Casey Stengel

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.

Trivia Friday: Mets Managers With Winning Records

While we are currently hand-wringing to determine whether or not Mickey Callaway is or will be a good manager, we should be taking a step back for a moment and realizing just how poor the Mets managerial history is.  Starting with Casey Stengel, the Mets have had 21 managers in their history, and yet, not counting Callaway, there have been only five managers with a winning record.

Can you name those five managers?  Good luck!


Davey Johnson Willie Randolph Bud Harrelson Gil Hodges Bobby Valentine

Trivia Friday – Former Mets Managers To Get Another MLB Job

As the Mets embark on their managerial search, it’s interesting to note that of the Mets 20 managers only eight have been hired for another job.  For some, there were extenuating circumstances.  Casey Stengel broke a hip.  Gil Hodges passed away.  Terry Collins is retiring or being forced into retirement depending upon your point of view.

With that said, for the most part, managing the Mets is typically a final step in a manager’s career.  As noted there were eight exceptions.  Can you name them?  Good luck!

 


Salty Parker Wes Westrum Joe Torre Yogi Berra George Bamberger Davey Johnson Jeff Torborg Bobby Valentine

Mike Piazza Now a Part of the Left Field Legends Landing

Today, Mike Piazza joins Tom Seaver as the only Mets player to have his number retired.  He also joins Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel as the only Mets to have their number retired.  He will also join Jackie Robinson, William Shea, and Ralph Kiner in what has become the Mets “Left Field Legends Landing”

* Photo courtesy of Jeremy Posner.

At least that is what I am calling it.

Piazza is there because he was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Met.  He was the second Met all-time and their first position player.  He is there because he helped take a “nice little team” and led them to back-to-back postseason appearance for the only time in Mets history.  No Met will ever wear his number again due to him being the greatest hitting catcher of all-time who has hit more homers than any catcher in baseball history.  He is there for the post 9/11 homer, for all the other important homers, and what he meant to Mets fans.  Today, Piazza will officially have his number retired.  Personally, I cannot wait to go to Citi Field and cheer him like I did all those games I attended in the late nineties and early 2000s.  It couldn’t have happened to a better man or a better Met.

Congratulations Mike Piazza.

 

The Three Faces of the Franchise

Every major league team that has been around long enough has three faces to their franchise.  The first is The Immortal player.  He is the player you first think of when you mention a franchise.  The next is the Living Legend.  This player is the one that is revered by young and old.  He is the player that throws out the first pitch at first home game of the World Series.  He’s in the Hall of Fame, and his number is retired.  The last is the best or most popular player on the team.  He is the player that has been traditionally dubbed the Face of the Team.  Here are a few examples:

New York Yankees
Immortal Babe Ruth
Living Legend Derek Jeter
Face of the Team Alex Rodriguez
Boston Red Sox
Immortal Ted Williams
Living Legend Pedro Martinez
Face of the Team David Ortiz
St. Louis Cardinals
Immortal Stan Musial
Living Legend Bob Gibson
Face of the Team Adam Wainwright
Los Angeles Dodgers
Immortal Jackie Robinson
Living Legend Sandy Koufax
Face of the Team Clayton Kershaw

Yesterday, with Mike Piazza‘s formal induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and with Tom Seaver unable to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony he loves to attend, the Mets now how their own triumvirate.

Not only is Mike Piazza a Hall of Famer who is about to have his number retired by the Mets, he has also become the Mets resident Living Legend.  It’s why he was the former player who threw out the first pitch prior to Game Three of the World Series.  Every big moment for the Mets from here on out is going to prominently feature Mike Piazza much in the same way we have seen through the years with players like Ernie Banks, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and once upon a time Tom Seaver.

It’s unfortunate to see Seaver unable to travel to attend the ceremony and host his table of 300 game winners, including friend and former teammate Nolan Ryan, from his day like he loved so dearly.  It’s sad that he can’t travel cross-country to throw out the first pitch for any of the World Series games or to sit in the owner’s suite and cheer on The Franchise’s Franchise.  It’s almost a surety that he will be unable to attend Piazza’s Number Retirement Ceremony this weekend.  In some ways, that makes him like Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel – gone but not forgotten.

No one can ever forget Seaver.  He’s the best player to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He’s The Franchise.  He’s quite possibly the greatest right handed pitcher to ever play the game.  He is the pitcher who has received more Hall of Fame votes than anyone in baseball history.  He is an Immortal.  No one, not even Piazza, can ever knock him off that perch.

He is joined by the Living Legend Mike Piazza and the current Face of the Mets Franchise, be it David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, or Noah Syndergaard to become one of the three all important faces of the Mets franchise.  In that way, the Mets have become an older major league franchise with a history worth celebrating.

The 1962 Mets Are Being Challenged

On Saturday, September 27, 2003, my father, brother, and I sat down to watch what was seemingly a meaningless baseball game.  The Minnesota Twins had already locked up the AL Central, and the Detroit Tigers had already locked up the worst record in baseball.  At that time, the only matter at issue was whether the Tigers would finish with a worse record than the 1962 Mets.

As each and every Mets fan knows, the worst team in baseball history was the 1962 Mets.  They were bad from the beginning.  The 1962 Mets lost their first nine games.  That wouldn’t even be the lowpoint of the season.  From May 21st until June 6th, the Mets would lost 17 straight games.  That wasn’t even their only 10 plus game losing streak.  There was an eleven game losing streak in late July, and there was a 13 game losing streak that spanned most of August.  The 1962 Mets didn’t really do anything well except maybe lose.  They inspired manager Casey Stengel to utter the phrase, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?”  It was a phrase so utterly perfect that Jimmy Breslin used it as the title for his book about the 1962 Mets.

The funny part about that team is that they are somewhat beloved.  There were colorful characters Mets fans know to this day regardless of whether or not they were around to see it.  There were old heroes like former Brooklyn Dodgers like Gil Hodges and Don Zimmer.  There was future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn.  There were colorful characters as well.  There was Marvelous Marv Throneberry who missed not just first but second base when running out a triple.  There was speedy catcher Choo-Choo Coleman who best utilized his speed chasing down balls that went to the backstop.   About the only players who didn’t belong was Frank Thomas with his 34 homers and 17 year old Ed Kranepool who actually had a bright future ahead of him in the majors.

That 1962 season was the first season in Mets history, and it was an important one at that.  This record is quintessentially the Mets.  It is a terrific reference point for each and every time the Mets have success.  Whenever a 1969 or 1986 happens, it’s a reminder of how the Mets really did come from nothing to achieve great heights.  Having this record was important, and it should be important to Mets fans.

It is why my family was rooting for the Tigers that day.  At that point it wasn’t looking good.  The Tigers had to take three of four from the Twins to avoid loss 120.  They lost the prior game, and they were down 7-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.  Somehow, someway, the Tigers pulled it off.  They scored three in the seventh and then four in the eighth to somehow time the game.  Then in the ninth, old friend Jesse Orosco threw a wild pitch allowing Alex Sanchez to score the winning run.  At that point, Orosco was probably throwing things in disgust.  However, to Mets fans, it looked like Orosco was throwing his glove into the heavens like he had done in 1986.  The Tigers snatched a win from the jaws of defeat number 120.  The 1962 Mets would be safe.

Now, this year, the 1962 Mets are being challenged once again.  The Atlanta Braves come to Flushing sporting a 19-46 record.  With their .292 win percentage, the Braves are on pace for a 47-115 season.  If the Mets sweep the Braves like they should, the Braves will be all the closer to loss number 120.  If the Braves are able to move the few major league quality bats from their line-up like Freddie Freeman, who knows how much worse things will get in Atlanta.  Towards the end of the season, there will most likely be a race to see if the Braves could actually surpass the 1962 Mets loss total.

While it has been ingrained in me from the days of Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo to never root for the Braves, I will root for the Braves to win some games to avoid losing 120 or more games.  Preferably, those wins will come at the expense of the Washington Nationals.  Hopefully, at the end of the season, the 1962 Mets place in history will be secure.