Should The Mets Retire Davey Johnson’s Number?
While it is not an official policy, the Mets organization will only retire the numbers of players who enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap. That is why the only Mets players who have their numbers retired are Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. If the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Gary Carter‘s choice, he would have gone into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap, and as a result, his number would have been retired as well.
That would have pleased many Mets fans who want to see his number be retired. More than Carter, Mets fans seem to want to see Keith Hernandez‘s and David Wright‘s numbers retired. With respect to those two, chances are neither enter the Hall of Fame, and just like Carter, chances are Hernandez is inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cardinals cap.
Much of the Carter and Hernandez push is related to both players being key veterans on the 1986 World Series team. Oddly enough, the same case has not been made for Davey Johnson.
Back in 1984, Frank Cashen tabbed Johnson to be the Mets manager. He was entasked with leading a Mets team to not just win a World Series, but really to just win games. The Mets had not been over .500 since 1976, which was Seaver’s last full season with the Mets. Seaver was back in 1983 only for the Mets to lose him again.
The winning happened immediately. Behind Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, and a young core which included Darryl Strawberry, Wally Backman, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez, the 1984 Mets finished second place in the National League East with a 90-72 record. This began a string of eight straight seasons where the Mets would finish second or better in the division. Johnson would oversee six of those seasons.
The 1985 Mets won 98 games, which was then the second most wins the Mets had ever accumulated. They were that close to winning the division. Entering 1986, Johnson would declare the Mets were the team to beat, and his team would back him up. Their 108 wins is the third most ever by a National League team.
When you include the postseason, the 1986 have won more games than any other National League team over the past century.
Yes, this does speak to how great the 1986 Mets were, but it also speaks to Johnson’s managerial abilities. He was ahead of his time using data and statistics to inform his decisions. Yes, those 1980s Mets teams were talented, but it was Johnson who got everything out of those talented teams by optimizing his team’s lineups.
This is why Johnson would become the first ever National League manager to have 90+ wins in each of his first five seasons.
He’s also the only Mets manager with two 100 win seasons. He joins Gil Hodges as only one of two Mets managers to win a World Series, and he was the first Mets manager to go to two different postseasons.
Johnson is the Mets all-time leader in wins and winning percentage. He is second only to Terry Collins in games managed. He is second to Bobby Valentine in postseason wins, which is partially a function of Major League Baseball adding an additional postseason round when they added the Wild Card in 1994.
Despite all of these records and his impact on the franchise, Hodges and Casey Stengel remain the only two managers who have had their numbers retired by the Mets. Given how the standards to retire manager numbers (to the extent there is any) is far lower than for players, it is odd how nearly 30 years after Johnson managed his last game, he has not had his number retired.
His number not being retired may become more of an issue going forward as once again he is a candidate on the Today’s Game ballot for the Hall of Fame. With his having a better winning percentage than Hall of Famers like Bobby Cox (a manager who also has just one World Series to his credit), and his being only one of two managers in MLB history to lead four separate franchises to to the postseason, there is a real case to be made for Johnson’s induction.
If inducted, he is likely going to enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mets. If so, any and all excuses to not retire his number have gone by the wayside. Of course, that is unless you are not of the belief Johnson has not done enough to merit having his number retired anyway.
Given how his number has not been retired, it is certainly still up for debate whether it should or should not be retired by the Mets organization. Going forward, when debates happen,,when taking into account standards already set forth coupled with the impact on the organization, Davey Johnson should probably be first in line when it comes to having his number retired.