Davey Johnson: Good Player, Better Manager
One of the best stories in Major League Baseball this season has been the emergence of the Washington Nationals. Although yours truly picked them to win the National League East, I did not expect them to be this good, this quickly. Even casual fans are familiar with their young budding superstars Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, not to mention established stars such as Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez and Tyler Clippard. Leading this fast-rising group is (I can’t believe I am using this term) grizzled baseball man Davey Johnson.
For those who are not aware or can’t recall, Davey Johnson was a pretty good player during the late 1960’s and through most of the 1970’s. At a time when power was not associated with Second Basemen, Johnson hit 15 or more home runs three times, including 43 in 1973, one of three members (Darrell Evans and the legend Hank Aaron being the others) of the Braves to top 40 round-trippers. He started at Second for the Orioles in four World Series trips, winning two in 1966 and 1970. Before managing the Mets, their fans best remembered him as the guy who made the last out of the 1969 World Series.
Aahhh, managing. This second career is where Davey Johnson has flourished. He has won at just about every stop. In 1984, his first season in New York, he guided the Metsto a 90 win season, their first finish above .500 in eight years. In 1986, he led the team to its second (and last) World Series title. His next stop was Cincinnati where in 1995, his Reds won the National League Central title and advanced to the National League Championship Series. After a falling out with owner Marge Schott, Davey returned home (sort of) to Baltimore where the Orioles made the playoffs in 1996 and 1997. Those were the O’s last two seasons over .500. The Dodgers were his least successful stint, finishing two games over .500 in two seasons in Los Angeles.
Many people were stunned when Washington asked him to manage the team in the middle of the 2011 season. After all, he last managed a Major League team in 2000. When you see his winning percentage is .562 (1,226-957) perhaps it shouldn’t be that shocking. Twenty-six years after the Mets’ title who would be surprised if he did the same with the Nationals?
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