Who made the last out in the 1969 World Series, tied Rogers Hornsby's record for most home runs in a season by a second baseman (42), set the record for the most pinch-hit grand-slam homers in a season (2), batted behind the two greatest home-run hitters of all time (Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh), and—whew!—has been given the unenviable task of making the New York Mets respectable again?
The answer to these and other questions is Davey Johnson, who, at 41, becomes the Mets' fourth manager in four years. Johnson brings to the job a thorough knowledge of computers, a reputation for motivating players and a passion for trivia. He was dabbling in computers back when he was the second baseman for the Orioles, and he used to give Earl Weaver printouts of the optimum Baltimore lineup. "Earl put them in the waste-basket," says Johnson.
In his new job, Johnson will certainly become familiar with unfavorable chance deviations. For one thing, the catching. Junior Ortiz came to New York last year touted for his abilities behind the plate, but opposing runners ran free. He didn't hit, either. Neither did second baseman Brian Giles and shortstop Jose Oquendo, fine fielders both. As Johnson says, "The only team that has three gloves in the batting order is a last-place team." To that end, he will replace Ortiz with rookie John Gibbons, who's recovering from a fractured cheekbone, and Giles with Wally Backman. The second baseman will replace centerfielder Mookie Wilson, who had 103 strikeouts and 18 walks, as the leadoff hitter.
But then Johnson, who has a mathematics degree from Trinity (Texas), can also count his blessings. One of them is his Rookie of the Year rightfielder, Darryl Strawberry, who hit .282 with 23 homers and 65 RBIs over his last 98 games. The only worry is that Strawberry might develop a superiority complex—in spring training he was seen sporting a T shirt that read you wanna talk? call my agent. The middle of the Met lineup may actually be potent this year, with first baseman Keith Hernandez batting third, leftfielder George Foster fourth and Strawberry fifth. With the kid hitting behind him, Foster will have to start earning his millions.
In computer parlance, the Mets' system is up, what with Strawberry and a plethora of good young pitchers like Ron Darling, Dwight Gooden, Tim Leary and Walt Terrell. Even without Tom Seaver, the pitching will be better than it was last year. The bullpen is solid with Jesse Orosco and Doug Sisk.
Maybe the answer to the question, "Who was the first American to play for the Yomiuri Giants?" will be the answer to the Mets' prayers.
New York's pinch hitters tied a big league mark with 12 homers. They also drove in 50 runs, 25 by Rusty Staub. Darryl Strawberry added oomph to the offense with 26 home runs. Even so, the Mets were the feeblest sluggers (.344) in either league. Reliever Jesse Orosco (17 saves, 1.47 ERA) was the club's biggest winner (13-7).