A fine player during his day, Davey Johnson was a three-time Gold Glove winner and four-time All-Star who once slugged 43 homers in a single season. Despite these accomplishments, Davey is best known as the skipper of the World Champion 1986 Mets.
Johnson ended his playing career after a controversial two-year stay in Japan. After leaving the field as a player in 1978, Davey went back to the bushes to try his hand at managing. He had a .708 winning percentage with the unaffiliated Miami Amigos in 1979 before the Mets brought him in to manage their affiliates in Jackson, MS and Tidewater, VA. The Mets promoted Davey to New York in 1984, inheriting a last place club, and he guided them to a second place finish his first season. The team, under Johnson, hit 16 points higher than they did in 1983.
The Mets finished second again in 1985 with a solid 98-64 record. Johnson’s team was led by the NL’s top strikeout staff. When the Mets rose to 108 wins in 1986, they made the postseason. Johnson’s charges led the NL in combined runs scored, batting average, slugging average and staff ERA. His Mets beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, giving Davey his first and only title, with the help of Lady Luck who didn’t quite care much for the BoSox.
The Mets looked like a safe bet for repeat champions but the pitching staff failed to build off their World Series success. Dwight Gooden missed time with a drug-related suspension and David Cone, Rick Aguilera, Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell all missed time with assorted ailments. It was a miracle the ’87 Mets finished in second place.
Undaunted, Davey led the 1988 Mets to a 100-win season and an NL East title. The Mets scored the most runs in the senior circuit and their pitching staff rebounded to fashion the best team ERA in the National League. However, the Mets lost the NLCS. Johnson then guided the Mets to a second place finish in 1989. It took some fine managing from Davey to keep the Mets afloat since they were without stars Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter for most the season due to injury.
The Mets canned Davey halfway through the 1990 season. In his six in a half years with the Mets, Johnson never finished under second place. His next managing gig came with the Cincinnati Reds in 1993. The Reds were an injury riddled team (something Davey was used to) in ’93 and finished in fifth place. They rebounded in 1994 to finish first in their division with the senior circuit’s top hitting club: the Reds had a team batting average of .286.
Davey led the Reds to another NL Central title in 1995 with the league’s top stolen base squad. Cincy failed to advance in the Playoffs and Davey left the club to manage the Orioles in 1996. His first year in Baltimore, Davey won the AL Wild Card but again failed to advance in the Playoffs. His Orioles of 1997 won the AL East but the postseason got the better of Davey again and he failed to lead his charges to the World Series. Despite two straight postseason appearances with the Birds, Davey didn’t return to manage them in 1998. His last managerial assignment came with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who he managed in 1999 and 2000.
W 1,148/L 888/PCT .564 1 World Series title.