Former New York Mets manager Davey Johnson didn’t receive much consideration for the Hall of Fame on this winter’s Modern Era Ballot. Let’s make a case for why he belongs in Cooperstown.
When we talk about the National Baseball Hall of Fame these days, there’s usually at least a few references to Harold Baines’ entrance into Cooperstown this summer. Without a doubt the new Bill Mazeroski, he’s a guy who gives many former New York Mets hope that they too can one day make the Hall of Fame.
Among candidates who played for the Mets, we have to consider Keith Hernandez and David Wright as two deserving men who could, maybe, one day have a plaque with their face on it in Cooperstown. For those who didn’t play for the Mets yet have a strong connection to the organization, I have to say the most deserving man is manager Davey Johnson.
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In parts of 17 seasons as a manager with the Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Washington Nationals, Johnson had only four losing seasons. He never had a below .500 record with any team more than once. With the Reds, Dodgers, and Nationals, the losing season was in his first year with the team. With the Reds and Nationals, he took over midseason.
Consistency is the reason why I’m a fan of putting Johnson in Cooperstown. From his first year with the Mets in 1984 through his most recent managerial season with the Nationals in 2013, he was a proven winner.
Johnson’s 1372 wins as a manager is 31st all-time. The .562 winning percentage he sequestered is 21st. Among those 20 managers with a better winning percentage, only five have more total wins.
On the same ballot that put Baines and Lee Smith in Cooperstown this past winter, Johnson didn’t come close to entrance into Cooperstown. Johnson received five or fewer votes with a requirement to snag 12 in order to receive the nod.
Unfortunately, for most of Johnson’s managerial career, he didn’t have the benefit of a Wild Card. The Mets in the 1980s had to battle to win the National League East for a playoff berth. During his time with the Reds, he didn’t get to take them into the postseason in 1994. At the time of the player’s strike, Cincinnati was in first-place.
Johnson improved every organization he went to. In my mind, he’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Perhaps the biggest knock against him is a lack of championships and longevity in a single city. The Mets are the only team he spent more than two full seasons with.
The only time Johnson ever managed a full season with a team and his squad didn’t finish in first or second place was with the 1999 Dodgers. The third-place finish is only a small blemish on a terrific career.
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It’s an uphill battle for Johnson to ever get into Cooperstown. Maybe one day, the most Amazin fans in baseball get to see their 1986 leader receive the honor.