MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

Johnson was way ahead of the curve

Johnson was way ahead of the curve

OK, can you guess who I'm talking about? After 13 Major League seasons, he finished with a lifetime batting average of .261, which isn't exactly the stuff of Ty Cobb. While moving toward 136 home runs overall, nobody confused him with Babe Ruth or Harmon Killebrew. Goodness knows, he wasn't fast. He stole just 33 bases (for his career), and he was caught 25 times.

He also managed five teams, and despite success with all of them, he was dismissed by four of them.

Give up? Well, here's my last hint: Except for Dusty Baker (who helped invent the high five, was in the on-deck circle when Hank Aaron hit No. 715, managed the Cubs during the Steve Bartman game, etc.), you'd have to search deep inside of the minds of baseball historians to find somebody who has been there and done that in the game more than this guy.

Yep, Davey Johnson.

You didn't say Davey Johnson? There are so many ways to start with this renaissance man, but how about this? He owns a degree in mathematics, and he was using sabermetrics as part of baseball strategy decades ago when it didn't have a name. Johnson also is the only person to bat in the same lineup with Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh. While Aaron was Major League Baseball's all-time home run king for 33 years before Barry Bonds broke his record in 2007, Oh remains the undisputed slugging champion of Japan.

As for Johnson, he is 72, and he is enjoying much of his life these days on the nearest golf course in Orlando, Fla. For some reason, I thought about Johnson while watching his old Nationals team this week. He retired after the 2013 season as their manager, but he hasn't left baseball. Johnson remains an adviser for the organization, which only makes sense.

Bryce Harper is considered the Nats' brightest star at 22. When he was 15, he won a national homer-hitting contest in St. Petersburg after he slammed a pitch an estimated 500 feet with an aluminum bat. Harper received his award from the person who gave the speech at a banquet for the occasion.

It was Harper's future Major League manager.

We're back to Johnson.

"I had no idea Bryce Harper was going to be somebody who would go to [the College of Southern Nevada], and then get drafted by the Nationals, and that, when we picked him [at No. 1 overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft], I would be the one who would write his name down and hand it to the Commissioner," Johnson once told me. "Then [Jim] Riggleman resigns as manager, and I'm hired. What are the odds of all these things happening?"

Pretty good, if you're Johnson. The man with the invisible horse shoe somewhere in his back pocket got his first Major League managerial job in 1984 with a group of Mets players who evolved into one of the best teams ever. They captured the 1986 World Series championship after they rolled through the National League toward 108 victories.

Aaron. Oh. Harper. Sabermetrics.

The charismatic Mets of Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and absolute dominance.

We're just getting started.

"When I really think about, I just feel so lucky to have had all of the many opportunities I've had during my lifetime," Johnson said. "I get sold as a player by the Braves to a team in Japan, but I get a chance to play on the same team with Oh after playing on the same team with Aaron. I get fired from managerial jobs and then get other ones that are just as nice. So somebody's looking out for me, but how it happens, I don't know."

But it happens.

For instance: When the original Washington Senators were around the nation's capital during the 1950s, guess who was their 10-year-old bat boy? Uh-huh. The younger Johnson didn't know then that an older Johnson would manage the third coming of a Major League Baseball team to Washington. He won 55 percent of the time while managing the Nats, and he did enough in 2012 for the second of the two Manager of the Year Awards he collected during his 17 years of managing overall. Johnson only had one losing season, and it wasn't in 1997, when he grabbed his other Manager of the Year Award while working for an Orioles franchise that featured his debut as a player in 1965.

Before long, Johnson was the starting second baseman for one of the most famous baseball teams ever. There were Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer. Manager Earl Weaver also is in Cooperstown. Then there were perennial All-Stars in first baseman Boog Powell, shortstop Mark Belanger, center fielder Paul Blair -- and Johnson.

Johnson was a three-time All-Star with those O's, and he won three Gold Gloves. Not coincidentally, they captured four American League pennants, and they won two World Series championships.

Then, out of nowhere, Johnson's batting average with the Orioles plunged from around the .280 mark for several years to .221 in 1972. He had a bad shoulder, but the O's didn't know it, and neither did Johnson. They shipped Johnson in a package deal to the Braves, and all he did with a healthy shoulder in Atlanta in 1973 was join Aaron and Darrell Evans to become the first trio in baseball history to finish a season with 40 or more home runs apiece.

I haven't even mentioned that Johnson has a pilot license and a real estate license. He also is scratch golfer, and he teaches scuba diving. Plus, Johnson played college basketball at Texas A&M until he had one of his shots swatted away by future Basketball Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond.

"You know what? I haven't planned any of these things that have happened to me. They've just happened," Johnson said. Then he chuckled, adding, "But I'm still not thinking about getting in the Lotto."

Actually, Johnson should reconsider.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.