I don't think anyone was particularly happy with the manner in which Willie Randolph was ultimately deposed as manager of the Mets, but it was hardly the first time a franchise's skipper was sent packing under uncomfortable circumstances. Though it hadn't happened in a dozen seasons, the Mets' organization had made nine mid-season managerial changes in their first 35 years.
With considerable help from Baseball-Reference.com and the New York Times historical abstracts I went back and looked at the stories and circumstances surrounding those nine supersedures. They featured many memorable names and a few lesser-known ones, but each was interesting for one reason or another and their respective details help put the most recent managerial tumult into historical perspective.
Somewhat interestingly, Dallas Green was the Mets' skipper for four straight seasons from 1993-1996 and didn't actually get to manage a single full season in that span. He took over for Torborg in the middle of the 1993 season, 1994 and 1995 were both shortened by the player strike, and was eventually canned midway through the 1996 season.
The 62-year-old Green was replaced by Bobby Valentine, a man sixteen years Green's junior who had been managing the Mets' Triple-A team in Norfolk. In a strange parallel to the Mets' latest mid-season switcheroo, Green was fired mostly because of his team's lackluster play, but his ousting was perhaps accelerated by a comment he made to the media that wasn't well-received by the front office. In referring to the team's young pitchers Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson, Green said, "These guys don't belong in the big leagues. That might sound harsh and negative, but what have they done to get here?"
Perhaps not as controversial as accusing the team-owned teevee station of treating him unfairly because of his race, but Green's comment caught the ire of general manager Joe McIlvaine, who promoted Valentine in part because of the way Bobby V. worked with young players.
The Mets were sputtering in the early part of 1993 amid rumors that manager Jeff Torborg was on the verge of being fired. In the eighth inning of a game against the Pirates at Shea an announcement was made to the Mets' press box that there would be a news conference following the game. Torborg was let go about a half-hour later and Dallas Green, then an advance scout with the Mets, stepped in to take the helm. Torborg had lost his players, it was said, and Green was exactly the no-nonsense boss the Mets needed to turn things around.
Torborg stuck around for less than one and a quarter seasons after signing a four-year deal to manage the Mets following the 1991 season. Torborg was allowed out of his previous contract with the White Sox in order to work close to his New Jersey home. The circumstances surrounding his departure from Chicago, especially considering that the White Sox had just finished second in the AL West and were in a position to make a sustained run at the division crown. It didn't take the Mets long to figure out why it took so little convincing for Sox GM Ron Schueler to let Torborg go.
After taking over for Davey Johnson the previous season, Bud Harrelson was ousted before he had a chance to complete his first full season as the Mets' manager. Harrelson was a company man who had spent nearly his entire professional career with the Mets as a player and manager. However, Harrelson never commanded the respect of his ballplayers and was described as being "tactically unimaginative" and unable to get the most out of his team.
Harrelson was fired by General Manager Frank Cashen, who himself was set to be replaced at season's end by Al Harazin. Third-base coach Mike Cubbage, who had been a candidate for the position that was ultimately given to Harrelson two seasons earlier, instead succeeded Harrelson. His seven-game tenure would be the shortest of any manager in franchise history.
Davey Johnson managed and won more games than any skipper in Mets' history, but even six consecutive first or second place finishes couldn't save him from the axe. He was fired 42 games into the 1990 season as the Mets fell short of expectations in winning just twenty of those ballgames. Johnson wasn't enough of a disciplinarian, allowing his players to stay out late and otherwise skirt the established rules of the Mets' clubhouse.
Harrelson was a company man and was expected to toe the company line in taking over an underperforming team. To his -- or perhaps the team's -- credit, the Mets went 71-49 under Harrelson's command, falling just four games shy of the NL East champion Pirates.
George Bamberger had come out of retirement to take over the Mets when Joe Torre was canned following the 1981 season. Bamberger was the Orioles' pitching coach for a decade and the Brewers' manager for three seasons before taking the gig with the Mets. The Mets went 81-127 under Bamberger, who resigned from his post with the team after having "suffered enough". He indicated as much during his exit press conference, saying, "[t]he nature of managing is to suffer, and I probably suffered enough. The tenseness and all that, getting headaches after games. I just told them I was stepping down and going fishing."
Frank Howard, Bamberger's first base coach, took over immediately and guided the Mets to a respectable 52-64 record the rest of the way.
After leading the Mets to a third-place finish in his first season as manager, Joe Frazier was relieved of duty after the Mets stumbled to a 15-30 record out of the gate in 1977, good for the worst record in baseball. They looked internally for his immediate replacement, calling on 36-year-old first-baseman Joe Torre to take over for Frazier. Torre's Mets were slightly better than Frazier's Mets, though the aggregate managing of the two Joes left the Mets 37 games behind the first-place Phillies at season's end.
Yogi Berra was a Queens hero after leading the Mets to within a win of the 1973 World Series, but the year-and-a-half of lackluster play that followed sealed his fate as the team's manager. Less than a week after the Yankees replaced manager Bill Virdon with Billy Martin, the Mets sacked Berra and, after briefly considering Virdon, promoted one of Berra's coaches, Roy McMillan, to skipper. Martin himself had just been axed as manager of the Texas Rangers a few days earlier.
McMillan kept the Mets around .500 for the remainder of the season before he and the Mets parted ways.
Perhaps sensing his forthcoming ouster, manager Wes Westrum resigned as manager of the Mets with just twelve days remaining before the end of the 1967 seasons. He was succeeded on an interim basis by third-base coach Salty Parker. Many within and without the organization expected Yogi Berra to be given a shot at managing, but Berra's shot with the Mets would have to wait another eight seasons. Parker would manage the final eleven games before being replaced by Gil Hodges, who was acquired from the Washington Senators following the 1967 season.
The Mets' manager for their first three-and-a-half years of existence, Casey Stengel fractured his left hip getting out of a car just a few hours before his 75th birthday celebration at Shea Stadium. While 40,000 fans serenaded their beloved Stengel, the manager was at Roosevelt Hospital awaiting diagnosis and eventual surgery. Pitching coach Wes Westrum managed that game in Stengel's place, and was officially named interim manager a day later. Stengel would never manage again.
While the Mets were merely awful under Stengel in 1965, they were downright abysmal after Westrum took over. Though not quite as bad as Stengel's '62 bunch, the Westrum-helmed Mets of 1965 lost almost 72% of their games, allowing 301 runs while scoring just 199.