“Being cocky is not a bad attitude”
– Davey Johnson, 1986
Evaluating a baseball manager is a difficult task, involving lots of voodoo and guess-timating, and I’m not going to even try it here. Instead, I went back and looked for every time Davey Johnson was ejected from a Mets game.
I found a total of twelve: three in 1984, five in 1985, two in 1987, and two in 1989. Retrosheet also lists Davey Johnson being ejected twelve times as Mets manager, but they have one more in 1984 than I do and one less in 1985. It’s possible we both missed one, or they mislisted theirs, or I made a mistake somewhere along the way. So while there may be 13 ejections, I’m only going to list the ones that I found.
Here are the twelve times Davey Johnson was ejected as manager of the New York Mets:
June 22, 1984: Expos @ Mets, Mets lose 2-1.
Ejector: Dave Pallone (1)
Something random from that month: Bruce Springsteen releases his Born in the U.S.A. album on June 4th. No one ever bothers to read the lyrics to the title track.
The Mets scored their lone run on a Keith Hernandez RBI double. Doc Gooden went the distance in the loss, striking out 11 and making one lone mistake that Andre Dawson knocked out to right center for a two-run home run in the top of the fourth. Fans hung K signs for Doc at this game, maybe one of the first times. They also did the wave during the eighth, a move which the beat reporter for the New York Times, William C. Rhoden, had clearly never seen before because he felt the need to mention it: “The crowd swayed in a coordinated wave-like fashion, cheering itself as much as the Mets.”
Davey Johnson was ejected in the bottom of the eighth by home plate umpire Dave Pallone. With Wally Backman on first, Mookie Wilson squared around to bunt. The pitch, a slider, struck some part of Wilson – Johnson thought it struck Mookie’s leg, and Pallone thought it hit Wilson’s bat and ruled it a foul ball. Johnson insisted that Pallone ask for help from another umpire with a better angle on the play. Pallone then insisted that Johnson take the remainder of the night off.
Pete Rose, playing for Montreal, was also ejected in the game.
July 28, 1984: Cubs @ Mets, Cubs win 11-4
Ejector: Bruce Froeming (1), I think. Maybe Terry Tata.
Something random from that month: the 1984 Summer Olympics began on this day.
Ron Darling goes 7, allowing three runs, before the bullpen let the door explode. Doug Sisk and Brent Gaff combined to allow 8 runs in the eighth.
Davey Johnson was ejected in the first inning this time. With two out, Keith Hernandez had walked, and advanced to second on a Rick Sutcliffe wild pitch to Darryl Strawberry. With two balls and two strikes on Strawberry, Sutcliffe threw another ball wildly that Strawberry check swung at. Third base umpire Froeming signaled a strike without an official appeal being asked for – home plate umpire Terry Tata was apparently so sure of his ruling he had already given the Cubs’ catcher a new baseball. Anyway, after the dropped third strike had been called, the Cubs tagged Strawberry out with the new ball, which wasn’t the same one he had swung at. Johnson was ejected after going understandably ballistic about the ruling.
August 8, 1984: Mets @ Cubs, Cubs win 7-6
Ejector: Charlie Williams (1)
Something random from that month: Ronald Reagan jokingly said this in a live mike prior to a radio broadcast: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
This game capped off the Cubs four-game, three-day sweep of the Mets, which included one all-out brawl, multiple ejections on both sides, and a beanball war that saw four players plunked over the course of the final three games along with countless high and tight pitches. The Mets came to Chicago a half game out of first and left four-and-a-half back.
Because of the tension from the previous day, the umpires twice issued blanket warnings during the game, threatening to eject both manager and pitcher if any more pitches came too far inside. Mets reliever Walt Terrell hit Bob Denier in the head with two on and none out in the seventh, thus earning an ejection for Terrell and Davey Johnson. Johnson and Terrell unsuccessfully argued that the pitch was unintentional – Denier, the plunkee, agreed after the game – but regardless, pitcher and manager were tossed. As Johnson and Terrell left the field, fans began tossing beer at the Mets players, some of whom actually had to be restrained from entering the stands, ala Ron Artest, by Wrigley Field security guards. That pretty much sums up the late 80’s Mets.
Cubs pitcher Lee Smith and manager Jim Frey were ejected in the ninth when a fastball came a little too close to George Foster’s head.
May 30th, 1985: Mets @ Giants, Mets win 2 -1
Ejector: Bob Engel (1)
Something random from that month: New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul is born.
Doc goes the distance, strikes out 14.
Johnson was ejected in the 8th this time, after Mookie Wilson was tagged out on a leadoff bunt attempt. Davey sort of wanted to argue that the ball was foul, but he much more wanted to accuse the umpiring crew of going after Keith Hernandez, who had been tossed the game before. Johnson felt they were still hungry for blood, so he got himself tossed instead.
July 4, 1985: Mets @ Braves, Mets win 16-13 in 19 innings.
Ejector: Terry Tata (1)
Something random from that month: George H. W. Bush gets to practice being president for a couple of hours as Ronald Reagan undergoes colon cancer surgery.
Yup – this game. Ending at 3:55 in the morning with the post-game fireworks kicking off at 4:01, the game didn’t begin until 9:04 because of rain and was delayed by the weather another 41 minutes in the third inning. Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry had enough of this epic by the 17th, both being ejected after arguing a called strike 3 on Straw. At the time, Howard Johnson had called it the greatest game he had ever played in . . .
This game deserves it’s own post, or entire book even, so I won’t write any more about it here. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez inevitably end up reminiscing about it on air around Independence Day each year anyhow.
July 13, 1985: Mets @ Astros, Mets win 10-1.
Ejector: Bob Engel (2)
Something random from that month: The Live Aid concerts took place this day. Bono was still cool.
The Mets had 14 hits, scored 10 runs, and Ed Lynch went the distance, allowing a lone run on six hits. George Foster went 0-1, but his “Shaft” sideburns went 4-4, for a combined total of 4-5 with 4 RBI.
Davey Johnson got himself tossed in the fifth inning when Darryl Strawberry took issue with a 2-0 strike call. Johnson, probably protecting Straw, came out to argue, and home plate ump Bob Engel ejected Johnson for the second time that year. It was a standard arguing balls and strike ejection, the “Bobby Cox special.”
August 24, 1985: Padres @ Mets, Game 1, Mets lose 6-1.
Ejector: Bruce Froemming (2)
Something random from that month: Robert Ballard and friends find the Titanic, leading to the most successful chick flick ever.
Mets were swept in a double header, falling out of first place, with Davey Johnson missing most of the first game. Rick Aguilera, who walked Tony Gywnn and Greg Nettles in the top of the first inning on some close pitches, took lo
ng looks in at home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, who would shout back at Aguilera. Davey Johnson came out of the dugout and told Froemming to not yell at his pitcher. Johnson then received special permission from Froemming to watch the rest of his game on TV from his cozy Shea Stadium office.
The Mets were held to six hits in the first game, and lost the second game 6-1, with seven hits, for a total of thirteen hits in eighteen innings.
September 28, 1985: Mets @ Pirates, Mets win 3-1
Ejector: Joe West (1)
Something random from that month: Michael Jackson outbids Paul McCartney for publishing rights to the Beatles catalog.
Augilera, Roger McDowell, and Jesse Orosco combined on a six hitter, and the Mets kept hope alive in the pennant race, at least for a while longer.
Johnson was run by second base umpire Joe West in the fourth, after Pirates catcher Tony Pena grounded into what appeared to be a 5-4-3 double play. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I think West must have ruled that Larry Bowa, playing second base for the Mets, failed to step on the bag when turning the double play and declared the runner at second safe. Johnson thought otherwise and expressed his opinion as such. After Johnson was ejected, the Mets escaped the inning with no damage – Aguilera got Pirates third baseman and lizard king, Jim Morrison, to ground out to short for the third out.
April 27, 1987: Astros @ Mets, Mets lose 11-1
Ejector: Joe West (2)
Something random from that month: The yellow Simpsons family shows up on the Tracy Ullman show for the first time.
The first, disastrous major league start for a 23-year-old David Cone. He lasted five innings, surrendering 10 runs, 7 earned, walked 6, allowed 2 HR, threw 2 wild pitches, and balked twice.
Johnson was thrown out for arguing a balk during the particularly miserable third inning, which featured three hits, one walk, one error, one wild pitch, and both balks. With Brian Doran at the plate and runners at the corners, Cone balked, driving in a run. Johnson came out to defend his young pitcher, arguing that Cone had been making the same motion to the plate all night and that West was going after Cone when he was already on the ropes. He was run for that. With Johnson gone and Doran still up, Cone was immediately called for another balk by West, moving the baserunner to third – perhaps just to make a point.
September 20, 1987: Mets @ Pirates, Mets lose 9-8 in 14 innings.
Ejector: Charlie Williams (1) or Bruce Froemming (3), not sure.
Something random from that month: Pat Robertson announces that he is running for President.
Sid Fernandez went six innings, allowing 3 home runs and 6 total runs. Howard Johnson hit a line drive that skipped past a left fielder Barry Bonds, allowing Johnson to score an inside-the-park home run in the the fifth. The Mets out-hit the Pirates 15-9, but left 12 men on base.
Davey Johnson was run arguing a bunt in the bottom of the seventh. The newspaper account is not detailed on the ejection – the Pirates U L* Washington was tagged out by Gary Carter on a sac bunt in the seventh, but I guess there was something to argue about anyway. I think there was a throw to second and a questionable call at the base, but that’s just an educated guess. I don’t know who actually tossed him, though my money’s on Froemming, who was the second base umpire during the game and frequent ejector of Davey Johnson.
*That is his legal first name – U L, no periods. It apparently doesn’t stand for anything.
The Giants won when then-lead off hitter and speedster Barry Bonds tripled to right in the bottom of the 14th and scored on a walk-off sac fly by Andy Van Slyke.
May 4, 1989: Reds @ Mets. Mets win 3-2.
Ejector: Bruce Froemming (3 or 4)
Something random from that month: The Tianamen Square protests are going on. The Chinese Army ends the protest during the beginning of June.
Ron Darling pitched 8 and 1/3 innings of 2 run ball, bringing his early season ERA down to 5.03. The Mets didn’t break the ice against Red pitcher Danny Jackson until the sixth, when three hits and walk netted them two runs. Howard Johnson hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth, trade rumors and all. He shouldn’t have worried – he didn’t end up going anywhere.
Davey got an early night off after shortstop Kevin Elster, who struck out in the bottom of the fifth, shared some choice words with home plate umpire Froemming running back out to his position in the sixth. Froemming told Elster to hit the showers, then threw Johnson out as well when he came out to defend his player.
August 25, 1989: Mets @ Padres, Mets lose 5-3 in 10 innings.
Ejector: Bill Hohn (1)
Something random from that month: Pete Rose is banned from baseball for life.
This game happened twenty years too early.
The Mets scored their runs on a Howard Johnson two-run home run and a Kevin Elster sac fly, but the Padres scored all of their five runs on four home runs, including a two-run Chris James walk-off in the bottom of the tenth.
That’s not why this game has backwards echoes of 2009, though. This is: with the Mets leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, Padres pitcher Ed Whitson led off with a double against Sid Fernandez. The Mets thought Whitson had missed first base in his excitement and decided to appeal – but Fernandez managed to balk on the appeal throw, sending Whitson to third instead of back to the dugout. I don’t know if this is the only appeal-throw balk in history, but I can’t imagine there are many and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all committed by Mets pitchers.
Davey Johnson heatedly argued the balk, went back to dugout, and watched an now-imploding Fernandez give up back-to-back home runs, and the lead, to Bip Roberts and Roberto Alomar. Howard Johnson tried to approach the mound before Alomar’s at-bat in an attempt to calm down Sid, but was halted and sent back to his position by third base umpire Bill Hohn. That, combined with the home runs, was all Davey wanted to see; he got himself tossed by Hohn and then declared that the Mets were playing the rest of the game under protest.
So those are the twelve ejections of Davey Johnson. There may be another one in there somewhere, but I’m 95% certain that’s all of them. Johnson got along with Bruce Froemming the worst, being ejected by him either 3 or 4 separate times. Joe West was also a multiple ejector of Johnson.
I know that I promised no manager evaluations, but here’s this quickly: Met teams Davey Johnson managed for a full season outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by a total of 14 games – they overachieved by 19 games in his first three seasons, but then underachieved by five games over the next three years. The 1984 club, outscored by a margin of 24 runs, was still able to win 90 games, good for 12 wins above their expected win-loss record. Johnson got as much as he could out of his early Met teams, but didn’t do the same with the later ones. Of course, I don’t know of any evidence that managers actually affect how much a team over or underachieves it’s pythag win-loss, so take from this what you will.