A local baseball writer was musing the other day about the potential of a Terry Francona-Nationals marriage. After all, Davey Johnson is 68 and this Francona kid has won two - count 'em, two - world championships. This past September's collapse? A mere burp on his resume.
While Francona is an obvious candidate for any big league managerial opening, I sincerely doubt he's on the Nationals' radar. In the first place, I don't think Johnson's going anywhere, 68 or not. As Satchel Paige famously said about age years ago, it's all mind over matter: "If you don't mind, it don't matter." After spending considerable time around Johnson, I really don't think age is much of an issue. He's redeveloped his managerial muscle, and as I've said countless times, I just don't believe he would've come back just to finish the season. He knows this team and these players are ready to win.
I'll go a step farther: I think he's figured out he can take the stress of the job well into his 70s, meaning I think he'll be the skipper beyond 2012, and then hand-pick his own successor whenever he decides to hang 'em up. He may already have someone in mind, an heir apparent who may be working for the Nationals currently, or someone from another ballclub. Look, Connie Mack didn't step down as manager of the A's until he was 87. Granted, those final few years saw his falling asleep on the bench, and all but one of his teams the final 20 years he was in the dugout finished deep in the second division. It didn't hurt that he also owned the team, and beyond Mack, the number of big league skippers beyond the age of 68 is rather brief. Still, people live longer these days, and if Johnson thought he wasn't up to the task, I'm sure he'd bow out.
Francona landed in Boston at a very good time. The Sox had the players - and revenue stream - to compete with anybody. There was no magic touch involved. There were players on those Boston rosters who loved him, and from what I'm told, a number who felt quite the opposite. Should he choose to continue his career in the dugout, I have no doubt that the Washington job would interest him because of the players the Nationals have. It's the same reason Johnson doesn't want to go home quite yet.
Players win championships. Managers - sometimes - just go along for the ride.