On December 9, the Baseball Hall of Fame “Today’s Game Era” committee will vote on potential new inductees. Among those on the ten person ballot is Davey Johnson, one of three candidates being considered as managers. The other two managerial candidates for the Hall are Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella.,
Johnson, of course, was skipper of the Mets from 1984 to 1990, including their historic 1986 World Series championship team. There is a strong case to be made that Johnson is worthy of induction.
Johnson not only managed the Mets, but he also managed the Reds from 1993-1995, the Orioles from 1996 to 1997, the Dodgers from 1999 to 2000, and finally the Nationals from 2011-2013. That tenure translates to a career won-loss record of 1372-1071, good for a .562 winning percentage.
That percentage puts Johnson in elite status as a manager. It’s better than most of the managers who have been elected to the HOF in recent decades, including Walter Alston, Sparky Anderson, Bobby Cox, Tommy Lasorda and Dick Williams. Earl Weaver is a notable exception, he has a little better percentage than Johnson.
There are factors other than wins that bolster Johnsons’ qualifications for the HOF. Invariably he improved whatever team he was managing from what it was before him. In 1983, the Mets had a 68-94 record, the worst in the NL. However, in 1984 when Johnson became manager, the team improved to a 90-72 record and a second place standing in the NL East. His first full years as manager of the Reds, Orioles and Nationals all saw significant improvement over the previous seasons. Only with the Dodgers did the record slide back his first year.
Johnson managed four different MLB teams into the postseason at one point or another. Only Billy Martin has equaled that managerial feat. Somewhat surprisingly Johnson never received a Manager of the Year award while piloting the Mets. However he did win that honor twice, once with the Orioles in 1997, and with Washington in 2012.
Johnson was known as an innovative manager, particularly in the early use of computers and advanced analytics. He earned a degree in Mathematics from Trinity College and was even using mainframe computers for analysis while he was still a player.
Although Johnson is up for HOF consideration as a manager, he did have a pretty good career as a player. The second baseman was on four All-Star teams, and he won Gold Gloves in 1969 and 1970 with the powerhouse Baltimore Oriole teams. In his 13 year MLB playing career he posted a slash line of .261/.340/.404.
If Johnson is elected to the HOF, it will be interesting to see which uniform he will wear on his plaque. Although his best managing tenure was with the Mets, he did manage and play for the Orioles. But hopefully, if he wins, Johnson will join Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza as HOFers in Mets’ uniforms.