Tag: howard johnson

Spilled Milk: Mark Langston and Two Throw-Ins

Author’s Note: We interrupt the Spilled Milk Series to focus on a story that many of the current fans may have either forgotten or don’t know about. It’s the story of how the Mets missed their chance to extend their great mid- to late-80s run. As a courtesy to our readers and to help protect your valuable keyboard, monitor, or smart phone, The Mets Today staff will notify you when the “spit take” part of this article arrives. Next week, we’ll look at other big deals from the post-1986 era that didn’t happen.

Two events signaled the end of the Mets 1984-1990 winning streak. One is obvious and occurred in the 9th inning of Game Four of the 1988 NLDS. To paraphrase Casey Stengel: you can look that one up. The other occurred about five months later and while somewhat less dramatic than the events of that terrible October evening, had an equally devastating impact on the team’s immediate and long-term future.


20 DUPACR: Howard Johnson

Like yesterday’s choice for #21, I might have gone for someone from further in the past here, such as Tommie Agee — had I seen him play. For those who did have the good fortune of watching Agee “in the flesh”, please post your memories in the comments.

Howard Johnson gets the nod primarily because he was the best power-hitting switch-hitter in Mets history, and one of the best all-time. OK, I don’t really have any specific numbers to back up the “all-time” proclamation; but I also can’t think of anyone other than Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray who was as serious a slugger — even if HoJo’s run was much shorter than those HOFers.

HoJo was the Mets’ first 30-30 guy — and remains one of only four players in MLB history to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season three times. His switch-hitting prowess was unprecedented in the NL — he was the first switcher to lead the NL in RBI (as well as the first Met to do so), the first to lead in RBI and HR in the same season, and hit more HR in the NL than any other switch-hitter in history — until a steroid-enhanced Ken Caminiti passed him.

As it turned out, the trade of Walt Terrell to Detroit for Johnson worked out OK for the Mets. Of course, the Tigers could afford to give away HoJo — they had the great Tom Brookens entrenched at 3B and had two future “superstars” (per Tigers manager Sparky Anderson) named Chris Pittaro and Torey Lovullo ready to take over.

There’s one negative thing about Howard Johnson, though, that sticks with me: even though he was part of the ’86 team, his career as a Met was marked by under-achievement. Not because of HoJo, of course — if anything, HoJo was an OVER-achiever. But the third baseman on the 1986 Mets, to me, was Ray Knight, with Johnson as an understudy. And after Knight left, leaving the hot corner to Johnson, the Mets perpetually underachieved, until they reached the beginning of a very dark period in their history. Again, this was no fault of HoJo’s — if anything, he was their saving grace. But looking back at those teams from 1987 – 1993, I see first grave disappointment, followed by an out-of-control downward spiral. Through it all, HoJo was the one shiny, exciting piece of an otherwise drab product, and deserved better for his effort, selflessness, and performance. Had things gone as they should have, Howard Johnson would be remembered as the greatest third baseman in Mets history, but instead, the memory is littered with visions of his awkwardness attempting to play shortstop and centerfield — the Kelly Leak of a Bad News Bears club falling apart around him.

In addition to HoJo and Agee, other #20s that were considered for various, unfathomable reasons included Choo-Choo Coleman (for his nickname, of course), John Pacella (for his hat falling off his head), Shawn Green (see John Pacella), Victor Diaz (remember “Mini-Manny”?), Ryan Thompson (still waiting for him to become a 5-tool superstar), and Jeromy Burnitz.

The countdown thus far:

#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd


HoJo is Safe !

Contrary to the previous report posted right here, Howard Johnson’s job as hitting coach is safe — for the moment.

Turns out the Mets’ management is completely dysfunctional and in as much disarray as you might imagine.

Somehow, some way, someone convinced somebody that making a change right now was not the right decision.

That said, the coaching staff will indeed remain intact — HoJo included.

In other words, after Omar Minaya told the world that everyone was under review, and after the Mets front office admitted publicly that they were “in discussions” for all of Monday, the final decision was that no change was necessary. Apparently, the final assessment from the “brain trust” is that the team, the coaching staff, and the management as currently constituted is competent, capable, and poised to make a miraculous run over the next 60 games to push the Mets into the postseason and challenge for a World Championship.

And why would we think otherwise?


HoJo On the Way Out

According to sources close to the situation, Howard Johnson will be relieved of his duties as batting coach for the New York Mets.

You may have read or heard Jon Heyman’s report that “there has been no discussion of Howard Johnson” and that Jerry Manuel’s job is “safe”. Kevin Burkhardt is tweeting similar “news”.

However, our sources are reporting quite the opposite.

For one, Johnson’s role was most definitely discussed and almost surely will change. It is possible that he won’t be fired outright — for example, he could be “reassigned” to another area of the organization. Or maybe the Mets will do something like they did in 2008 with Rickey Henderson. Perhaps they’ll hire Darryl Strawberry to teach the players how to swallow fire — who knows? All we know is that HoJo is moving on and Jerry Manuel is about as “safe” as Toyota gas pedal — though he’ll likely remain the manager for at least a few more days.

My guess is that the Mets are still trying to figure out the best way to break the news without upsetting fans of the ’86 Mets and David Wright, and waiting for the “right moment”. Or, maybe our sources are completely wrong.

Regardless of HoJo’s status, the Mets HAVE TO do something — they’ve forced themselves into making a change for the sake of change, at the very least.

*** UPDATE ***
Just got word that Jerry Manuel’s job IS safe for the time being. Though, the Mets have been on the fence before regarding Manuel, and could change their mind again at the drop of a hat.

HoJo is still the focus of whatever “change” is made, however.


Something is Cooking in Metsville

After going 2-9 on their Left Coast trip, the Mets are sinking fast in the standings. They are now 50-49, which may satisfy Omar Minaya’s goal of “being around .500”.

Further, the offense has sputtered and died like a 1974 Ford Pinto, getting shut out an incomprehensible 4 times in 10 days. That would be quite a feat if this were 1979, and the likes of Frank Taveras, Doug Flynn, and Bruce Boisclair were littering the lineup. But to be that anemic in the 21st century is … well, there are no words. Unfortunately for Howard Johnson, someone is going to have to be the scapegoat, and it’s unlikely to be the bullpen coach.

Whether it is HoJo or someone else, heads are guaranteed to roll in the next 24-48 hours. That’s an educated guess based on privately gathered inside information and the following public reports:

From tweets by Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger:

Omar: “When you have a trip like this, you have to sit down and assess how you’re going to get it right . . . We’re not going to sit back.”

Twice asked if staff would survive by Tuesday, Omar Minaya twice demurred from anything definitive.

From Andy Martino of the NY Daily News:

Minaya passed on two chances to say entire coaching staff would be intact Tuesday.

From Adam Rubin of ESPN-NY:

No one will say Howard Johnson’s job is safe

Omar would not directly state staff would remain intact Tuesday.

From David Lennon of NY Newsday:

Asked twice, Minaya would not say definitively that staff will remain intact on Tuesday when #Mets return to action.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize something is up, and that changes of some sort are coming soon — or sooner. Heck, even a two-bit blogger such as myself can figure that out.

What exactly will happen, no one is sure. HoJo’s job is unteneble right now, and though the pitching has been mostly strong lately, Dan Warthen could be blamed for Mike Pelfrey’s sudden slide. Dave Jauss could be in jeopardy for no other reason than the fact he’s Jerry Manuel’s pal (remember when Willie Randolph’s buddy Rick Down was fired?). Whether Manuel himself is spared the hatchet remains to be seen; Omar Minaya could have a tough time ‘splainin why he chose the wrong manager twice in five years. Indeed, one has to wonder if Minaya himself is on the chopping block.

We don’t know for sure what will occur in the next two days, but we can be sure that SOMETHING will happen.

Fasten your seatbelts …


Will the Mets Land a Big Fish?

At MetsFansForever, Will Sommer asks several bloggers which “big” free agent will be signed by the Mets

Andrew Vazzano unearths a slice of good news from the winter meetings – that David Wright and Daniel Murphy were working out with Howard Johnson, and Jeff Francoeur may be with HoJo later in the winter.

Ted Berg wrote an uncharacteristically long post poo-poohing the concept of a #2 starter and arguing that the Mets should pass on John Lackey.

Bob Klapisch says the Mets are pretenders

We’re only a day and a half into the winter meetings, but Brooklyn Met Fan is already tired of the rumors.

Kerel Cooper responds to yesterday’s question, “Would You Want Pat Burrell?” :


Alicea and Alomar Fired

luis-aliceaIn a stunning move that is certain to change the fortunes of the Mets and culture in the clubhouse, first-base coach Luis Alicea and bench coach Sandy Alomar, Sr. were relieved of their duties.

What percentage of Mets fans, do you think, actually knew the name of the team’s first-base coach?

Of the entire coaching staff, those were the last two people I thought would get the ax. But perhaps on further review of the video, we may see that the Mets hitters did a terrible job of rounding the first base bag and getting good leads. And it IS the little things that win and lose ballgames.

In related news, Razor Shines, Dan Warthen, Howard Johnson, and Randy Niemann will all be back in 2010 — though Shines will not return in the same role of third-base coach.

Shame about Alicea — he had finally earned himself a Wikipedia entry.