What If The Mets Had Never Fired Davey Johnson?

A Tale of Two Ex Mets Managers

Bobby Valentine was fired by the Red Sox…  It’s hard to argue that he did anything to deserve keeping his job, but it’s also hard to blame much of the Red Sox team’s failures on Bobby V, either.  From afar, Bobby’s biggest sins seem to have been contributing to the circus atmosphere at Fenway, rather than calm the craziness that surrounded the squad that collapsed at the end of 2011.

I will always remember Bobby V fondly as a Mets manager.  He was a know-it-all, for sure, and he always had outlandish things to say, but,  I liked him because at least most of the time he actually did have the knowledge to back up his assertions.  And, when he said outrageous things, he was usually right, even if his decision to assert those things was somewhat dubious.  For instance, I don’t know why he chose to randomly pick on Derek Jeter’s “The Flip” play, but he probably had a point.

On the other end of the spectrum, another ex-Mets manager is back in the playoffs, again.  Davey Johnson has taken the heretofore sub .500 team The Nationals to a Division Championship.

Davey Johnson took the Mets to the playoffs twice in two years (1986 and 1988), they finished 2nd in 1989, and then he was fired 42 games into the  1990  season with the team 2 games below .500.

Pretty astonishing to think about 25 years later, huh?

Buddy Harrelson took over the team and they went on to finish with 91 wins, good enough for 2nd place.  Bud didn’t survive the 1991 Season though, as he was fired with a week to play and replaced by Mike Cubbage.

I’m not even going to mar this column by talking about 1992, but suffice it to say that the Dark Ages were upon us.  But what if they hadn’t fired Davey?

Davey himself did just fine; he was hired by the Reds mid-season in 1993 and took the team to finish 1st in the strike shortened 1994 season and the 1995 season.  Somehow he wore out his welcome anyway and was fired at the end of 1995.

In 1996, Davey took over the Baltimore Orioles and took them to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997.  He won manager of the year in 1997 but was fired anyway.

Davey’s Dodgers weren’t as successful in 1999 and 2000, while Bobby V’s Mets made the playoffs in consecutive years.

I have no idea why Davey is such a difficult employee that owners can’t stand winning with him, but it begs the question… what would have become of the Mets between 1989 and 1999 if Davey Johnson were their manager instead of Buddy Harrelson, Mike Cubbage, Jeff Torborg and Dallas Green?

And what if the Mets had stuck with Bobby V after 2002 instead of hiring Art Howe, or Willie Randolph instead of Jerry Manuel.

Handsome fellow

I just notice the Mets don’t seem to do very well with replacing successful managers.  Whenever the guy who takes them to the playoffs is replaced, they seem to slip into a dark period of ineptitude that makes the previous manager’s years seem like Glory Days.

Not that the current Mets have to worry about that – the Good Ol Days are creeping further and further into the rearview mirror.. but at a time when two ex-Managers  are at opposite ends of the success spectrum,, it made me wonder whether they should have stuck it out longer with the last guy with whom they went to the World Series.

Over 25 years ago.

Mets have arithmetic problem - Mets Blog - ESPN New York
Tom Seaver's first start, when Shea had light green walls

13 Replies to “What If The Mets Had Never Fired Davey Johnson?”

  1. Managers are generally as good as their talent. While I always loved Davey Johnson I am not sure how much difference it would have made to have him stay as manager if the talent around him sucked.

    The fact is the Mets have had a weak farm system for the last 20+ yrs which has contributed to the boom and bust roller coaster this team has experienced.

  2. “it made me wonder whether they should have stuck it out longer with the last guy with whom they went to the World Series. Over 25 years ago.”
    The Mets last went to the World Series 12 years ago, with Bobby Valentine.

    1. Since the Mets Police made such an obvious error, should they face a misdemeanor or felony charge?

  3. If Davey had been with this club for the bad times.. would that have changed anything? The Mets put together some really awful teams in the mid-90’s. Although Davey could’ve guided them to a better record, I don’t doubt that the team’s performance would be anything more than marginally better. In this respect, would Davey have stuck around when the good players came along in the late ’90’s? Nobody knows..

  4. I have to disagree with you on Bobby V. I always remember him as a fun personality, a guy I really wanted to root for. Whenever I saw him in an interview he just came accross as likable and a perfect personality for the Mets. My problem was with the crazy moves he made between the lines. He is the worst strategic manager I’ve ever seen. We’ve got an aging Bobby Bo who is now a ground ball to the SS specialist? Great! Let’s use him everytime we need a crucial pinch hit. He must be due. Bases loaded in a close game? Mel Rojas should be able to get out of it. He hasn’t gotten a crucial out all year, so he must be ripe for one. Again and again and again. Mo Vaughn, I’m going to leave you in the game after that single with no outs so I can keep your bat in the line-up. Wait, you’re now on 3rd with 2 outs? Ohhhh….I better pinch run for you then. 9th inning in the 2000 World Series? Nothing will keep a rally going against Mo Rivera like the great Kurt Abbott, he doesn’t need a pinch hitter. Too bad Bobby Bo wasn’t on that team. (Hat tip to Keith Olbermann for bringing that one back up). Bobby’s moves led me to believe he was managing with a Magic 8 ball sometimes. I was happy when he was gone (even if his replacement had a personality that made Kevin McReynolds look like Rickey Henderson).

  5. Johnson and Valentine were fired essentially for the same reason… their teams had stopped responding to them. At two games under .500, the Mets were underperforming when Davey got the axe. That’s why they rebounded so well under Harrelson. Ditto for the Valentine Era… the Tony Tarasco incident was the (pot) smoking gun that showed what ever magic Bobby V. had, had faded… that he’d lost control. For what it’s worth, they managed almost the same number of games, 1012 for Johnson, 1003 for Valentine. Johnson, with better talent, had a .588 winning record, Valentine’s was .534. They are 1 and 2 all time in Mets managerial wins at 595 and 536. But for each man, when he was done, he was done.

  6. Johnson had to deal with injuries to some of that stellar pitching staff.
    I would think the bottom line is whether the manager makes good in-game decisions and I got spoiled watching Johnson manage. He knew how to manage a game and he knew how to manage a season. Still does, obviously. He had a rep for being a players’ manager so I don’t know why the players would’ve quit on him. Management hated him because he treated the players like men rather than minions. Not a disciplinarian…apparently players can play hard without a whip…Other personal matters factored into the firing…the Wilpons disapproved of some aspect of his personal life, as I recall.

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