Davey’s Reasoning Doesn’t Compute

Davey Johnson’s opinion on who should be the next Mets manager was recently reported by The New York Post, but his supporting reasoning doesn’t quite make sense.

Johnson believes that Terry Collins is the right person for the job, because:

“If I was the GM, I would want somebody that best knew the whole system,” Johnson said. “I’m sure Sandy agrees with this: People who know where talent is on the minor league level and how long it’s going to take to get to the major leagues and how it will affect the major league roster, those are very important people. I would think [Collins] would be the frontrunner.”

Johnson says the Mets probably have to rebuild from within, and that makes Collins an asset. Johnson compared it to his own ascension to Mets manager in 1984, after spending three seasons managing within the organization, at Double-A and Triple-A.

“When I first got there my first conversation with [GM] Frank Cashen was, ‘I’ve got three or four guys on the minor league level that I would like in the majors.’ ” Johnson said. “We talked about that. ‘I’ll go with your guys on the major league level, but if they are not cutting it, I want to be able to dump those guys and bring up guys from the minor leagues.’ Whoever [Alderson] has that relationship with is very tantamount.”

There is one major flaw in this thinking: the Mets’ farm system doesn’t have much talent to promote to the big leagues. They certainly do not have “three or four” players who can make an impact on the 2011 Mets — certainly not the way Johnson’s choices did back in ’84. Further, the biggest rebuilding Sandy Alderson has to do in the next 2-3 years is not with the MLB roster, but with the organization as a whole — specifically, a focus on improving the farm system so that it can start producing prospects the way it did when Frank Cashen was in charge of things.

When Johnson was made manager of the Mets in 1984, the minor leagues were chock full of talent, thanks to Cashen’s complete overhaul of the system — a process that began in 1980. Just a few of the youngsters who were MLB-ready or “on the cusp” when Johnson took over the big club included Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Kevin Mitchell, Calvin Schiraldi, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, Roger McDowell, Randy Myers, Lenny Dykstra,and Wally Backman. Not to mention a slew of prospects who were either deemed as “can’t miss” at the time and/or went on to be solid MLBers, such as Billy Beane, Floyd Youmans, Mike Fitzgerald, Jay Tibbs, Mark Carreon, Jeff Innis, Terry Leach, Ed Hearn, Marvell Wynne, Herm Winningham, Wes Gardner, John Gibbons, Barry Lyons, John Christenson, Dave Cochrane, Terry Blocker and Stan Jefferson. That’s almost 30 future Major Leaguers right there (and there were at least another dozen not mentioned), who were in the farm system at the time Johnson took over. You can argue that half of them didn’t amount to much, and it’s easy to point out the busts 25 years later, but the point is, do the Mets currently have as many as 30 players in their system right now who can compare to the value of those players at that time? Do they have 20? Remember, we’re not necessarily debating whether or not the Mets have two dozen players in the minors who may at least get a “cup of coffee” in the bigs; the argument is that the Mets don’t have nearly as many prospects with similarly perceived value.

Maybe Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Tobi Stoner, Dillon Gee, Lucas Duda, Zach Lutz, Dylan Owen, Mark Cohoon, Fernando Martinez, Brad Holt, Michael Antonini, Jeurys Familia, Jennry Mejia, and Jordany Valdespin are better than most think. But if they’re not, how many are equally close to MLB-ready and/or only a year or two behind? Maybe five or ten?

But going back to Davey Johnson’s opinion, I think that in 2-3 years from now, if it appears that the team is unable to pull itself out of its current depths, AND Sandy Alderson succeeds in building the Mets organization into a prospect factory, THEN it makes perfect sense to hire a manager who is familiar with the players in the minor league system.

Unless, of course, you believe that Omar Minaya and co. stacked the system over the past five years with championship-caliber ballplayers. If you trust what Minaya did in building the farm system, and that the youngsters he chose will be MLB-ready in 2011 / 2012 and are capable of helping the Mets reach the playoffs, then by all means — Terry Collins is a solid choice.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Turbot November 22, 2010 at 11:01 am
    Joe, Billy Beane was not a “solid MLBer” – he had 66 career hits.
    • Joe Janish November 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm
      Turbot, read the entire sentence:

      “Not to mention a slew of prospects who were either deemed as “can’t miss” at the time and/or went on to be solid MLBers …”

      Billy Beane was a first-round pick (nearly chosen first overall instead of Strawberry) and deemed a “can’t-miss” prospect. Even after he was traded to the Twins, many people felt he was on the cusp of becoming a star.