Davey’s All-Star Game Memories

With the All-Star game at Citi Field fast approaching, it felt like a good time to stir the memories of former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who was in town herding his Washington Nationals this weekend. Johnson, a four-time All-Star himself (1968-70, ’73), was, of course, the skipper of the 1986 World Champion Mets when the longtime tradition tabbed him to helm the National League squad in 1987.

Johnson’s NL squad in ’87 found runs hard to come by, but they held firm until they were able to push two scores across the plate in the 13th inning and secured an All-Star shutout, 2-0. In fact, Johnson has always been associated with All-Star victories, as his NL teammates won all four games when he was on the roster in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“Back then, just like it is now,” Johnson said proudly, “is always a great honor.”

Johnson’s best recollection of that game in ’87 naturally involved his pitchers. “I remember the game was out in Oakland, and the last guy to pitch for us was Sid (Fernandez) at the end of the game (who got the save).

“I had used the great Cubs closer, Lee Smith, for three innings (the longest stint by any NL hurler that night), and I guess I didn’t care about him (picture Davey smiling broadly as he said this). I needed Sid for the second half (of the Mets’ season).”

Hey, a win is a win, no matter how you get it. “We won the game, so that was pretty good.”

Johnson’s memories of his All-Star appearances are a little fuzzy, perhaps purposely, as he collected only one hit in his times at-bat, often filling in for Hall of Famers such as Rod Carew late in the game, and in ’69, he didn’t even make it into the game, which is a fate that befell many All-Stars in the days when sometimes a Willie Mays or a Hank Aaron would play the entire game.

Interestingly, Johnson’s teammates in the ’73 included eight future Hall of Famers. The AL squad placed nine future Hall of Famers onto their boxscore.

It’s always a juggling act for any All-Star manager these days of trying to win and trying to place every player into the boxscore.

“I remember I had Pedro Guerrero, just about the best hitter in the league at the time, and I didn’t start him. I gave him only one pinch-hit. I was trying to do him a favor cause I knew he had a little knee problem. But he was mad at me for a long time after that.”

Guerrero lined out in the tenth against Tom Henke in his only at-bat, pinch-hitting for Steve Bedrosian.

“Managing the game is very difficult cause you’re trying to win the game and trying to get everybody into the game,” Johnson emphasized. “They made the trip, so you want to get everybody in, but at the same time you want to pay service to your league and to the team.”

Putting the roster together is also a way to get yourself into trouble.

“There’s always going to be guys who deserve to be there and who you just couldn’t squeeze onto the team.”

As it turned out, Johnson ended up managing six future Hall of Famers – Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn. The AL team featured six future Hall of Famers as well – Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Dave Winfield, Cal Ripken, Jr., George Brett, and Kirby Puckett.

Johnson, 70, will join Mets manager Terry Collins as the two baseline coaches for this year’s All Star game at Citi Field on July 16.

Both staffs will have a definitive Mets flavor. As is the custom, the managers of the World Series the previous year run the squads, and have choice over selecting two other current managers as coaches. San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, himself a former Met (1982), went with Collins and Johnson. AL skipper Jim Leyland, chose ex-Mets Robin Ventura and John Gibbons.

“I’m looking forward to just being on the bench and helping out Bochy,” added Johnson, “and watching him squirm trying to win and trying to get everybody in.”

Posted under Andy Esposito, Boxscore, Four Games, Future Hall Of Famers, Lee Smith, New York Mets, Pitchers, Rod Carew, Sid Fernandez, Star Appearances, Teammates, Top Story, Washington Nationals

Davey’s All-Star Game Memories

With the All-Star game at Citi Field fast approaching, it felt like a good time to stir the memories of former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who was in town herding his Washington Nationals this weekend. Johnson, a four-time All-Star himself (1968-70, ’73), was, of course, the skipper of the 1986 World Champion Mets when the longtime tradition tabbed him to helm the National League squad in 1987.

Johnson’s NL squad in ’87 found runs hard to come by, but they held firm until they were able to push two scores across the plate in the 13th inning and secured an All-Star shutout, 2-0. In fact, Johnson has always been associated with All-Star victories, as his NL teammates won all four games when he was on the roster in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“Back then, just like it is now,” Johnson said proudly, “is always a great honor.”

Johnson’s best recollection of that game in ’87 naturally involved his pitchers. “I remember the game was out in Oakland, and the last guy to pitch for us was Sid (Fernandez) at the end of the game (who got the save).

“I had used the great Cubs closer, Lee Smith, for three innings (the longest stint by any NL hurler that night), and I guess I didn’t care about him (picture Davey smiling broadly as he said this). I needed Sid for the second half (of the Mets’ season).”

Hey, a win is a win, no matter how you get it. “We won the game, so that was pretty good.”

Johnson’s memories of his All-Star appearances are a little fuzzy, perhaps purposely, as he collected only one hit in his times at-bat, often filling in for Hall of Famers such as Rod Carew late in the game, and in ’69, he didn’t even make it into the game, which is a fate that befell many All-Stars in the days when sometimes a Willie Mays or a Hank Aaron would play the entire game.

Interestingly, Johnson’s teammates in the ’73 included eight future Hall of Famers. The AL squad placed nine future Hall of Famers onto their boxscore.

It’s always a juggling act for any All-Star manager these days of trying to win and trying to place every player into the boxscore.

“I remember I had Pedro Guerrero, just about the best hitter in the league at the time, and I didn’t start him. I gave him only one pinch-hit. I was trying to do him a favor cause I knew he had a little knee problem. But he was mad at me for a long time after that.”

Guerrero lined out in the tenth against Tom Henke in his only at-bat, pinch-hitting for Steve Bedrosian.

“Managing the game is very difficult cause you’re trying to win the game and trying to get everybody into the game,” Johnson emphasized. “They made the trip, so you want to get everybody in, but at the same time you want to pay service to your league and to the team.”

Putting the roster together is also a way to get yourself into trouble.

“There’s always going to be guys who deserve to be there and who you just couldn’t squeeze onto the team.”

As it turned out, Johnson ended up managing six future Hall of Famers – Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn. The AL team featured six future Hall of Famers as well – Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Dave Winfield, Cal Ripken, Jr., George Brett, and Kirby Puckett.

Johnson, 70, will join Mets manager Terry Collins as the two baseline coaches for this year’s All Star game at Citi Field on July 16.

Both staffs will have a definitive Mets flavor. As is the custom, the managers of the World Series the previous year run the squads, and have choice over selecting two other current managers as coaches. San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, himself a former Met (1982), went with Collins and Johnson. AL skipper Jim Leyland, chose ex-Mets Robin Ventura and John Gibbons.

“I’m looking forward to just being on the bench and helping out Bochy,” added Johnson, “and watching him squirm trying to win and trying to get everybody in.”

Posted under Andy Esposito, Boxscore, Four Games, Future Hall Of Famers, Lee Smith, New York Mets, Pitchers, Rod Carew, Sid Fernandez, Star Appearances, Teammates, Top Story, Washington Nationals

Tejada Provides A Much Needed Mets Spark

Ruben Tejada the 20-year old rookie infielder of the New York Mets has been patient realizing his playing time has also been a valuable experience. Back in April he was on the 25 man roster and struggled at the plate.

Patience is a virtue as they say. And for Tejada recalled from Triple-A Buffalo on August 7th, the learning process of being on a big league roster have probably earned him the starting second base job at Citi Field next season.

The roster move back in August came when the Mets released veteran infielder and clubhouse leader Alex Cora. “He helped me a lot, spoke to me about what to expect and how to play the big field,” Tejada said recently about his experience of playing in New York and taking Cora in as a mentor.

Tuesday night at Citi Field in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Mets trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by two runs, in a game that meant nothing but playing for pride, Tejada got his chance. He hit an inside fastball off   Brewers hard throwing left handed closer John Axford.

The ball went into the left center field gap and Luis Castillo came home with the Mets seventh walk-off win of the season 4-3. Tejada was mobbed at home plate by his teammates after going 3-for-4 The second of his two doubles became the big hit with his two runs batted in.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel has always been an advocate of using Tejada as the every day second baseman which regulated the big contract of Castillo to the bench And when infielder Luis Hernandez broke his foot and ended his season on the prior home stand, the second base job and batting eighth in the lineup was permanent for Tejada.

“It was a matter of him getting some hits to fall for him,” said Manuel about the game wining hit that gave the Mets their first win of the season when trailing after eight innings. “Some things fell in for him tonight, that’s a great confidence boost for him.  He’s trying to establish to himself where he belongs on this level and he did a good job tonight,”

Tejada, who makes his off season home in Veraguas Panama has made it known that the adjustment to the big city has been a patient process, Just like being patient at the plate where he has been struggling to keep his average over .200.

“I feel great and hit the ball hard to the left fielder and won the game,’ he said after what hopefully will be many more of his walk off wins for the Mets. On the situation, he said, “I think I’m looking for my count and hit the ball to center field to tie the game.”

It was more than a game tying hit. It became the game winning hit that gave the Mets a good start to their final seven games of the season at home. “I want to finish up strong, we want to finish strong,” he said.

The three hits tied a career high that were achieved against the Pirates on September 14th. Back on September 5th, Tejada also became the second Met this season that had a five RBI game. “I saw the ball good that day,” he said and the wind was also blowing out that day at Wrigley Field.

“It’s been a great experience for me I’m learning a lot, it’s good,” commented Tejada. He will pack his bags after the final game Sunday and return home to be with his mother and members of his family, and then possibly play winter ball in Venezuela.

Something the Mets hope for is the continued development of their youngsters.  The future at Citi Field revolves around players like Tejada, and draft picks such as Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and pitcher Dillon Gee.

And as Tejada says, “I hope to be a part of that future.” A game wining hit and continued patience certainly have almost assured a welcome mat for Tejada at Citi Field next April as their starting second baseman.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Alex Cora, August 7, Clubhouse, Fastball, Gap, Luis Castillo, Luis Hernandez, Man Roster, Mentor, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Patience Is A Virtue, Playing Time, Roster Move, Ruben, Second Baseman, Teammates, Top Story, Tuesday Night, Veteran Infielder

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 29, 2010

Mets Get Another Home Win Behind Ike and Mike

New York – Maybe it is the mental aspect of playing at home, or it is the familiarity of playing at Citi Field.  Perhaps the New York Mets still can’t determine why they play so much better at home than they do on the road after their 2-1 eleventh inning walk off win over the San Diego Padres Tuesday evening.

Last week in San Diego the Padres would victimize the Mets in their last at bat. But this is Citi Field where the Mets tied a season high ninth straight win at home, their major league leading 23rd win at home, and it was done on an Ike Davis career first game ending home run leading off the 11th.

And Mets manager Jerry Manuel may have the answer as to the fortunes of his team winning at home as opposed to losing their share of games away from Citi Field. “We’ve played extremely well here,’ said Manuel. “We’re confident here.” New York is 4-0 on the current home stand coming off a three-game sweep over the Florida Marlins.

Confident enough to have the rookie Davis lead off the inning and get the walk-off on a 1-1 pitch that reached the second deck to right field. It was a splitter thrown by padres’ relief pitcher Edward Mujica, (2-1) who got the loss.

“I was trying to hit the ball in the gaps somewhere and maybe get to second base and have someone bunt me over,” said Davis about the situation who was mobbed by teammates at home plate after running the bases..

“He hung the splitter. I saw it pretty early and put a good spin on it.” It was the 7th home run of the season for the Mets rookie who had been struggling at the plate, batting .196 over his last 12 games.

Before the home run it was another interesting game at home for the Mets. Also another impressive outing for starter Mike Pelfrey (8-1) who did not figure in the decision after allowing one run on five hits He became the first Mets pitcher this season to go nine innings.

The only run allowed by Pelfrey was in the first inning, an RBI double to Adrian Gonzalez. Pelfrey over his last five starts has a 1.19 ERA and has pitched with confidence, finally becoming a pitcher the Mets got when they drafted him as their number one pick in 2005.  Pelfrey also knows how to win at Cit Field, 4-1 with a 2.71 ERA in six starts at home this season.

He was able to keep the score tied after Jose Reyes evened things up with his second home run in the seventh, a two out drive to left that was reviewed by the umpires after the ball bounded above the orange line that runs along the wall.  He managed to strand Padres runners at second base in the eighth and ninth innings that got on base with one out.

“ I looked at it that we’ve got guys at second base, so what,” said Pelfrey about keeping the score tied ,with hopes the Mets would get him a win in their half of the eighth or ninth.  “I’m not going to let him score,” he said.

Manuel added about Pelfrey, “He’s now developed enough to become a good pitcher.  The bullpen also kept the Mets close. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless tenth, Pedro Felicano in the 11th and Elmer Dessens (1-1) who struck out the only batter he faced earning his first win since August 26, 2007 against Washington.

“He’s come in some tough situations and given us some good outs,” commented Manuel about Dessens, now with six consecutive scoreless outings since his recall in late May.

Now if the Mets can only get wins on the road. Their next road trip after this series takes them to Baltimore and Cleveland, two of the worse teams in the American League.  We’ve been in a lot of games on the road,” said Pelfrey when asked about the disparity of the Mets home and road record. “Bad breaks,” he said.

Not at home though, as the breaks and now walk off wins keep the Mets rolling at Citi Field.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Edward Mujica, Familiarity, First Game, Florida Marlins, Fortunes, Game Sweep, Gaps, Impressive Outing, Major League, Mental Aspect, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nine Innings, Playing At Home, Relief Pitcher, San Diego Padres, Second Deck, Teammates, Top Story, Tuesday Evening, Winning At Home

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 9, 2010