Earlier this week, Mickey Callaway was introduced as the 21st manager in franchise history. The initial feedback on Callaway has been overwhelmingly positive, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what impact he makes on the franchise.
But they haven’t all been winners. Time will tell whether Callaway will rank among the best or worst of Mets managers.
Who topped the class, and who bombed the worst? I took a look back at the best and worst skippers in Mets’ history.
T-5. The Underachievers: Davey Johnson (1984-1990), Willie Randolph (2005-08), and Jerry Manuel (2008-10)
I am grouping these three together as underachievers.
To this day, Johnson still holds the highest winning percentage (.588) in franchise history. But that said, it’s hard to accept that his teams from the ‘80s didn’t come away with more than one championship. He should be revered for the ’86 season, but reviled for what should have been.
Randolph and Manuel are paired together for the 2006-to-08 run. With the teams they had, reaching the playoffs once over that span is an embarrassment, and falling short of the World Series in ’06 was heartbreaking. The collapse of ’07 was of historic proportion, and to do it again in ’08 was brutal. Once is an anomaly. Twice? Unforgivable.
4. Joe Torre (1977-1981)
Five years, 286 wins, 420 losses (.405 winning percentage)
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” the old adage goes. And that’s why I will not go into detail about Torre’s tenure with the Mets.
3. Jeff Torborg (1992-93)
The Mets were a top-tier team in the National League through the majority of the ‘80s, but Torborg’s reign saw the end of that era. The ’92 team is notoriously known as “The Worst Team Money Could Buy,” and things bottomed out in '93 with a 103-loss season. It’s a real dubious honor for Torborg to have everything that went wrong (sex scandals, fire crackers, bleach) happen under his watch.
2. Dallas Green (1993-96)
Sometimes numbers speak for themselves. A .447 winning percentage over a four-year span left a lot to be desired, especially from a World Series-winning (1980 Phillies) manager. His run is even less memorable than Generation K's, and that’s saying something.
1. Art Howe (2003-04)
It sounds weird to say in hindsight, but when he came over from Oakland, Art Howe was believed to be a savior. The A’s were the talk of baseball, and expectations were high now that Howe would be managing a team with a big-market budget.
If Art wasn’t happy by his portrayal in ‘Moneyball,’ imagine how he would feel if they made a book/movie about his tenure in New York? Howe is a classic example of why making a splash for the sake of making a splash is never the right move.
5. Yogi Berra (1972-75)
A Yogi Berra-managed team oversaw the, “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets of 1973. Halfway through the season, the Mets were in last place and 13 games out. Somehow, Yogi kept the clubhouse and led his team to a massive upset over the Reds in the NLCS, and were one win in Oakland away from up-ending the monster A’s in the ‘73 World Series.
You better believe Yogi makes the list for that accomplishment.
4. Bobby Valentine (1996-2002)
It’s hard not to look back on the Bobby Valentine years fondly. Besides Mike Piazza, there wasn’t another superstar, and his outfields always consisted mostly of role players. Yet he found a way to win. Valentine had a knack of getting the most out of the limited talent that he was given. He also handled the media well, and was downright likable.
Bobby V continues to be a name brought up by fans each and every time the managerial position opens up. It’ll never happen, but it was fun while it lasted.
3. Davey Johnson (1984-1990)
Johnson makes both lists, because no manager sustained a longer period of success than him, even if his teams underachieved. Under Davey, the Mets became a powerhouse. The Mets won with an attitude that personified New York City. Johnson helped make the Mets the toast of the town throughout the ‘80s, and managed the greatest team in franchise history in ’86 (108 wins).
2. Casey Stengel (1962-65)
Stengel was tapped to help give the expansion Mets instantly credibility, but his real accomplishment was the charm he gave the franchise. Although his teams were among the worst in baseball history, his charisma helped win over fans. Stengel helped fill the gaping hole left by the Giants and the Dodgers relocation, as abandoned National League baseball fans flocked to Queens.
1. Gil Hodges (1968-71)
Building on what Stengel started, Hodges was the man to make the Mets into legitimacy. The “Miracle Mets” not only registered the franchise’s first winning season, they stormed back from as many as 10 games out in August, won 100 games, and shocked the world by defeating the Orioles in the ’69 World Series. Who knows where Hodges could’ve taken the Mets had he not suffered a premature death in ’72. He was poised to have a long, successful managerial career.
In just four years (three winning seasons), Hodges left a lasting legacy on the Mets. It’s a travesty that he’s not in the Hall of Fame.