OTD in 1990: Davey Johnson, Mets Fire Director
On May 29, 1990, the Mets decided it was time to move on from the manager who guided them to the second championship in the team’s history, relieving Davey johnson of its functions and replace it with Bud harrelson.
The Mets had slowly come out of the gate in 1990 and were treading water at 20-22 when the switch was made. Harrelson ended the 1990 season as a skipper and was at the helm until the very end of the 1991 season when he was replaced by Mike cubbage in September. Under Harrelson in 1990, the Mets posted an impressive 71-49 record, ending the season 91-71 in second place and out of the season after.
Johnson, a native of Orlando, Fla., Had taken his place in the Mets manager’s office in 1984, overseeing the revival of a franchise that had been mired in obscurity since 1977. In Johnson’s first season, the Mets were a surprising 90-72 and were in contention until the last week of the season. The following year, with the addition of Gary Carter, the Mets went 98-64, missing the playoffs when the St. Louis Cardinals won the division in a close race.
The story was much different in 1986, when the Mets dominated the regular season from pole to pole, finishing with a 108-54 record. While the Mets weren’t as dominant in the postseason, they found a way to defeat the Astros in the NLCS and the Red Sox in the World Series to claim the championship title for just the second time.
One of Johnson’s biggest criticisms is that the Mets have only won one World Series on his watch. The teams were talented enough to win in the mid to late 1980s, but they failed for a variety of reasons. The 1987 team were riddled with injuries, especially on the stretch, and finished 92-70 as a Cardinals runner-up. The 1988 team won the division, but lost the NLCS to a Dodgers team that many considered inferior, but on a storybook run through the following season. By 1989, the core Mets had aged and the team ended the season 87-75 in second place as the Cubs won the division.
As a player, Johnson made his MLB debut in 1965, appearing in 20 games as a utility infielder. He would spend most of his career as a second baseman, spotting in Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia and with the Cubs. He also spent two seasons playing in Japan. His 13-season career MLB slash line is .261 / .340 / .404 with an OPS of .744. He hit 136 home runs, including 43 in 1973 with the Braves.
After his career as manager of his Mets, Johnson went on to manage the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers and Nationals, finishing in first place in four of a total of ten seasons. He never won a pennant in any of those seasons.
Davey Johnson occupies two special places in Mets history. One for guiding the team to a championship in 1986, and the other for being the last hitter to oppose them in their first championship season of 1969. Johnson finished the World Series with a ball. flying to left field. Jerry Koosman, caught by Cleon Jones who iconically took a knee when securing baseball.
Johnson, now 78, battled COVID-19 last winter. Despite his teams’ questionable underperformance in the late 1980s, he helped transform a Mets franchise from a post-Seaver-era abyss to a fresh start, with people like Dwight Gooden, Keith hernandez, Ron darling, Lenny dykstra, and Sid Fernandez. Johnson said:
“Once you start winning, you don’t want to stop. You don’t want to lose.
The Mets had their share of victory during Johnson’s leadership tenure. His confidence and boast came at the right time for the franchise and helped change the attitude in Queens.
Here’s a Metsmerized hat tip to Davey Johnson, Mets manager and pioneer in the use of advanced statistical analysis in baseball.