Jun 25

I’m glad Davey is back

Of all the managers I’ve covered, Davey Johnson might be the most intriguing. He heard, and marched to one drum, that being his own. He might be the only person to be named manager of the year and fired on the same day.

JOHNSON: He's back.

Many of the memories I carry from covering Major League Baseball for over 20 years happened off the field and not during a game, such as the afternoon in Baltimore when I was sitting next to Johnson during his pre-game press briefing.

Johnson was winding things down, when unprompted, threw out this nugget. Maybe it was to mess with our upcoming off day.

“You know,’’ he began in that slow drawl of his, “I’ve been thinking of moving Cal Ripken to third base.’’

Nugget? For an Orioles’ writer then, it was a bombshell. And, to make it more interesting is he floated the idea without talking to Ripken. He knew we’d all flock to Ripken like ants at a picnic, and this might have been his way of testing the waters.

Another time, Bobby Bonilla – the ultimate team player – didn’t want to play as the DH, this coming several weeks after saying he’d do anything to help the Orioles.

When he name wasn’t in the lineup, Johnson told us Bonilla had a sore ankle and underwent treatment. When asked about his ankle, Bonilla let loose the following obscenity: “Why don’t you ask the (bleeping) manager how it is?’’

Johnson was shaming Bonilla to DH.

Any team Johnson manages is his team, and he takes crap from nobody. Not an iconic figure like

Ripken, not a faux star such as Bonilla, and not a prima donna rookie.

Johnson had his way of dealing with players, and one was to utilize the press, and we were all willing to scoop up what he said.

The Orioles were in Milwaukee one year and going through a miserable stretch, and on this day they blew a game to the Brewers in the late innings. The clubhouse at old County Stadium didn’t have a manager’s office. Instead, there was a desk adjacent to the trainer’s room and players passed by us throughout the interview.

Speaking loud enough where everybody could hear, Johnson took apart his team, basically holding a team meeting in front of the press. No cursing, no yelling, no name calling. But, it was clear he was angry and not in a tolerant mood.

Johnson, of course, as he did with the Mets, got his point across.

Later in that series, Johnson made a decision I didn’t understand.

“Davey,’’ I asked. “I’m not being a wise guy. But, I don’t know as much baseball as you and don’t understand that decision. Could you explain?’’

As Johnson stared at me for a couple of seconds, I felt his glare go through me, but I never released eye contact. He realized I wasn’t kidding, that I didn’t understand, so he laid it all out for me.

So sarcasm, just teaching. Johnson loves to talk about the intricacies of the game. He’s a great teacher, and he’s going to a team in the Washington Nationals that could learn from him.

When it comes to strategy and analyzing a game, few can do it like Johnson and the Nationals are lucky to have him in their dugout. He will make that team smarter and concentrate on the fundamentals.

The Nationals still don’t have the overall talent to compete this year or next, but they will be better.

I’m glad Davey is back in the game and can’t wait until the Nationals are in town.

 

Jun 25

Today in Mets’ History: Sid stars for ’86 powerhouse.

While the 1969 Mets gathered steam and rolled late in the second half, the 1986 team steamrolled the National League from start to finish as that team dominated as manager Davey Johnson projected.

FERNANDEZ: Had great stuff.

On this date in 1986, Sid Fernandez and Roger McDowell combined to stuff the Montreal Expos, 5-2, at Shea Stadium.

While Doc Gooden was the headliner, the 86 staff was solid with Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Fernandez and Rick Aguilera.

All but Aguilera made at least 30 starts with over 200 innings pitched. There were no 20-game winners on that staff, but six pitchers all won in double digits, including McDowell, who was 14-9 in relief with 22 saves and 128 innings pitched.

Fernandez was 16-6 that season, and all indications were he was going to be a special pitcher. In many ways, Fernandez personified the Mets from that era in that he had loads of talent, but never developed into a big winner.

Fernandez never won more than the 16 games that season and finished his career in 1997 at 114-96 in 15 years with the Mets, Dodgers, Orioles, Phillies and Astros.

FERNANDEZ CAREER

BOX SCORE

 

 

 

Jan 19

Jan. 19.10: The Mets Hall of Fame.

STRAWBERRY: Leads four into Mets' Hall.

STRAWBERRY: Leads four into Mets' Hall.

The Mets will announce today that Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson and Frank Cashen will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. All good choices, all deserving.

Cashen was the architect, Johnson the manager and Strawberry and Gooden the hitting and pitching faces from the 1986 team.

Do you agree with the choices? I, for one, am glad to see the Mets honoring their past. There will be a Hall of Fame and team museum in the Rotunda in what used to be the team store.

Strawberry, Gooden, Johnson and Cashen join Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Mookie Wilson from the 1986 Mets in the team’s Hall of Fame.

In other news:

* Jeff Francoeur avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract. The Mets and Francoeur aren’t done as they are considering a contract extension. The Mets traditionally avoid arbitration and continue talking with Pedro Feliciano, Sean Green and Angel Pagan.

* NESN.com reported the Red Sox and Jason Bay agreed to a four-year, $60 million extension last June, but it fell through when a MRI showed problems with both knees. The Mets signed Bay to a four-year, $66 million contract with a vesting fifth-year option. Does that give the impression the Mets were truly bidding against themselves?

* Carlos Delgado is batting .280 in winter ball with one extra base hit and two RBI in eight games. Reports are he’s still sluggish running. But, with Carlos Beltran out, there’s need for left-handed power and that enhances the chances of him being re-signed.

Dec 02

On this Date …..

Looking Back ....

Looking Back ....

…. In 1991, in one of their better decisions, the Mets signed Bobby Bonilla to a five-year, $29 million contract. At the time, Bonilla, a local athlete, was coming off a productive run with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bonilla became a lightning rod in the clubhouse, some thought a clubhouse cancer. Threatening reporters didn’t help his image. I was in Baltimore when he brought his reputation to the Orioles, and sure enough, he didn’t report. He and Davey Johnson had an especially combative relationship caused by the DH rule.

Bonilla, who couldn’t field, didn’t like the DH and rebelled at being used in that slot. I didn’t have a chummy relationship with Bonilla, who was adverse to answering most questions, even simple ones, like, “how are you?”

One time, that question was answered with the, “why don’t you ask the “!@#$%%^” manager?”

ON DECK: A simple question about Roy Halladay.

Nov 19

Davey Johnson goes to work for Nats ….

Davey Johnson is back in the majors, hired as a front office adviser to GM Mike Rizzo. One of his specialties is recognizing and working with young talent. That would be minor league players. That would be a Mets’ weakness.

JOHNSON: Now with Nationals.

JOHNSON: Now with Nationals.


This would be about a lost opportunity. If the Mets are really serious about strengthening the ties with their past, Johnson would have been a good place to start. Johnson had previously worked with the Nationals before under Jim Bowden. You would think the Mets would have kept tabs on his baseball interests just in case.

All this talk about bringing Bobby Valentine back? How about a little love for Johnson, who managed the Mets’ last championship team? Valentine has a core group of media in his corner, but not Johnson.
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