Davey Johnson's 595 wins with the Mets from 1984-1990 makes him the winningest manager in franchise history. He reflected on his career this past Tuesday at the MSG Network Studios in midtown, where he helped celebrate the original four-part series "Summer of '86: The Rise and Fall of the World Champion Mets." The series airs March 1-4 on MSG.
What do you remember about Shea Stadium?
I love Shea Stadium. I love the fans, and I love the competition. My first year, I inherited a last-place club, and we came in second — won 90 games. That was a miracle year, when you think about it. The opposition outscored us by 18 runs, and we were 18 games over .500. You figure that out. You tell me how we did; I know how we did. The fans in New York push you. They supported us for two years when we didn't win. In ’86, I think we did 50,000 every day. I love the fact that fans are very educated here. I love the fact that they challenge you every day, on radio and on TV. I had no problem with that. I always had an answer for them. The only thing I have regret [for] right now is they're not doing better.
Do the '86 Mets' off-field activities overshadow their on-field accomplishments?
Writers and everything try to create something to write about. But that team was very diverse. One thing about them is they came early to the ballpark, they enjoyed being in the clubhouse and they were very relaxed when they went on the field. If you want to call that a bad team, you want to say they were misfits ... they competed better than anyone else. They did it all year long. You win 108 games, you competed. You can call us anything you want — history can be the judge — but there were a lot of things I was happy about with that club. There was no animosity; everybody liked to be there. It was a relaxed atmosphere. You can call us scumbags; I think every manager in every sport would like the fact that guys came to the clubhouse, liked to work out, liked to compete at the highest level.
How do you define team chemistry?
Let me tell you what chemistry is. A lot of guys don't know what it is; a lot of guys in the league have no clue what it is. I hope you remember this. Chemistry is when you get 25 guys together and it doesn't matter what I tell them. What happens to create total chemistry is the way a manager uses them. I can tell them stuff, but if I'm not consistent with how I use them, you got no chemistry. If a pitcher is struggling and I look in the bullpen and the guy I want is warming up before I call him — then he's mentally prepared. That's chemistry! When everybody on a ballclub knows exactly what a role is without their manager telling them. I believe in any business, the strongest words are how you're used. Not what you're told, because if you're told something and you're not used that way, you're ready to get out of there.
What do you think of the Mets now?
I watch them a lot. I'm not going to go there and be critical. I'm a dinosaur — call me a dinosaur. I have an old-fashioned way of managing. I disagree with a lot of the way the guy managed it there. But it's not my job to criticize.
Do players have to be managed differently now than 20, 25, 30 years ago?
They're the same. They all want to be appreciated and be given an opportunity to win. It didn't matter to me what I was making or what they were making — I had the power of the pen. Sometimes when you sit a guy on the bench, he gets the message. It's all about the consistency as a manager.
What do you think of Citi Field?
It's a beautiful park. It's gonna get there when they win. They gave me a little cushion because we were bad for so many years before I came here. But then we came back with 90-win seasons; we should've won [the NLCS] in ’88. We won a few games. I think we averaged 96 wins my first five years. (Note: It was actually 98.) I would like to see it from them. I love New York City; I love Queens. I used to fight against these announcers who would say it's Flushing by the bay.
What do you hope viewers take away from this '86 Mets series on MSG?
We all pursued our goals, and we tried the best we could do. I don't matter what you do in life, you have to go for it. You have to have some gusto. That's what you do, that's life. Give it all you got. It's a New York attitude. [Claps] And if you don't go for it, they'll boo-hoo you. If you do, they're going to love you to death.
Note: Madison Square Garden is a spin-off of amNewYork's parent company, Cablevision.