This is not a debate, but it is an invitation to join one of the more intriguing conversations in New York Mets franchise history:
Who is the best manager in team history?
This questions began racing through my mind after the Mets published a social media post that highlighted Davey Johnson’s career. He is the winningest manager in franchise history — on paper. DISCLAIMER: I am well aware that the post references “winningest” not “best,” however, if you begin reading the comments the conversation takes a broader turn.
Johnson compiled 595 wins and a .588 winning percentage, both statistics place him No. 1 among the Mets 23 managers (if you include Carlos Beltran and Luis Rojas, the latter who has not managed a regular season game yet). If wins and losses, winning percentage and World Series titles are your criteria, then hands down Johnson rises to the top of the list. But do statistics alone answer the question?
If so, then, based on numbers alone was Willie Randolph was a better manager than Gil Hodges? Both managed the Mets for four seasons — Hodges (1968-1971) and Randolph (2005-2008) — and while Hodges had 36 more wins, Randolph had a higher winning percentage (Hodges also managed 93 more games than Randolph). Take away 1969 and Hodges’ managerial record was under .500. But, wait. Hodges won a World Series and Randolph peaked with one NLCS appearance.
Am I stumping for Randolph as a better manager? No. I am just giving a few examples of criteria that, if used in a debate, can alter a person’s historical perspective.
Here’s another factor: Context. Johnson is the last Mets manager to win a World Series title (1986). He won more consistently than an Mets manager before or after, compiling 90+ wins every season from 1984-1988 (including 108 wins the championship season). Over his six-plus seasons as Mets manager, Johnson’s winning percentage was over .500 every year except 1990, when he was fired two months into the season with a 20-22 record. Does that make him the best manager in franchise history?
No necessarily. While Johnson won consistently, he arrived in New York to manage the Mets during a period when the team was young, talented and expected to win. Some see this as a dynasty that did not live up to the expectations.
That club should have won the next three or four years without fail,” added Frank Cashen. “The team was destined to be a dynasty … in my opinion, those two guys (Gooden and Strawberry) cost of years of success.”
So, while the Mets won under Johnson, they are often labeled as failures in historical perspective.
Terry Collins also managed the Mets for seven seasons. Did you know Joe Frazier, Mickey Callaway and Jerry Manuel all had a higher career winning percentage than Collins? Before taking the Mets to the World Series in 2015 and a Wild Card appearance in 2016, Collins strung together four consecutive losing seasons (2011-2014). Collins had more talented teams than Frazier or Manuel. But can you compare Collins to his colleagues who may inherited teams of more or less talent in a different generation?
The information above is not a platform to position any Mets manager ahead of another. In fact, there is simply no way to answer the question fully. But it’s a great debate and Mets fans offered some fair questions in comment section that started with a simple “Stat of the Day” note.