by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo delivered a fitting tribute to Davey Johnson prior to Johnson’s final home game as manager of the club on Sunday, and more than likely, his final game managing in Major League Baseball.

“Davey, first of all, this is not goodbye,” Rizzo opened. “Next season, you and I will continue you what we’ve started here, only you’ll have a new title. I imagine we’ll refer to you as Senior Adviser to the General Manger, with the emphasis on senior.”

“Anyhow, I want to take this opportunity to publicly my deepest and most sincere appreciation to you. When you took the helm in July of 2011, we were a team in distress. For a variety of reasons, our young team, while talented, was suffering a crisis of confidence and needed a steady hand. You were that steady hand.

On June 23, 2011, with the Nationals above .500 at the latest point in the season they’d been in a season since 2005, manager Jim Riggleman resigned, citing the team’s refusal to express signs to pick up his option for him to remain with the organization the following season.

Johnson, who had been in an advisory role with the team, answered the call. Three days later he joined the team at the airport in Chicago, to make his Nationals managerial debut the following day in Los Angeles, at the age of 68.

“I’ll never forget how you, our newly appointed skipper, waited to join us on the tarmac at O’Hare. As the players and coaches boarded the plane, you greeted each one with a handshake, words of encouragement, and by doing so, began to truly impact each of their baseball lives.

“Now, two and a half years later, we have a team of believers who build their day around hard work, dedication and a tenacious on-field attitude.”

In 2012, Davey led the Nats to their first NL East division championship, winning a league-leading 98 games in the process.

“They support each other because you taught them that their skipper always has their backs,” Rizzo said. “Their loyalty to this city and to this team is a reflection of you, and I count myself amongst the believers. Last season, 98 wins, a National League East title, those will never be forgotten.

“And this year, we’re still fightin’.

Despite an unheralded late-season push – winning 30 of 43 games dating back to Aug. 9 – the stars just have not aligned for the Nats in 2013.

Their 4-3 loss to the Cardinals Monday, paired with wins from both the Pirates and Reds was the final nail in the coffin to a season that fell short of expectations. That Nats have been eliminated from playoff contention

“I know that we could not be prouder of this ballclub’s character,” Rizzo said. “I am certain that your time here with the Nationals will always be remembered fondly, as we’re in the midst of a special time for baseball in D.C.

“You’re not rid of us yet, Davey. But it is with sincere admiration that I thank you for what you have taught me personally and what you have done to help this organization.

“You have transformed the Washington Nationals and we will never forget that gift. In friendship, I wish you and Susan God’s speed.”

With 1,370 wins (and maybe more to come) spanning 29 years as a manager at the big league level – with the Mets, Reds, Orioles, Dodgers and Nats – Davey will end his career 28th in all-time wins among MLB managers.

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Listen to Rizzo’s Tribute to Davey below.

Related: Nationals Honor Retiring Davey Johnson


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