Davey Johnson and Billy Martin
DJ has blown all the right whistles... 4-for-5, anyway


The Nationals are one of the prettiest Cinderella teams in recent years.  Davey Johnson is one of my favorite managers of all time.  And I hadn't connected the two dots in any way, until this at BJOL:


Bill, in the 80s you wrote that Billy Martin had a consistent record of improving every team he joined; with the downside that his pitchers got used up and their careers suffered subsequently. Since then, Dave Johnson has had a comparable record of sudden improvements. Does he also have a frequent history of pitchers coming apart after working hard for him?
Asked by: Trailbzr
Answered: 9/11/2012
The relevant history for Billy Martin was not simply improving his team; it was stressing his pitchers.    A third party reader might think, based on your question, that I had initiated the theory that Billy Martin burned out his pitchers.    In fact, Martin used starting pitchers in ways that were extremely unusual, such as allowing Mickey Lolich to make 45 starts and pitch 376 innings in 1971, and allowing his Oakland A's staff to throw 94 complete games in 1980, when the second highest complete game total in the majors was 48; no other two teams combined had 94 complete games.  
Because of Martin's extremely unusual workloads for his starting pitchers, there was a controversy raging well before I started writing about baseball as to whether Martin's handling of his pitchers presented an undue risk to their future.   My contribution to that discussion was to go back through his teams, and look at the future performance of the pitchers who had good years for him.   My conclusion was that ALL of those pitchers, without exception, had gone through very serious career downturns--and in almost all cases career-ending downturns--after one or two good seasons for Martin.   
There is no analogous history for Davey Johnson, thus there's really no question here.   Johnson does not abuse his pitchers or use them in unusual ways, no one has alledged that he does, and many of his past pitchers have continued to thrive after having good seasons for him. 


Little kids dream about growing up and playing quarterback for the Cowboys.  Retired managers dream about coming back and having Davey Johnson's 2012 season. From a managerial point of view it's an impressive kind of 89-54 for Washington:  their offense is 101, their pitching 121.  They added pitching, but there are a whale of a lot of teams that add pitching that don't finish the season with 121 ERA+'s.  And DJ would have had a lot to do with which pitchers they added.


=== 1999-2000 Dodgers ===

Slap me silly, the last time DJ managed was in the year 2000!  Before that 116-win season the M's keep advertising on Root Sports.  Simply judging by W/L, he didn't take that team anywhere.  They won 83 in 1998, then 77 and 86 the two years with him.

I always thought the magic number for managers was (about) age 56.  You should be burned out by then.  DJ was 57 when he quit the Dodgers.  Puts some perspective on Bobby Valentine's comeback, that the 69-year-old Johnson should pull this off with Washington.


=== 1996-1997 Orioles ===

A huge triumph for Johnson, who worked with Pat Gillick to take the O's from 71 wins to 88 and then 98.  By the time the 1997 Orioles crushed the Randy Johnson / Ken Griffey Mariners in the postseason, the O's were a simply awesome ballclub.

Figured he quit the Dodgers 'cause he was ready to be put out to pasture.  He quit the O's, after two years, because of sourpuss owner Peter Angelos.  What a shame.  The year after DJ left, they went from 98 wins to 79 and then spent 15 years in the gutter.


=== 1994-95 Reds ===

The 1993 Reds were 73-89, sixteen games under .500.  Instantly:  94* and 96* wins in two strike-shortened seasons after he took the helm.  They were .500 the year after, below .500 the two years after that.

Hold it.  Two years again.  Marge Schott owned them, right?

Hold it again.  Did Frank McCourt own the Dodgers in 1999-2000?  And Mike Rizzo is one crazy-head GM.  What is with Davey Johnson and psycho bosses?


=== 1984-2000 Mets ===

In 1983, they lost 94 games.  In 1984 they won 90 and began a dynasty.  

He was fired in 1990, during a 91-win season ...in 1991 what did the Mets do?  They won 77.  Then 72.  Then 59.


=== Exec Sum ===

Huh.  Four of five times now, Davey Johnson has pulled a Billy Martin, improving bad teams (94 losses, 89 losses, 91 losses, 93 losses) to, give or take a rival club or two, "best team in baseball" status -- in his rookie year.  I hadn't realized that, had you?

There are essentially two positions to take about managers:  first, that they don't matter, that the players DJ received as rookie manager were all that mattered.  This theory is dearly held by the "only our $/WAR calculations matter" crowd, but also has a following among more well-rounded baseball analysts.

The second basic position is that a manager can be like an "ARM" switch on a missile:  that once you have talent in place, a manager can foul it up or he can allow it to prosper.

The third basic position is mine:  that very, very often, managers don't matter much at all.  But there are a few of them who are key components of their business organisms -- they select the right players, they fix the right problems, they put players in position to succeed, and they can achieve critical mass very quickly.

Whichever position you take, Davey Johnson's 2012 season is a whale of an impressive cap on his career.




Don't know anything about Fox... hm, the GM being Kevin Malone.  Wikipedia says that Mr. Malone was fired after arguing with a Padres fan during a game and now owns a car lot :- )


Davey Johnson and Buck Showalter. Wedge hasn't been bad for us, but I really admire the immediate righting of the ship both of those guys can bring off consistently.
The bonus to Showalter is that you get to win a World Series once you fire him. Happened in NY, happened in AZ, so we'll see if the Orioles get the benefit of the third time.
Before them, I wanted Leyland. Right now though, manager isn't our problem. I like where we are, and where we're headed. Just need a couple of nudges to get there.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.