Davey Johnson never expected to be back in a big-league dugout in the first place. So, really, everything that's happened since he donned the uniform again in 2011 has been gravy.

"Shoot, I thought it was my last year 10 years ago," he said earlier this winter.

Johnson, though, didn't agree to become the Nationals' manager 1 1/2 years ago just for kicks. He sensed a franchise on the verge of something big, and he wanted to help it reach those previously unreachable heights.

The Nationals did achieve something they'd never achieved last season, winning their first NL East title while posting baseball's best record. Now the bar has been raised, the goal now reaching -- and winning -- the franchise's first World Series.

"I really like the challenge," Johnson said. "And I said at the end of the year in '11 that I wanted to be around because I thought this ballclub, if we do the things I thought we were capable of doing, we could win the pennant. We came so far, and I've been with clubs where we made progress, like the New York Mets when I first came in -- we won 90 games, then 98, then 108. I think our organization, we're primed to take that next step."