Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Bobby V Becomes Bobby VIII
Former Met player, coach and skipper Bobby Valentine will be officially introduced as the new manager of the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. When he takes his place in the dugout on Opening Day 2012, Valentine will become the eighth former Mets manager to take over the reins of another team after his tenure with the Mets had ended.
Since the Mets haven't exactly been giving me much to write about, I thought it would be interesting to see how the other seven managers did with their new teams after they managed their last game in Flushing. Some have had outstanding results, while some should have stayed away from the dugout, including one manager who barely the managed the Mets, then had a shorter stay with the Mets' expansion sibling.
Enough chit-chat already! Let's get to the Magnificent (and not-so-magnificent) Seven, shall we?
After Casey Stengel retired during the 1965 season, Wes Westrum was tabbed as the Ol' Perfessor's replacement. Westrum, who spent his entire 11-year playing career as a member of the New York Giants, finished the 1965 season with a 19-48 record after taking over for the only manager the Mets had ever known.
In 1966, Westrum accomplished two things his predecessor couldn't do - he led the Mets out of the basement and also presided over their first non-100 loss season, which was quite an accomplishment for a team that had never lost fewer than 109 games in its short existence. Unfortunately, even with rookie sensation Tom Seaver joining the Mets in 1967, the team regressed, losing 101 games during the Franchise's first season. Westrum didn't stick around to see the team reach the century mark in losses, resigning as manager with 11 games to play.
In 1974, Westrum's former team, now playing in San Francisco, reached out to him to manage the team after Charlie Fox was relieved of his duties midway through the season. Westrum fared better with the Giants than he did with the Mets, but he still could manage a winning record, going 38-48 to close out the 1974 season, followed by an 80-81 mark in 1975.
After Wes Westrum resigned as manager of the Mets in 1967, Francis James Parker (better known as Salty) became the interim manager for the team's final 11 games, going 4-7 during his two week stint as Mets manager. Parker had a tendency to do baseball-related things in 11-game stretches. His playing career in the major leagues lasted (you guessed it) 11 games as a member of the 1936 Detroit Tigers.
Parker didn't manage the Mets again after the 1967 season. Some guy named Gil Hodges replaced him to start the 1968 season. However, he did manage (no pun intended) to return to the dugout as a big league skipper again in 1972 with the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, that stint couldn't even make it to the 11-game mark, but it was never supposed to. Parker managed the Astros for one game in 1972 after Harry Walker was unceremoniously let go despite the fact that Houston was on its way to recording its first winning season in franchise history. (The Astros were 67-54 at the time of Walker's firing.) Walker's replacement, Leo Durocher, could not join the Astros immediately, necessitating the one-game fill-in for Parker as Astros manager. But at least he was victorious in his "one-and-done" with Houston.
After the sudden death of Gil Hodges in 1972, Yogi Berra was tabbed to replace the man who led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series championship. After leading the Mets to their second-best record in franchise history (83-73 in the strike-shortened 1972 season), Yogi overcame a series of boo-boos on the field in 1973 to lead the team to its second World Series appearance. The Mets struggled again in 1974, but this time they failed to make a late season run, finishing 20 games below .500. Berra was fired in 1975 after the team played mediocre baseball for most of the season.
Yogi did not get another chance to manage in the major leagues until the Yankees called upon their former Hall of Fame catcher to fill the vacant managerial position in 1984. Although Berra won 87 games in his first season as Yankee manager, it represented a four-game decrease in wins from the Billy Martin-led 1983 team. After a 6-10 start in 1985, Berra was shockingly fired by the Yankees and replaced by the man he replaced a year earlier, Billy Martin.
In 1977, Joe Torre became the first and only player/manager in Mets history. Two days after the infamous "Midnight Massacre", Torre ended his playing career to focus exclusively on managing his ragtag group of misfits. Perhaps he should've stayed on the field. Under Torre, the Mets never won more than 67 games in a full season, with the team finishing dead last in the NL East in three of his five seasons.
Following his stint with the Mets, Torre managed the Atlanta Braves for three seasons, leading them to the NL West title in 1982. In 1990, Torre took over for Red Schoendienst in St. Louis and managed the Cardinals until 1995. Although he failed to win a division title in St. Louis, he never finished lower than third place in any full season with the team. Then came 1996 and the New York Yankees. You probably know what happened next so I'll skip that part.
Following his time with the Mets' crosstown rivals, Torre took his final managerial job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading them to back-to-back NLCS appearances. After an 80-82 finish in 2010, Torre retired from managing and is now Executive VP for Baseball Operations for MLB, which is a fancy term for "he's a pretty big kahuna now".
Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was the case for George Bamberger not once, but twice. Prior to managing the Mets, Bambi was the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 1978-1980. The Brewers then went on to the playoffs in 1981 (as the second-half winners of the AL East) and made their first (and only) pennant in 1982. Where was Bamberger when the Brewers were on their way to the World Series? He was managing the Mets to a last place finish, that's where.
Then in 1983, after he "suffered enough" with the Mets through their 16-30 start, he resigned as manager. Of course, the year after Bamberger left the Mets, they went on to post 90 wins for the first time since 1969 and began the most successful era in franchise history, which included two division titles and the 1986 World Series championship. Where was Bamberger in 1986? He was back in Milwaukee, managing the Brewers to their second consecutive last place finish. Wrong place. Wrong time.
Davey Johnson needs no introduction. He is only the winningest manager in franchise history. The Mets had enjoyed one 90-win season during their first 22 years of existence. Davey Johnson managed the team to five consecutive 90-win seasons from 1984-1988. His "worst" full season as Mets manager came in 1989, when the team won "only" 87 games. After Johnson was fired by the Mets in 1990, he didn't wait very long to get another managerial position, taking over for the terminated Tony Perez in Cincinnati in 1993.
In Cincinnati, Johnson led the Reds to division titles in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, he took over the reins in Baltimore, leading the Orioles to an 88-win season. He followed that up with a 98-win season in 1997 and the AL East division crown, only to have Jeffrey Maier and the Yankees end his season early. Due to a spat with Orioles' owner Peter Angelos (not the first time Davey dueled with the front office of a team he was managing at the time), Johnson resigned after the 1997 season. The Orioles have not had a winning season since.
Johnson spent two uneventful season in Los Angeles in 1999 and 2000, then dropped out of the managerial spotlight until 2011, when he was hired to replace Jim Riggleman as manager of the Washington Nationals. Although the Nationals went 40-43 after Johnson took over, they still finished in third place in the NL East. It was the highest they had ever finished in the division since moving from Montreal prior to the 2005 season.
Vince Coleman. Bobby Bonilla. Bret Saberhagen. Jeff Kent. Those were just some of the names associated with the team forever known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy". Those were also the names of players managed by Jeff Torborg during his two-year stint as Mets manager. In 1992, the former AL Manager of the Year (1990) was brought in to bring the Mets back to contention in the NL East after they had finished the 1991 season with their first losing mark in eight years. Torborg "led" the Mets to a 72-90 finish in 1992, which was actually quite good considering that in 1993, the Mets lost over 100 games for the first time since the days of Wes Westrum (see, it all comes full circle). Alas, Torborg was not there to see the 1993 Mets complete their 103-loss campaign, as he was fired after beginning the season with a 13-25 record.
After doing his part to blow up the team in 1993 (Vince Coleman wasn't the only one capable of doing that), Torborg managed the Expos briefly in 2001, going 47-62 in Montreal, followed by a short stint in Florida. After going 79-83 with the Marlins in 2002, Torborg was fired after a 16-22 start in 2003. Florida responded to Torborg's termination by winning the World Series under new manager Jack McKeon. Hence, Torborg went from managing "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" to being fired from "The Best Team Money Didn't Buy". Ah, symmetry is a beautiful thing.