Mets Through the Years: The Managers
March 5th, 2012 by slangon

Later on tonight, I will be doing something that I haven’t done in a crow’s age. I will be sitting on a couch, drinking a beer and watching LIVE METS BASEBALL!!! Granted, it’s spring training baseball and granted I won’t be home until about a half an hour after the game starts so most likely by the time I get to sit down and watch there won’t be a single person on the field that I recognize, but it’s still LIVE METS BASE BALL!!! Also, David Wright and Ike Davis will not be playing, thanks to a strained rib cage and valley fever (!?!?) (Seriously, WTF, God? Now you’re just blatantly f-ing with Mets fans. WTF is valley fever?) but it’s still LIVE METS BASEBALL!!! Anyway, in honor of the first televised baseball game that I’ll get to watch this year, I’m going to kick off a special series of posts that I’ve got planned out for the remainder of this season.

This season does not seem like a very good one to be a Mets fan. Hell, the last 5 seasons haven’t really been very good seasons to be a Mets fan. All those other seasons though, there was always hope at the onset of the year that things were going to be good this year. We have the talent, we just need everyone to perform and we’ll be good. This is the first time in a long time that I’m basically going into Spring Training with the attitude of not expecting the team to go anywhere this year. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch of course. I also guarantee you that the first time they go on any kind of semi-extended winning streak, I’m going to get all excited and become convinced that it’s some kind of Sandy Alderson hoodoo magic and they’re going to the World Series. But then they’ll start losing again.

Anyway, despite the lack of much hope for success this year, this also happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the franchise (even though last season was actually the 50th season). To celebrate 50 years of my favorite team, I decided to pay homage to some of the men who filled various positions on the team throughout the years, on cardboard of course. Since I didn’t want to end up showing a hundred cards, rather than show every single guy who played an inning of second base for the Mets in 1966, I’m just focusing on the guys who got the most starts at whatever position. Also, when one particular guy was the regular at a position year after year, I’m just showing one card of him. Do you have any idea how many Ed Kranepool cards you’d be looking at otherwise. Actually, you’ll still be seeing a lot of them, but that’s not until later.

I’m going to kick things off with the men who’ve taken the helm and steered the team through the years. After all, when a team goes bad, it’s usually the manager who’s the first to go, so why not start with them.

One of the most beloved figures in franchise history, despite having one of the worst records (175-404, good for a .302 winning percentage), the “Old Perfessor” guided the good ship Metropolitan from the team’s inception in 1962 until about midway through the 1965 season. In August of that year, he was forced to retire after falling and breaking his hip. I often wonder if those early Mets teams would’ve been as beloved as they were with any other man leading them.

Wes Westrum ¬†joined the team as a coach in 1964 and took over the role of pitching coach after Warren Spahn was released in July of 1965. A month later, he was named manager after Casey’s unfortunate accident. Imagine taking over the jobs of 2 future Hall of Famers in the span of a month? He stayed on for the next 2 seasons and actually led the Mets out of last place for the first time in their short history in 1966. They went 66-95 that year and finished the season in 9th Place, ahead of the Cubs. Despite finally having a solid young pitcher in Tom Seaver during the 1967 season, Wes resigned with only 11 games left in the face of another 10th Place finish. Incidentally, 1966 Topps has never been one of my favorite sets, but I love this card. I guess when a team is as bad as the Mets were back then, a manager can’t even get his baseball card picture taken without having to yell at someone for something.

Salty Parker became the interim manager for the final 11 games of the 1967 season. I guess when you’re a big league manager for all of 11 games, you don’t automatically get a baseball card. I was lucky enough to have this card of the Angels field generals featuring one Salty Parker. I actually wish he had stuck around a little longer, just because Salty Parker is such a kick-ass name for a baseball manager, especially an old school one. Either that or an advertising mascot for oyster crackers. Salty led the Mets to a 4-7 record down the stretch in those final 11 games. Coincidentally, during his brief playing career with the Tigers, he played in exactly 11 games.

Gil Hodges was brought in to manage the Mets at the start of the 1968 season. Oddly enough, the Mets actually traded for him. They sent pitcher Bill Denehy (a.k.a. the other guy on Tom Seaver’s rookie card) to the Senators along with $100,000. You don’t hear about teams trading for a manager too often. Gil is another very beloved figure in Mets history for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is his legacy as one of the Dodgers Boys of Summer. He was also an original Met, back when ownership was trying to stock the roster with as many aging but loved figures from New York baseball history. He also brought some respectability to the Mets by leading them to their improbable 1969 World Series Championship. He managed them from 1968 until his untimely death during Spring Training of 1972. He was the first Mets manager to end up with a winning record, going 339-309 during his tenure.

Following the sad passing of Gil Hodges, another long-time, beloved New York baseball figure stepped into his shoes. Yogi had been a member of the Mets coaching staff ever since his very short lived career as a Mets player in 1965. He led the Mets to a respectable 3rd Place finish in 1972, but succeeded in bringing them back to the World Series the following year despite the fact that the team was in last place as late as August 30th. They ultimately lost the Series in 7 games to The Mustache Gang. Yogi stuck it out until his firing on August 5, 1975, after which Roy McMillan, who can also be seen on this card, took over for the remainder of the 1975 season.

Joe Frazier took over the helm in 1976 and stuck around until half way through the 1977 season. He managed the team to a winning record of 86-76 in his first year, but the Mets got off to a horrible start in 1977. By the end of May, they were sporting a 15-30 record which led to Frazier’s firing. By the way, I initially thought that this was just a really old team photo, since Willie Mays is in it and he hadn’t played for the Mets since 1973, but I just found out that he was also a coach from 1974 to 1979. Who knew?

Joe Torre took over managerial duties after the firing of Joe Frazier and stuck around until 1981. He started the ’77 season as one of the last player/managers in baseball, but officially retired as a player ¬†to make room on the roster for Joel Youngblood, who the Mets acquired as part of the 1977 “Saturday Night Massacre” that sent Tom Seaver to Cincinnati. By all accounts, Torre was a much better manager than his 286-420 record with the Mets would indicate. Considering the “talent” on those late 70’s Mets teams, I guess a last place team is a last place team, no matter who’s leading them. Joe was given the axe after the ’81 season.

Considering his 81-127 record while at the helm of the Mets, I don’t know if I’d be smiling as much as George is here. He took over in 1982 and made it part of the way through 1983 before resigning. Bamberger was Earl Weaver’s pitching coach from 1968-1977 and during that time the Orioles produced an amazing 18 20-game winners and 4 Cy Young winners.

The role of Mets manager was taken over by none other than The Capitol Punisher himself, Mr. Frank Howard. He finished out the ’83 season, but didn’t fare any better than his predecessors, leading the team to a 52-64 during his time in charge.

The second Golden Era of Mets history began when Davey Johnson took over the team in 1984. Right from the start he made an impact, finishing 2nd Place and winning 90 games. This is after a 1983 team that finished dead last and sported a 68-94 record. Of course it didn’t hurt that Johnson’s arrival happened to coincide with that of Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry as well Dwight Gooden’s Rookie of the Year campaign. He did even better in 1985, winning 98 games but again finishing 2nd. Of course we all know how 1986 ended up. In 6 full seasons and 1 partial one, Johnson became easily the greatest manager the Mets ever had. He holds franchise managerial records for games, wins and winning percentage. The team also never finished worse than 2nd and the only time he had a losing record with the Mets was the half season he managed in 1990, when he went 20-22. Overall, he was 595-417 and led them to the playoffs twice and took home one World Series title. Despite all of his success, he was fired mid-way through the 1990 season.

After Davey Johnson was unceremoniously fired for failing to post a winning record a quarter of the way through the season, the Mets brought in fan favorite Buddy Harrelson. Here’s a little bit of Mets trivia for you – there were 2 men who were on the field for both of the Mets World Series wins. One was this guy, who was Davey Johnson’s third base coach in 1986 and of course was the Mets shortstop in 1969. The other guy was Davey Johnson himself who obviously was the manager of the ’86 team but also was a member of the 1969 Baltimore Orioles, who the Mets defeated in ’69. As a matter of fact, Dave mad the fianl out of the ’69 World Series, flying out to left field. Bud led the 1990 Mets to their 7th consecutive winning season and kept them in contention for most of the 1991 season. In early August they were in 2nd place and 5 games behind the Pirates, but they went 22-38 in the last 2 month to finish the season 20.5 games back in 5th place. Bud was fired with a week to go.

The same way that Bud Harrelson replaced Davey Johnson after serving as his third base coach, Bud was replaced by his third base coach,Mike Cubbage after being fired. I guess what goes around comes around. Mike, however, only stuck around for the final week of the 1991 season, therefore he doesn’t have a manager card. He did play for the Mets for 1 year, so I do have a card showing him in a Mets uniform. The team went 3-4 under his leadership. After his brief time at the helm, Mike returned to his role as third base coach until 1996.

This is where we’re really starting to get into some dark days for the Mets. Jeff won the 1990 Manager of the Year after leading the White Sox to a 94-68 record. He had no such luck with the Metsies, as they went 72-90 under his tutelage in 1992. Things didn’t get much better in ’93, either. They started the year with a 13-25 record. Needless to say, Jeff was sent packing.

After sending Jeff Torborg packing, the Mets brought on another manager who had success elsewhere to see if they could bring some of that winning magic to Queens. Dallas Green was brought in to replace Torborg after the Mets horrid start in 1993. Green led the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980, but apparently left all that mojo down in Philadelphia. Under his charge the Mets were 229-283 and never had a winning season. Despite that, the Mets actually finished tied for 2nd with the Phillies during the strike shortened 1995 season. Somehow they managed that with a 69-75 record. Like many of his predecessors, Dallas was canned part way through the 1996 season.

After the Mets released Dallas Green back into the wild, my personal favorite Mets manager, Bobby Valentine, was brought in. Valentine was the first Mets manager since Bud Harrelson to lead the team to a winning record as well as the first since Davey Johnson to lead them back to the playoffs. During the 6 full seasons that Valentine was at the helm, the Mets won more games than they lost 5 times and made it to the post season twice, highlighted by their losing effort in the 200 World Series against the juggernaut Yankees. He is #2 on the Mets all-time manager list in both games managed and wins behind Davey Johnson. In 1003 games managed, Bobby’s record is 536-467. Plus he tried to sneak back into a game he was ejected from by using eye black tape as a fake mustache.

Continuing with the tradition of hiring guys who had success elsewhere and expecting them to continue that success in Flushing, the Mets brought in Art Howe to replace Bobby Valentine. Fresh off of back to back 100+ win seasons and 3 straight years of post season appearances in Oakland, Art Howe came to New York and didn’t exactly win many fans. Two seasons and a 137-186 record later, Art was given the boot.

After the dark days of the Art Howe/Steve Phillips regime, 2005 saw the hiring of Willie Randolph by the new Mets GM Omar Minaya. Willie improved the club to a 83-79 record and 3rd place finish in his first year, and it seemed that things really clicked in 2006 when the Mets basically steamrolled the N.L. East. They were 97-65 that year, a full 12 games ahead of the Phillies. They swept the Dodgers in the NLDS, but lost to the Cardinals in heart-breaking fashion. Let’s not even bring up 2007 and 2008, except to say that I thought it was pretty crappy the way in which the Mets top brass decided to show Willie the door. Despite being 7th place on the Mets all-time managers most games list, Willie is 4th in most wins. He’s also 2nd in winning percentage, behind only Davey Johnson.

Jerry Manuel was Willie’s bench coach and became the interim manager after Randolph’s firing in 2008. The team was a pretty impressive 55-38 under his watch, which was good enough to earn Jerry another 2 years as Mets skipper. Unfortunately for him, he was never able to inspire the team to similar levels of play during those 2 years. Although Jerry wasn’t fired, it didn’t seem like anyone in the Mets front office was very interested in offering him a contract extension.

That leads us to the Mets current field general, Terry Collins. Honestly, at the time that he was hired during the 2010-2011 off-season, I was disgusted enough with the Mets that I didn’t really pay him much mind. After having lived with him for a full season, though, I think I like him. He seems like a no-nonsense type of manager who, from what I’ve seen, is pretty good at getting the most out of his players,e specially the young guys. I’d say that’s especially important considering the direction that Mets seem to be heading as a franchise. I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the team’s 77-85 record and 4th place finish last year, just because of the state that the team was in as far as injuries and “to rebuild or not to rebuild” limbo.

So there it is. Fifty years worth of Mets managers. Twenty men who’ve led my favorite team onto the field of battle. There’s been some great ones and theres been some not so great one. There’s been guys who’ve inspired lesser players to great heights and some guys who’ve taken great teams and gone nowhere with them. I guess that’s the curse of a manager though. When the people around you do well, it’s because they’re great players. When the people around you play like crap, it’s all your fault.

One Response to “Mets Through the Years: The Managers”

  1. Salty Parker looks, well, Salty:

    http://i.ebayimg.com/t/1967-Orig-2×2-NEG-Mets-coach-Salty-Parker-458-/00/$%28KGrHqR,!h!E3u4+mtE6BOHQ9I!B,!~~0_3.JPG

    There’s more miliage on that face than a 57 Chevy.

Leave a Reply