New York Mets: The 10 Greatest Mets Managers of All Time
In part one of this upcoming thirteen-part series about the greatest Mets of all time, we begin with the top 10 greatest managers. With Terry Collins having been installed as the 20th manager in Mets history, now is a good time to reflect on the other 19 men that have managed the Mets from 1962-2010. Some managers were more successful than others, some were more liked than others, and some frankly just didn't care. The Mets had different managers of all kinds, and once in a while, they have been able to find lightning in a bottle. Hopefully, Terry Collins can do the trick or else the Mets will have find someone else to get the job done.
Here are the top 10 managers in Mets history.
The Rest of the Pack
In all honesty, most of the men that have managed the Mets have not done a spectacular job. In fact, only the top five or six should even be considered good managers while they were with the Mets. However, there are reasons why some made the bottom half of the list over others, so here is why certain managers were so bad that they could not make the cut.
In 1965, the legendary Casey Stengel appointed Wes Westrum as his hand-picked successor when he decided to step down as Mets manager. Westrum was a coach on the team since 1964 and managed for the rest of 1965, all of 1966 and almost all of 1967 before stepping down a few weeks before the season ended. His teams were not successful at all, but it would be the last years of the Mets being in the NL East cellar as Gil Hodges became the next manager and transformed the team into champions. Unlike his predecessor, Westrum did not have Stengel's charisma and was not particularly popular with the fans. Some of the great late 1960s and early 1970s Mets first played under him, but he was not that cut out for a manager.
In 1982, GM Frank Cashen hired George Bamberger to be the Mets manager. He was a popular pitching coach in Baltimore, and later a successful manager in Milwaukee, but Bambi's heart simply was not in it with the Mets. His 1982 team went 65-97 and then, all of a sudden, he resigned from the post in 1983 after the first 48 games. Apparently, retirement in Florida was too tempting to resist for him, so just like that he was gone.
Another very disappointing Mets manager was Jeff Torborg, who was hired by Cashen's hand-picked successor, Al Harazin in 1992, as he was recently the AL Manager of the Year in 1990. Torborg however failed miserably to achieve similar success with these Mets, who soon became infamously known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy." Thus, he was more or less the worst manager money could buy. The 1992 squad finished in last place with a 70-92 record and the dreadful 1993 team got off to a 13-25 start before Torborg was fired and replaced by Dallas Green.
The final Mets manager to become a complete disappointment was Art Howe, who was hired to manage in 2003 and lasted just two years. The 2003 team lost 95 games and in 2004, the Mets improved by just six games. The Mets went through three general managers in this chaotic stretch and Howe really did not do anything to light a spark into the team. It was no surprise that he was labeled as a lame duck when he decided to manage the last two weeks of 2004 even when the public knew before the season even ended that he was definitely going to get fired. Moments that made Howe look pathetic include the ineffective way in which he used his bullpen and the Mike Piazza first base controversy. All the while, he kept insisting that everything was fine and the team would get more wins, both of which never materialized.
Jerry Manuel managed the Mets for most of 2008, as well as 2009 and 2010. While Jerry was a good person that his players liked, he was not the best manager out there. His usage of the bullpen was clearly ineffective and after 2008's collapse, the 2009 team got hurt and did nothing, and the 2010 squad did okay, but stopped hitting after the All-Star break. Everyone knew Manuel would get fired last October, and that's what happened. He was certainly the best full-time manager to not make the cut.
The Mets have also had four interims managers that only managed the rest of their respective seasons. Salty Parker managed the final 11 games of the 1967 season after Westrum resigned and left the Mets right after that.
Former Mets shortstop Roy McMillan managed the final 53 games of the 1975 season after Yogi Berra was fired and went 26-27 in that span before going back to being a coach the following spring.
When Bamberger resigned in 1983, his big first base coach Frank Howard was the Mets' skipper for the rest of the year and went back to coaching the next season under Davey Johnson.
Finally, Mike Cubbage managed the final seven games of the 1991 season after Bud Harrelson was fired with a week to go.
10. Dallas Green
Dallas Green really did not bring much success to the Mets at all, but his credentials and the potential of the players he had were better than just about any of the teams the managers that did not make the cut had. He had good stretches within certain seasons, but overall, his teams merely continued the downward spiral that had begun with the brief Jeff Torborg era.
Green became the Mets manager on May 21, 1993 after then-GM Al Harazin fired Torborg, whose team had started just 13-25. Under Green, the Mets season did not improve much at all, as they went 46-78 in the games he managed, and 59-103 altogether, the Mets' first and most recent 100-loss season since 1967. Numerous players on the '93 team underachieved, and the Mets became "The Worst Team Money Could Buy", although the label stuck more with Torborg.The forgettable season was marred by two firecracker incidents, one by Vince Coleman and the other by Bret Saberhagen, as well as Saberhagen spraying bleach at reporters, and Anthony Young completing his horrendous streak of losing 27 consecutive decisions over two years, which set a new major league record.
Green was given another shot with the Mets and in 1994, the Mets improved to a 55-58 record, before the players went on strike the rest of the year. Had the season continued, the Mets could have definitely contended for a playoff berth, but in this year, the talk was all about Dwight Gooden and the suspension he got from testing positive for cocaine. It also put an end to his illustrious young Mets career, and almost his life. Some promise began to develop in this year as well. Second baseman Jeff Kent was showing signs of the great hitter he eventually became and first baseman Rico Brogna was popular at first. Saberhagen had his best Mets season and Bobby Jones and John Franco both pitched solid as well.
In 1995, Green's Mets got off to a bad start, but finished strong with a 34-18 record after August 5 to end the season in a tie for second place, although they were over 21 games behind the World Champion Braves. In this season, the very promising Generation K that was supposed to take the Mets to the next level had finally made it to the major leagues. Or to be honest, two of the three did. Lefty Bill Pulsipher only went 5-7, but Jason Isringhausen, who was called up later in the season finished with a 9-2 record in just 14 starts. Newer talent in Todd Hundley and Edgardo Alfonzo started to emerge and it finally looked like Green was going to turn the Mets around into winners.
Although that eventually happened later in the decade, there was no immediate improvement in Green's last season as the skipper in 1996. While Pulsipher missed the whole year with injuries, Isringhausen and the very highly scouted Paul Wilson were both on the Opening Day roster and expected to contribute heavily to the Mets' success. However, that did not work out as Isringhausen went just 6-14, while Wilson did not fare much better at 5-12 in his only Mets season. Green had originally felt very confident in these two pitchers, but once they failed, he called them out and stated that they were brought up too soon, which ultimately led to him being fired in late August as Bobby Valentine managed the rest of the year. However, despite the Mets finishing 71-91 and in fourth place that year, not all was negative for the team. Offensively, the Mets got career seasons from their leadoff hitting center fielder Lance Johnson, left fielder Bernard Gilkey, and their slugging catcher, Hundley. Johnson batted .333, and set new team records with 227 hits, 117 runs scored and 21 triples. Gilkey batted .317, hit 30 home runs, drove in a then-team record 117 RBI, and set another team record with 44 doubles. Hundley set a team record himself with 41 home runs, also a new record for catchers in a season. He also drove in 112 RBI. Mark Clark had a fine season on the mound as he led the Mets with 14 wins and a 3.43 ERA, while Franco racked up even more saves as he became one of the greatest closers.
Although much of his managerial tenure was marked by failures, foolish incidents, and controversy, Dallas Green handled it all pretty well for a New York manager. Furthermore, his last two seasons helped the pave the success that the Mets had from 1997-2000, although by then, Green was no longer a part of it.
Finally, Green's granddaughter passed away recently in a horrible shooting, so it's only fair that we all remember Green's family in our prayers, and hopefully, Green will soon be ok.
9. Joe Torre
Joe Torre has become one of the greatest managers in baseball history, mostly thanks to his success with the cross-town Yankees that dominated the late 1990s by winning titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. However, before Torre became such a well-respected skipper, his first managerial gig was over twenty years earlier with the Mets.
Torre originally came to the Mets in a trade after the 1974 season. He played most third base in 1975 before playing first base in 1976 and 1977 before retiring as a player. However, he became a player-manager at the end of May in 1977, replacing Joe Frazier, whose team got off to a 15-30 start before he was fired. A month later, Torre retired as a player and became devoted to managing full time.
The Mets finished 1977 with a 64-98 record, which was bad in itself, but nowhere near as bad as some of the very unpopular trades the Mets made that year. June 15, 1977 became probably the darkest day in Mets history when the unpopular chairman M. Donald Grant and his GM Joe McDonald shocked the Mets community by trading Tom Seaver to the Reds for Doug Flynn, Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman. The main reason behind this is that Seaver was apparently demanding a lot of money and Grant was not buying into free agency, which was rather new at the time. Grant did not give in and traded Seaver away just like that. Grant and McDonald also traded away the slugger Dave Kingman to the Padres for future manager Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert. By the end of the season, longtime catcher Jerry Grote, lefty Jon Matlack and first baseman John Milner were also gone, and this left the Mets looking forward to six more years of frustration.
In Torre's first full season of managing in 1978, the Mets were basically the same and improved just two games to a 66-96 record, which was again last in the division. The offense was relatively quiet this year as new first baseman Willie Montanez hit 17 home runs and drove in 96 RBI, and new catcher John Stearns had a breakout year with 15 home runs, 73 RBI and 25 stolen bases, which was the most for a catcher until 1998, but the rest of the lineup was decent at best. Jerry Koosman went just 3-15 in his last Mets season, and Zachry and Craig Swan were the only starters to have a winning record in a very disappointing season.
The Mets slipped even more in 1979 with a 63-99-1 record, once again last in the division. Lee Mazzilli had a solid year batting .303 and led the team with just 79 RBI, but Stearns and Montanez both could not repeat the success they had in 1978. On the pitching end, Swan led the team with a 14-13 record, but Zachry was hurt most of the year. This was also Ed Kranepool's last season, who retired after spending 18 seasons with the Mets since its inception.
1980 was not much better, as the Mets finished with a 67-95 record, but the team was progressing in other aspects. The daughter of original Mets owner Joan Payson sold the team to Doubleday and Co., led by Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon. The Mets also were starting to really develop some players that would become key contributors in the coming years, such as Mookie Wilson and Hubie Brooks. Mazzilli led the team once again with a .280 average, 16 home runs and 76 RBI, but the rest of the offense was quiet. Mark Bomback surprised many people and led the pitching staff with a 10-8 record, while Swan and Zachry combined for an 11-19 record. Neil Allen also emerged as a closer and racked up 22 saves.
In his final season with the Mets in 1981, Torre's team finished the first half of the strike-marred season 17-34, while finishing 24-28-2 in the second half, leading to a total record of 41-62-2. This rather odd season saw the return of Kingman, who hit 22 home runs and drove in 59 RBI to lead the team. Mazzilli dropped to just six home runs, and no one else hit more than five this year, one of the weakest offensive teams in Mets history. The pitching was bad as well. Allen was the only pitcher of significance with a 7-6 record and 18 saves, while the starting rotation was basically a disaster. At the end of the year, it became pretty clear that Torre would not get resigned and he left to manage the Atlanta Braves, whom he finally found success with, while the Mets hired George Bamberger and continued their down cycle for another two years.
Joe Torre may not have had much success with the Mets from 1977-1981 and may have also managed the team a bit too long, but it was the foundation of his eventual legendary managing career, and that should not be forgotten, despite the mediocre players he had. Amazingly, he stuck around long enough to finish third among Mets managers in games managed at 709.
8. Joe Frazier
No, not THAT Joe Frazier! The late Joe Frazier that managed the Mets was certainly not smokin', but he does have one thing on his managerial resume that every manager that has already been mentioned does not have (Jerry Manuel's 2008 season is the lone exception), and that was a winning season.
Frazier, who had been managing various Mets minor league teams since 1968 became the first manager in team history to get promoted in 1976, as opposed to being signed from another team. The Mets at the time had just come off a disappointing 82-80 season in 1975 and were hoping that Frazier could bring the team back to its winning ways, and that year, he was relatively successful.
The 1976 team finished 86-76, which at the time was the second best regular season in team history. However, the team failed to be a legitimate contender for almost the entire season, as they finished 15 games behind the division-winning Phillies, who won 101 games that year. The slugging Dave Kingman, who began his first stint with the Mets that year led the team with 37 home runs and 86 RBI, despite missing 40 games. He became the first genuine slugger the team ever had. John Milner had a good year as well, with 15 home runs and 78 RBI. However, despite another decent year from Ed Kranepool, there was not much else to boast about with this offense. There was a lot to boast about with the pitching though as Koosman had his career season by winning 21 games, with a 2.69 ERA. Seaver, who by then began his heated feud with chairman M. Donald Grant finished 14-11 in his last full season as a Met. Jon Matlack was solid as well with a 17-10 record and a 2.95 ERA, but the Mets also depended on lefty Mickey Lolich to have a strong season. He only went 8-13 in his lone Mets season. Skip Lockwood was a good closer and finished with 19 saves and a 2.67 ERA.
Frazier's team had trouble repeating the success a year later and got off to a 15-30 start before Frazier was fired and replaced by first baseman Joe Torre. Being that Torre's teams were all unsuccessful, Frazier should have at least been able to finish out the season, but the Mets' front office was not happy and cut him loose apparently a bit too soon, as the team began a downward spiral that lasted through 1983.
Lastly, Frazier sadly passed away on February 15, 2011, so it's only proper that one of the better managers in team history should rest in peace.
7. Bud Harrelson
Bud Harrelson will always be remembered as one of the best shortstops in Mets history. But some people may have either not known or may have forgotten that Harrelson was briefly managing the Mets a good ten years after his playing days ended.
After his playing days, Harrelson eventually managed some of the Mets minor league teams in 1984 and 1985 before becoming the third base coach on the 1986 championship team. He remained in that capacity until he all of a sudden replaced the popular Davey Johnson after the first 42 games of the 1990 season.
When Harrelson was promoted, the Mets at the time were 20-22, but managed to play well for the rest of the season and stayed right with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the division title. However, the Mets did not play as well as the Pirates at the very end of the season and finished in second place with a solid 91-71 record, which earned Harrelson another season as the skipper. In his final season as a Met, Darryl Strawberry delivered one of his best by hitting 37 home runs and driving in 108 RBI. Howard Johnson added 23 home runs and 90 RBI, while Kevin McReynolds contributed 24 home runs and 82 RBI. But the biggest surprise of this season was first baseman Dave Magadan who batted .328 with a .417 OBP and was among the leaders for the batting title. The duo of Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola combined for a 39-19 record, as Gooden and Viola won 19 and 20 games, respectively. David Cone pitched solidly as well with a 14-10 record, but Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling both had down years, while Bob Ojeda was eventually moved to the bullpen. This year was also the first of 15 seasons with the Mets for closer John Franco, who set a then-team record with 33 saves.
The Mets however were not as good in 1991, despite playing well in the first half. They contended with the Pirates through July, but an 8-21 August plummeted the Mets into fourth place, and they never recovered as the Pirates ran away with the division. The Mets ended up collapsing to fifth place and finished 77-84, which ended their seven-year streak of winning and finishing no lower than second place in the NL East. Harrelson was fired with just seven games remaining in the season and soon enough, the brief Jeff Torborg began and the Mets were off to their 1990s down cycle that lasted through 1996. HoJo had one of his best seasons with 38 home runs, 117 RBI, and 30 stolen bases to pick up the slack that Strawberry left after signing with the Dodgers, but McReynolds and Magadan both had down years, and the newly signed Vince Coleman became a huge disappointment during his Mets tenure, despite stealing 37 bases that year. Viola also regressed to a 13-15 record, while Cone went 14-14, but Gooden had a solid year with a 13-7 record. Franco led the bullpen once again with 30 saves.
Bud Harrelson's managerial tenure was a lot briefer than his playing career, but he almost won the division in 1990, which is a bigger accomplishment than that of any of the other previously mentioned managers. However, one could also blame Harrelson for technically beginning the 1990s down cycle, even though his part was just for two months. Nonetheless, Harrelson was definitely one of the better managers in team history that did not get as much credit as he deserved.
6. Willie Randolph
Willie Randolph will always be considered a Yankee first and foremost, but from 2005-2008, he became one of the better managers the Mets have ever had. He also played on the team in 1992 during the final victory lap of his playing career.
After three consecutive losing seasons from 2002-2004, the very chaotic Mets front office hired Omar Minaya to be the new general manager following the 2004 season and asked for him to rebuild the team and get them back to the 1999 and 2000 success. Minaya's first move was the hiring of new manager Willie Randolph, who had never managed in the major leagues. Minaya also signed two of the biggest free agent commodities in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. From then on, the Mets found some success they had been missing during the infamous Art Howe era.
In Randolph's first season in 2005, the rebuilding Mets showed some promise, but finished tied for third place with an 83-79 record, good enough for the first winning record the Mets had since 2001. By then, the team knew that better seasons were soon to come.
The 2006 team was the one fans had been waiting for as Minaya made more trades and signings, which led to Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Paul LoDuca, and Duaner Sanchez all becoming Mets.
The team had its best season in recent memory, winning the division with a 97-65 record. The Mets swept the Dodgers in the division series before suffering a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Mets were destined to go to the World Series, but a crucial home run by Yadier Molina and the sight of Beltran freezing on a breaking ball to end the series left the Mets with a bad taste in their mouths as the Cardinals eventually won the championship they should have had.
On their quest for redemption in 2007, the Mets found similar success for most of the season, and then came September. In one of the biggest collapses in baseball history, the Mets were leading the Phillies by seven games with only seventeen more games to play, but the bottom fell out and the Mets ended up finishing in second despite going 88-74. They missed the playoffs by one game as the Phillies ended up miraculously winning the division. This collapse immediately put a dent into Randolph's managerial legacy, and he needed every bit of success to keep his job after 2008.
It turned out that Randolph ended up being ousted from the Mets even before the 2008 season ended. There were constant talks about when Randolph would indeed get fired, and after a 34-35 start in 2008, Minaya indeed fired Randolph in an unusual way. He let Randolph fly with the team to Anaheim, Randolph managed the first game of the series, and then, at around 3:00 AM eastern time, Minaya all of a sudden decided to fire Randolph. The next day, Randolph and pitching coach Rick Peterson were gone and bench coach Jerry Manuel became the new skipper. Minaya was heavily criticized for the way he handled Randolph's firing.
Randolph's tenure as Mets manager was very promising and was extremely close to including an NL pennant, but it was not to be in 2006. The 2007 collapse did him in, as Randolph could not recover the team before his firing in 2008. However, Randolph had the charisma close to that of Bobby Valentine, and the community certainly needed that after two years of Art Howe. The players liked Randolph and supported him, but it was not good enough to help him keep his job. Nonetheless, Randolph is one of the best managers of recent memory and his 2006 team is one of the best in Mets history. Randolph is fourth amongst Mets managers in wins with 302 and amazingly, second in winning percentage at .544, despite only being the skipper for not even four seasons.
5. Yogi Berra
Another former Mets manager that will always be remembered primarily as a Yankee is the legendary Yogi Berra. After playing the vast majority of his career with the Yankees, Berra came to the Mets as a player for a very brief time in 1965 before becoming a full-time coach for the team. He remained at the post through the 1969 championship season and eventually became the new manager after Gil Hodges' untimely death, which occurred right before the start of the 1972 season. Berra then went on to somewhat continue the newfound Mets success that Hodges had begun.
In Berra's first season as manager in 1972, the Mets finished 83-73, but were over 13 games behind the division-winning Pirates. The Mets that year got off to a fast start by winning 29 of their first 40 games and remained in the mix for first place during the first half of the season, but by the end of July, the Mets had fallen seven games behind the Pirates. The Mets never recovered as they eventually fell to third place to finish the year. The offense was quiet this year as no player hit more than 17 home runs or drove in more than 52 RBI, but as usual, the pitching was stellar, led by Tom Seaver, who won 21 games, while Tug McGraw anchored the bullpen with 27 saves. Rookie left-hander Jon Matlack became just the second Met to win the Rookie of the Year award.
The 1973 season would become the one that defined Berra's mangerial tenure. Unlike the 1972 team, this squad got off to a terrible start and never really seemed to improve until August. This late rally was sparked by McGraw's famous rally cry, "Ya Gotta Believe!" The Mets ended up finishing 82-79 and won the division. They ended up defeating Cincinnati's high powered "Big Red Machine" in the NLCS, but lost to the Oakland A's in the World Series. The ending was not the best obviously, but with the way things went, this season was definitely a success. It was also during the World Series that Berra came up with one of his more famous quotes, "It ain't over 'til it's over." Berra also ended up taking a lot of heat for pitching both Seaver and Matlack on three day's rest, instead of using George Stone in Game 6 to give the Game 7 starter more rest. Rusty Staub and John Milner both had breakout seasons, while Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Matlack and Stone led one of baseball's top pitching staffs. McGraw was a key contributor by notching 25 saves, with most of them coming during the pennant race in September.
The Mets tried to get back to the World Series in 1974, but underachieved with a 71-91 record. The team got off to a poor start and never recovered as they remained second-to-last in the NL East for pretty much the whole season. Staub and Milner continued their solid hitting, but Seaver (11-11) and Matlack (13-15) both had down years, while Koosman was the only starter with a winning record. McGraw had a down year as well with just three saves.
Berra's last season in 1975 was an inconsistent year for the Mets. They finished 82-80, good enough for third in the division. The Mets were within five games of first place at the end of August, but went 11-16 in September as they fell another five games. Berra ended up getting fired on August 5, and the Mets' record at the time was 56-53. Apparently, his decision to release the popular Cleon Jones was not something the front office was happy about. Even Dave Kingman's 36 monstrous home runs, Staub's 105 RBI and Seaver's eventual third Cy Young award were not enough for Berra to keep his job. One of his coaches, Roy McMillan became the interim manager for the rest of the year.
Yogi Berra's Mets tenure will always feature the 1973 season as the climax, but in his own unique way, Berra was able to guide the Mets towards some success during his tenure, unlike that of some of the managers both before and after him. It was very nice to see him make appearances at the final game at Shea Stadium, and the 1969 championship reunion in 2009. It shows that while Berra will always be a Yankee, he never forgot the time he spent with the Mets.
4. Casey Stengel
The Ol Perfessor, Casey Stengel probably managed the worst teams in Mets history, but there was a lot more to him than the players he had. He was the Mets' first ever manager and he brought with a large amount of charisma that few other managers have ever had.
After having managed the Yankees to seven championships between 1949-1960, Stengel was literally amazed at how the 1962 Mets found ways to lose a record 120 games. The 40-120 record of that year is the worst ever in major league history. "I've been in this game a hundred years, but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before," he once said, which amused everyone. Indeed, those Mets were simply atrocious. However, not every single player played poorly, as veteran center fielder Richie Ashburn hit .306 in his final major league season and left fielder Frank Thomas (not the Big Hurt) had the best season of any Met in the 1960s with 34 home runs and 94 RBI. Those were team records that were not broken until 1975 and 1970, respectively. The pitching though was a complete mess as virtually everyone had a losing record.
The 1963 team was not much better and improved to just 51-111 in the final season at the Polo Grounds. Thomas' big bat was not as good and the offense suffered even more as a result. The offense was so bad, in fact that Roger Craig lost 22 games despite an ERA of 3.78. Lefty Al Jackson led the team with 13 wins, but that came with 17 losses as well.
In the first season at Shea Stadium, the Mets went 53-109-1. The lone highlight of this season was that the Mets hosted their one and only All-Star game in team history. This year, second baseman Ron Hunt became the first Mets All-Star and batted .303, which was rather remarkable for a pre-Gil Hodges Mets team. Some of the starters earned more wins, but they all still lost a lot of games too.
The 1965 season ended up being the last for Stengel as he retired on August 30, a month after breaking his hip. By this point, he realized that his managing career was finished and stepped down while picking Wes Westrum to be the Mets' next manager. This year though saw a first look at future Mets talent in Bud Harrelson, Tug McGraw, and Ron Swoboda. In fact, Swoboda had a great rookie year with 19 home runs and 50 RBI. But once again, the pitching was terrible and few finished with a winning record.
The Mets were not the same without Stengel as he became one of the most significant people in the team's earliest years with his charisma and wonderful sense of humor. He did stick around with the Mets as a vice president from 1966 until his death in 1975, although as the years past, he became less and less mobile. Nonetheless, everyone associated with the Mets respected and honored Stengel deeply throughout his time there and his number 37 was immediately retired once he stepped down. It is the only number in team history to have been worn by only one person, and it was only appropriate that Stengel was recognized for being the first manager. He also was the creator of the "loveable losers" that has been directly associated with the Mets ever since. The Mets became so loveable that their tickets even outsold that of the Yankees. Stengel's teams were arugably the worst in team history, but what he brought to the Mets was a lot more than what people saw on the playing field. He gave the team an identity they needed and set the standard for what an exciting Mets manager should always be.
3. Bobby Valentine
If there was a Mets manager that had something close to Stengel's charisma, it was Bobby Valentine.
He first took over an underachieving team at the end of 1996 and transformed them into contenders a year later. His first full season in 1997 saw him lead the Mets into surprising contenders that only fell short a few games of making the Wild Card. That year was not easy for Bobby V, as Todd Hundley and Pete Harnisch clashed with him, and then there was the Carl Everett child abuse case the team had to deal with in August.
1998 saw the Mets come within one game of a playoff berth and the controversy continued as Hundley still clashed with Valentine after rumors spread that Valentine believed Hundley had a drinking problem. However, Mike Piazza had arrived and he immediately carried the team to greater success. 1999 was a better year for Bobby V and the Mets as they made the playoffs for the first time since 1988. In one fascinating game that year, Valentine was ejected and reappeared infamously in the dugout wearing a fake mustache, which was pretty funny. More people clashed with Bobby V that year including Rickey Henderson and the infamous Bobby Bonilla, who contributed little that year during his second Mets stint. Both would be run out of town the following year.
In 2000, Bobby V took the Mets to the World Series and silenced the critics by doing so. By then, his longtime feud with GM Steve Phillips became to known to all and it only got worse. 2001 showed Bobby V leading the Mets past the events of 9/11 and he was right in the middle of it all with his many efforts to help victims. However, the team that year finished just two games above .500. Bobby V's last year as a Met was in 2002 when the Mets stumbled and finished in last place. More controversy ensued as several Mets were found to be smoking marijuana during the season and the feuding with Phillips got to a climax and in the end, Bobby V was fired and replaced by Art Howe, who only made the Mets worse during his two year stint.
Bobby Valentine is second amongst managers in team history in games managed at 1,003, second in wins with 536, the leader in losses, and third in winning percentage at .534. He is also tied with Davey Johnson for being the longest tenured manager (7 seasons). With this being said, Bobby Valentine should be considered one of the top managers in team history and is certainly due for a Mets Hall of Fame induction in the near future.
2. Gil Hodges
The Mets may have been originally destined to always be one of the worst teams in baseball, but those thoughts ended when Gil Hodges became the skipper in 1968. He became the first great manager in Mets history, but unfortunately, his tenure was a lot shorter than it could have been. Nonetheless, he took the Mets to greater heights, including the team's first championship, which will always be a very strong part of Mets history.
Hodges was the Mets' original first baseman in 1962 and hit the first ever home run in franchise history during the Mets' inaugural game. He ended up playing in just 54 games that year, but hit 9 home runs despite only driving in 17 RBI. He played in 11 games in 1963 before getting traded to the Wasington Senators, where he immediately became their manager.
Hodges however made a wonderful return to the Mets as they traded for him prior to the 1968 season to become the third manager in team history. Hodges' 1968 squad went 73-89, which was not a good record, but it was still the best in team history at that point. The best part was that unlike previous Mets teams, this one had more potential than ever before, and it showed in 1969.
The "Miracle Mets", as they were known that year transformed into a team that no one would have predicted at the time. Despite a slow start in the first two months, they emerged as the best team in the National League and won the NL East with a 100-62 record, mostly thanks to tremendous pitching from people like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Ron Taylor, and Tug McGraw. The Mets stormed through the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS en route to a World Series matchup with the Baltimore Orioles. Despite losing the first game, the Mets won the next four and had accomplished their mission to win a world championship. The year may have publicly been defined by Neil Armstrong walking into the moon in a miraculous fashion, but these Mets had a miracle of their own that year and it made Hodges an automatic managerial legend for the Mets franchise.
The Mets tried to repeat their championship season in 1970, but ultimately fell short with a third place finish and an 83-79 record. The exact same results occurred in 1971, but the team was eight games further from first that year. The pitching was still strong, yet the hitting was still not good enough in both seasons. All was well for Hodges prior to the 1972 season, but on April 2 of that year, Hodges was playing golf with his coaching staff, he all of a sudden died of a heart attack that day. It was devastating to the team and its fans, all of whom did not know how to react to the unfortunate and untimely news. Yogi Berra was ultimately chosen to become the new manager, but on that day, the Mets lost an icon that will be forever be considered one of the greatest ever.
As a manager, Hodges was quiet, but disciplined his team in a well respected manner. Many people have said that the turning point of the 1969 season happened when during a game, Cleon Jones did not run hard towards a ball hit to him, and Hodges immediately walked all the way to left field and removed him from the game. It sent a message to the team, and from that day, everyone hustled on every play without exception. It was the way he handled his business that also generated a lot of respect for Hodges. His number 14 was soon retired following his death, becoming the second Mets number to be retired.
Although Hodges only managed one legitimately strong team in 1969, his unplanned short tenure should be taken into account and he made the Mets into winners that the team had never experienced. He is fourth among Mets managers in games managed, and third in wins with 339. As a result, Hodges should be one of the greatest managers of all time, but second to a man that created the most productive streak of winning the Mets have ever had.
1. Davey Johnson
From 1984-1990 (although he was fired midway through the 1990 season), the Mets were arguably the strongest team in the National League. They never finished below second place in any of those years, won two division titles in that span, and a World Series championship to cap it all off. The man behind these great teams was none other than Davey Johnson, the greatest manager the Mets have ever had.
After managing the Mets' minor league teams for a few years, Johnson was promoted by Cashen to replace interim manager Frank Howard after the 1983 season. The team had a key piece already in place with 1983 Rookie of the Year Darryl Strawberry, but it was Johnson that ultimately got the young rookie phenom pitching sensation to the big leagues for good in 1984. Johnson's arrival also gave more playing time for second baseman Wally Backman, who had been bouncing back and forth to the minor leagues. The 1984 team all of a sudden started to play in ways that the Mets had not been able to do since 1976. They had Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and George Foster to carry a once powerless offense, while Gooden followed Strawberry's footsteps and became the 1984 Rookie of the Year. Ron Darling also had a breakout season this year. The Mets had been competing with the Cubs for most of the year, but ultimately fell short despite a 90-72 record. With Johnson at the helm, this team was only going to get better.
If the 1984 team was not viewed as serious National League contenders, then the 1985 squad certainly was, especially after the Mets acquired catcher Gary Carter from the Expos. They went 98-64 that year, but barely missed the playoffs as they were unable to overtake the Cardinals. They kept pace for most of the year and possessed some of the league's players, none more spectacular than Gooden who won the NL Cy Young award that year with a 24-4 record and 1.53 ERA. Carter and Strawberry led one of the best offenses of the decade. The shortcoming though made Johnson's Mets even hungrier to win.
The third time certainly was the charm for the Mets in 1986 as they breezed through the regular season in dominating fashion with a franchise-best 108-54 record. They then survived a tight six-game series against the Houston Astros and went on to beat the Boston Red Sox in one of the greatest World Series' in baseball history. The Mets needed some luck to go their way throughout the postseason, but they played hard nonetheless, and combined with a few particular plays going their way, they hoisted the franchise's second championship. However, as the team got better on the field, they got worse off the field. In July, Darling, Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera and Tim Teufel were all arrested after exiting a bar for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. The whole team made a scene after winning the Houston postseason series by drinking a lot on flight back and destroying part of the plane's interior, which did not make the Mets' front office very happy. Finally, Gooden and Strawberry, among others began to dabble with cocaine/crack; a choice that would certainly have a big effect on their futures.
After an offseason highlighted by the acquisitions of David Cone and Kevin McReynolds, the 1987 squad was destined to repeat and win another championship, but it was not meant to be as the St. Louis Cardinals held on to beat out the Mets for the division title. Strawberry's production grew to another level and Howard Johnson had a breakout season as he became the everyday third baseman. But Ojeda and Aguilera missed most of the season, which hurt the pitching staff. After this bitter disappointment, the Mets set their sights on redemption.
The 1988 season was a much better campaign as the Mets ran away with the division with a 100-62 record. Strawberry and McReynolds carried the offense as Howard Johnson, Hernandez, and Carter all had down years. The pitching though was better than ever before as Cone joined an already strong rotation and went 20-3, finishing third in the Cy Young voting. The team felt they could easily get back to the World Series, but then came the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ace Orel Hershisher. The Mets ended up losing this series in seven games, resulting in yet another disappointing ending, even though it was better than the previous year.
The 1989 season did not live up to expectations and the Mets finished second to the Cubs that year by six games with an 87-75 record. However, this was the beginning of the undoing for Johnson, who lost a considerable amount of production from many players, not to mention those who ended up getting traded in mid-season. By the end of this year, Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, Wilson, Hernandez, and Carter were all gone. The main reason they even stayed in contention was thanks to perhaps the best season from Howard Johnson, who became only the third player ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in multiple seasons.
By the time the 1990 season began, Johnson knew the Mets had to get back to winning again in dominating fashion, but after the first 42 games of that season, with the Mets at a 20-22 record, Johnson was all of a sudden fired at the end of May and replaced by his coach, Bud Harrelson. Harrelson ended up leading the Mets to yet another second place finish, but it marked the end of the greatest era in Mets history.
Thanks to his success throughout his tenure, Johnson is statistically the top manager in Mets history. He managed 1,012 games, won 595 of them, and finished with a .588 winning percentage. All three of these statistics are first among Mets managers. Appropriately, Johnson was recognized for his contributions when he got inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in August 2010. The Mets have had a good number of strong managers that have brought success, but the Mets' best decade by far has been the 1980s, and the team had mostly Johnson to thank for the triumphs. Until someone else manages the Mets to another championship or two and bring at least a good six or seven years of success, Johnson will forever remain the best man to ever manage the Mets.