Age of Davey.

I feel sorry for the Nationals and for Riggleman, a fellow Frostburg State University alum, because it seemed like the team was finally turning a corner. But at the same time, I feel a sense of excitement. Davey Johnson's record speaks for itself. In his 12 full seasons as manager (including the strike-shortened seasons in 1994 and1995), Johnson has led his team to a winning record in all but one of thoseseasons. Even more impressive, his teams finished first or second in each of those winning seasons. That is a remarkable statistic, and it's something that Nationals fans should be thrilled about. They are getting a fantastic baseball man, and a manager who may be as good as anyone in the game at shepherding a pitching staff through a season. The Nationals are in great hands, to be sure.

As an Orioles fan, however, I feel a profound sense of loss. For many of us, "Oriole Magic" ended when Davey was not brought back in 1998. We have been wandering blindly through the wilderness ever since, desperately clutching at anything we can to lead us out. Even now, with young talent developing at the Major League level and with a manager who seems to have his finger on the pulse of the city, we wonder if the only way we will exorcise those demons is by bringing back the Prodigal Son.

The only hope that remains now is that, with Davey just a short drive down Interstate 95, perhaps some of the magic will rub off and travel north to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The last time the Baltimore Orioles had a winning season, Davey Johnson was our manager. As a matter of fact, the last two times the Orioles had a winning season, he was our skipper. He came to the O's in 1996, after leading the Reds to back-to-back first place finishes. An indicator of what was to come, he was not brought back for the '96 season by the Reds because he was living with a woman out of wedlock. That woman is now his wife.

Johnson arrived in Baltimore following the mess in Cincy and made a difference immediately, leading the O's to the AL Wild Card and a spot in the ALCS, where they would eventually lose to the Yankees in the now infamous Jeffrey Maier series. The next season, the Birds went wire-to-wire, running away with the East and looking like the team to beat in the American League. Once again, the Orioles would lose in the ALCS, this time to Cleveland.

As had been the case in Cincy, Johnson was unceremoniously cast aside after back-to-back winning seasons. Since that season, Orioles fans have longed to return to the days when Johnson was leading a competitive club. In the 13 seasons that had come and gone prior to the Buck Showalter hiring, the Orioles had many, many managerial changes. Each time, the phone lines at local radio stations would catch fire, with fans clamoring for this to finally be the time that our savior returned. "Bring Back Davey!" became the battle cry for thousands of frustrated, disappointed, and desperate O's fans. Their pleas always seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Most fans are sated now with Buck Showalter in charge. There is more hope in Baltimore now than there has been since the Davey Johnson years, but many would still tell you that Davey is still the guy they wish they saw when they peered in the dugout. He has been the pinpoint of light in what has been a prodigiously dark tunnel. He was the hero of our winning-starved city for two magical years, and most depressingly, he was still out there, waiting for his next job. It seemed like the perfect script. We would be forced to suffer long enough to pay the penance for the sin of making our manager leave, but when the debt had been satisfied, he would return to lead us back to the Promised Land.

That dream is no longer a reality, because finally, our manager has another home. The Washington Nationals have named Davey Johnson their new skipper in the wake of the Jim Riggleman fiasco. Riggleman had accomplished a great deal in 2011, leading the Nationals to a winning record as late in a season as they had ever experienced. He assumed, incorrectly we now understand, that his success meant he had earned the right to discuss a contract extension. For a guy like Riggs who has always worked on a year-to-year basis, devoid of any jobsecurity, it was finally time to settle down and know that when next season started, he'd be in the same place. It wasn't to be, and the contractdispute that followed ended the Riggleman era in Washington, and ushered in the Age of Davey.

I feel sorry for the Nationals and for Riggleman, a fellow Frostburg State University alum, because it seemed like the team was finally turning a corner. But at the same time, I feel a sense of excitement. Davey Johnson's record speaks for itself. In his 12 full seasons as manager (including the strike-shortened seasons in 1994 and1995), Johnson has led his team to a winning record in all but one of thoseseasons. Even more impressive, his teams finished first or second in each of those winning seasons. That is a remarkable statistic, and it's something that Nationals fans should be thrilled about. They are getting a fantastic baseball man, and a manager who may be as good as anyone in the game at shepherding a pitching staff through a season. The Nationals are in great hands, to be sure.

As an Orioles fan, however, I feel a profound sense of loss. For many of us, "Oriole Magic" ended when Davey was not brought back in 1998. We have been wandering blindly through the wilderness ever since, desperately clutching at anything we can to lead us out. Even now, with young talent developing at the Major League level and with a manager who seems to have his finger on the pulse of the city, we wonder if the only way we will exorcise those demons is by bringing back the Prodigal Son.

The only hope that remains now is that, with Davey just a short drive down Interstate 95, perhaps some of the magic will rub off and travel north to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.