When it comes to New York Mets managers, success as a player doesn’t always translate into success as a manager. The Mets have had some successful managers on their payroll, but they weren’t always the most talented players. And they have had successful players that haven’t exactly done too well as Mets managers.
I thought it would be fun to rank the top 5 Mets managers, not as managers, but as players. The main criteria would be that they had to have managed the Mets for at least one full season. So that would immediately eliminate a pretty good player in Frank Howard from the list.
And even though Bud Harrelson is a beloved Met, and managed for more than a full season, his stats couldn’t get him to crack the Top 5. Bobby Valentine…who had a pretty good run as Mets manager, just didn’t cut it as a player…having been cut down in the beginning of his once-promising career when he ran into a wall and never fully recovered.
5) Mets manager Davey Johnson
Davey Johnson played a role in both of the Mets World Championships. As the second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, he flew out to Cleon Jones in leftfield to make the last out of the 1969 World Series. And after the Orioles’ architect, Frank Cashen, was brought to the Mets to build a champion, Johnson was brought into the organization as a minor league manager and then elevated to Mets manager in 1984. He led the Mets to their second, and last, World Championship in 1986.
As a player, Johnson was a three-time Gold Glove-winning, slick-fielding second baseman, teaming with shortstop Mark Belanger and third baseman Brooks Robinson to be one of the best fielding infields of all-time. Johnson could also handle the bat, hitting for a .261 career average and was a clutch run-producer. He was pretty much forgotten in a lineup that included Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson, as well as power-hitting first baseman Boog Powell.
But following a trade to the Atlanta Braves after an injury-riddled 1972 season, Johnson banged 43 home runs in 1973. He led the Braves in home runs that season, as third baseman Darrell Evans hit 41 dingers and some guy named Henry Aaron was third with a mere 40. It was the first time in Major League history that a team had a trio hit 40 or more home runs.
Johnson was never able to duplicate that season, or even come close to it. Not surprisingly, he had a huge drop-off the following season, although not awful. But injuries got the best of him and his playing days were soon over. Oh…and although Johnson is the most successful manager in Mets history, he is the only one of the Top 5 to never suit up for the Mets as a player.