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Why Did the Giants Leave
2002-11-14 16:25
by Mike Carminati

Why Did the Giants Leave Johnson Out?

First let me apologize for the above headline. I have no facility for self-censor.

One thing that occurred to me after the Felipe Alou signing by the Giants was since they were looking for a veteran manager to run a playoff-caliber team, why didn't they consider the best currently unemployed manager that there is, Davey Johnson? According to Jayson Stark they did and found him lacking, turning to the ex-Expo manager.

I thought it would be fun to compare the two, so let's go. First, Alou will turn 68 on May 12; Johnson will turn 60 on January 30. Those eight years could be a big difference in the energy level of the two men. I have written that there is not a great case to be made for hiring a manager approaching 70. But let's leave aside their ages for now. Rather, let's evaluate the past performance.

Johnson has managed for parts of 14 season and has a 1148-888 record (a .564 winning percent). Alou has managed for parts of 10 seasons and owns a 691-717 (a .491 winning percentage). Johnson has won about 450 games more and lost only 171 more. His winning percentage is about 70 points higher and is over .500 while Alou's is not.

Johnson also won with four different organizations. He's won 100 games twice, 90 games six times, and has been over .500 in all but one full season (he had two partial seasons under .500 as well). His teams have finished lower than second only once in all of his full seasons (the Dodgers finished third in his first year there in 1999. He has managed at least two full seasons for four different clubs and has a winning record with each of those clubs. He has managed in both the National and the American Leagues. He won the 1997 AL Manager of the Year award.

Alou only managed Montreal. He won 90 games once and was over .500 in three of his eight full seasons (plus one partial out of two over .500). His team finished first for the only time in the strike-shortened season of 1994. In his eight full seasons, the Expos finished lower than second 5 times. He won the 1994 NL Manager of the Year award.

Johnson has won a World Series. He has a 23-23 playoff record. He has taken three different teams (1 AL and 2 NL). Alou's teams have never been to the postseason.

"But Alou managed Montreal and they stripped his team out from under him. You can't hold their failings against him," you say. Well, The Expos were under .500 when he took over in 1992 and they had just had a 71-90 record the year before, but the had been at or above .500 the four years before.

"Well, the decimation happened on his watch. That's why his record suffered." There is some validity there, but the team improved about 40 percentage points after Jeff Torborg, no Weaver he, took over in 2001. They were vastly improved this year under Frank Robinson.

Johnson took over a Mets team in 1984 that finished 68-94 the previous year and hadn't been over .500 in eight seasons. The were under .500 when he was replaced by Bud Harrelson in 1990, but quickly returned to the level they had been at before Johnson left in 1991. The Mets were laughingstocks and the punchline to many a David Letterman monologue within another year.

Johnson took over a Cincinnati club that was under .500 with Tony Perez in 1993, and they performed at the same level for Johnson for the rest of the year. They had won 90 games in 1992 in Lou Piniealla's last year. Johnson then won two titles in his two full years with the Reds. The Reds fell to .500 after Johnson left and then were under .500 for the next two seasons.

Johnson took over a Baltimore club that was two games under .500 in 1995. They had been over .500 the previous seasons however, but had not been to the playoffs since 1983. The Orioles reached the playoffs in each of Johnson's two seasons there. After Johnson acrimonious departure the Orioles have not been over .500 for an entire season.
Then Johnson took over an LA team that had been over .500 three straight seasons including one playoff appearance. They feel to eight games under .500 his first season. His second they improved to 10 games over .500, but Johnson was gone. Jim Tracy has done a fine job since, duplicating Johnson's 2000 in his first season and keeping the Dodgers competitive this year.

Clearly, Johnson has a record of improving three of the four clubs he has managed and when he has left those clubs have declined (except the Dodgers). Alou initially improved the Expos but does bear some blame for their fallow years since his departure has apparently allowed the club to improve. I know it's all not that simple, but it's not really anything in his favor.

So who is the better candidate? I am not familiar with the situation. Maybe Davey Johnson came in and gave the impression of someone who cannot work within the Giants organization and Alou seemed much more in tune with their system. Maybe the Giants will have a great run with Alou. I just have to say that looking at their past performance indicates that Johnson would be a better gamble.

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