Nov 30, 2016

2015 N.L. Champions Mets Pitching Coach: Dan Warthen (2008-2017)

Daniel Dean Warthen was born on December 1, 1952 in Omaha, Nebraska. Warthen was an All American High School quarterback, getting college scholarship offers from Nebraska, USC, UCLA, & Northwestern universities. He chose to play baseball instead, getting drafted in the second round, by the Montreal Expos in 1971.

The left hander would get brought up to the majors in May 1975 making his debut, pitching a scoreless inning against  that years World Champion, Big Red Machine. He pitched in relief in his first few outings, going 4-2 with three saves toward the end of July. 

He was thrown into the Expo rotation finishing the season at 8-6 with 3.11 ERA, striking out an impressive 128 batters in 167 innings. He also walked 87 batters. The following year he was 2-10 as he walked 66 batters in 90 innings pitched, allowing 53 earned runs.

He would only pitch 20 more games in the majors at Montreal, going to the Philadelphia Phillies & Houston Astros over the next two seasons, while going 2-5. In the minors he would win 10 games or more three times, pitching down there through 1982. In 1978 he was the AA Pitcher of the Year at Oklahoma City.

Retirement: Warthen immediately began to coach when his playing days ended, first with the Pittsburgh Pirates, then with the San Diego Padres & Philadelphia Phillies organizations. 

In 1992 he was the Seattle Mariners pitching coach, moving to the San Diego Padres (1996-1997) then Detroit Tigers in (1998-2002).

In 2003 he came to the Mets organization, as pitching coach for the Norfolk Tides. He remained there for three seasons, tutoring guys like Heath Bell, Pedro Feliciano, & Aaron Heilman. In 2006 & 2007 he went to the Dodgers serving as bullpen coach under Grady Little.

In June of 2008 Warthen was named the Mets pitching coach replacing Rick Peterson. In 2009 he served under manager Jerry Manuel & his pitching staff posted a 4.45 ERA, which was 12th in the league. In 2010 his staff improved to 6th best in the league posting a 3.73 ERA.

In 2011 the Met staff won 77 games (10th in the NL) posting a 4.19 ERA (13th in the NL) they tossed six complete games which was their highest ranking in the league stats, fifth place. They averaged in the middle of the league allowing HRs (147-8th in the NL) walks (514- also 8th) & 1126 strikeouts (10th).

In 2012 the Mets staff featured twenty game winner R.A. Dickey but other than that the staff only won 54 games. Their total 74 wins was 12th best in the league & their 4.09 ERA was eleventh best. 

Thanks to Dickey they were second with seven complete games & third in shut outs with five. The teams 1240 strike outs stood out & were sixth best in the league.

In July of 2012 Warthen was ejected then later fined after arguing balls & strikes with umpire C.B. Bucknor in game Johan Santana pitched in Atlanta. In The off season the Mets announced their entire coaching staff would return in 2013.

In 2013 Warthen had the pleasure of coaching Matt Harvey, who went on to start for the National League in the All Star Game held at Citi Field. Harvey took the league by storm, blowing batters away & pitching so well, there was a chance of a no hitter every time he took the mound. Harvey had once given credit to Warthen for helping him with a better grip on the ball.

The Mets also brought up another fine young pitcher; Zack Wheeler later that season.

Overall the Mets staff was second in the league in innings pitched, eighth in ERA (3.78) saves (40) ninth in strike outs (1209) & tenth in wins (74). They were also fourth in losses (88) fifth in walks (458) eighth in runs (684) & twelfth in hits (1442).

In Spring Training 2014, Warthen made a joke, using the word "Chinaman" toward the interpreter for Daisuke Matsuzaka during an interview. The joke was in bad taste & he made a public apology the next day.

Unfortunately, for the Mets Matt Harvey would be out the entire season having undergone Tommy John surgery. The team would soon loose their closer Bobby Parnell after one game & Without the ace of his staff or his closer the pitching coach went to work. 

Overall the young Mets staff did a fine job, Jenry Mejia eventually filled the closer role (28 saves) & Jacob deGrom brought up later in the year went on to win the NL Rookie of te Year Award.

The 2014 Mets finished third in strike outs (1303) fourth in innings pitched (1463) fifth in ERA (3.49) & seventh in wins (79). 

In 2015 good things were anticipated for the Mets mostly due to their young pitching staff. The return of Matt Harvey from his Tommy John surgery, was so good it earned him the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Jacob deGrom pushed aside any idea of a sophomore jinx & went on to arguably be the ace of the staff. Veteran Bartolo Colon went on to win another 14 games while eating up innings.

During the season fireball throwing Noah Syndergaard was brought up & challenged deGrom & Harvey with strike outs & effectiveness. 

In late summer another Mets phenom, Steven Matz was brought up, quickly earned a spot in the rotation in the regulars season as well as post season. With all these young outstanding arms, the Mets did not miss Zack Wheeler as much as was originally thought at the start of the season. 

In late August he was rushed to the hospital after feeling ill, but was eventually released with a clean bill of health. 

In the bullpen the Mets scheduled closer Jenrry Mejia was suspended for once again violating MLBs drug rules. The 8th inning man from 2014, Jeurys Familia yook the role & became one of the best if not the best in the game. Late season additions Tyler Clippard & Addison Reed made the bullpen solid in the mid & late innings. This all certainly made Warthen's job a lot easier.

The Mets won the East as the staff was third in the NL in saves (50) fourth in ERA (3.43) fifth in wins (90) & sixth in strike outs (1337).

His staff dominated in the NL rounds of the playoffs posting a 3.48 ERA in NLDS against the L.A. Dodgers. The staff allowed 17 runs with 54 Ks & 13 walks. In the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs the Mets staff posted a 2.00 ERA with 37 Ks & 9 walks. They struggled in the World Series as their ERA rose to 4.21 allowing 24 earned runs, 17 walks & 37 Ks.

In 2016 Warthen's pitching staff suffered season ending injuries to Matt Harvey by mid summer & then later aces Jacob deGrom & Steven Matz also went down. His work with youngsters Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman & Josh Smoker helped the Mets get to the post season for a second straight year, although they fell in the NL Wild Card Game.

The 2016 NL Saves leader Jeurys Familia also credited Warthen with helping him throw a better slider with a better grip.

The 2016 staff allowed the fewest walks (439) & HRs (152) in the NL, they were also third in the NL in ERA (3.58) Fourth in wins (84) & first in saves (55). With an all healthy staff hopefully ready to go in 2017, there's lots of competition as Warthen's job looks to be a good one, as he choses who will make the starting five.

Mets 1978 N.L. ERA Leader: Craig Swan (1973-1984)

Craig Steven Swan was born on November 30, 1950 in Van Nuys, California. He was drafted at age 17, but chose to attend Arizona State University instead. There he was a top pitcher, setting a record in the 1972 College World Series allowing only one run over 18 innings pitched.

The six foot three, right handed Swan, had a good moving fastball in the low nineties and a hard slider. He was selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 1972 draft. He had a brief cup of coffee in September 1973, debuting on against the Philadelphia on September 2nd, where he gave up four earned runs on nine hits in four innings pitched.

His next outing went better, pitching two scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs, two weeks later. He was with the club at the start of the 1974 season, having a great day on May 11th. At the plate he had three hits, driving in a run, scoring another while pitching six shutout innings to earn his first career win. In June he broke his arm and missed the rest of the season finishing up at 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA. He returned to AAA Tidewater in 1975, and was named the International League MVP going 13-7 with a 2.24 ERA.

Swan made the 1976 Mets staff as their fifth starter, behind Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman & veteran Mickey Lolich brought in from Detroit in the Rusty Staub trade. He lost his first decision then pitched a five hit complete game shutout in Atlanta to beat the Braves. He then beat the Big Red Machine in his next outing. He had a horrible May losing five straight decisions, and only won two more games the rest of the year.

He did have good stretch in June pitching into the 7th inning or beyond giving up two runs or less five different times. All he had to show for it were two wins, two losses and a no decision due to lack of run support. The no decision came during a 10 inning three hit shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Over a stretch of three games he allowed just a single earned run in 26 innings (0.35 ERA) with 21 strikeouts. He finished the year 6-9 with a 3.54 ERA, 89 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched.

In 1977 he began the year with a 1-4 record, improving to .500 by the All Star break. His best month was July when he was 3-1, including pitching a three hit shutout against the eventual NL Champion Dodgers in Los Angeles. He finished the year at 9-10, the second most wins on the staff, with a 4.23 ERA & 71 strikeouts in 146 innings pitched, as the Mets sank to last place.

Swan began 1978 with a five hit shutout victory against the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, in the 5th game of the season. Although he pitched well, he didn’t earn another victory until mid July. He had allowed two runs or less ten times, and had actually allowed no runs pitching into the 7th inning three different times. During that stretch he posted a 2.66 ERA going 1-5, but this was a Mets team that didn’t score many runs. 

He had a 13 strikeout performance on Independence Day, but gave up two 9th inning runs and took the 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He was one of the very few bright spots for the Mets in the summer of ’78, winning seven straight decisions during July & August. On August 15th he pitched a five hit victory at Shea against the San Diego Padres, where he allowed no earaned runs. When he faced the Padres in San Diego on the next road trip he beat Gaylord Perry in a 2-1 pitcher's duel allowing just five hits.

Although he lost to the NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers on August 20th at Shea, he struck out ten batters. He won eight of his last nine games, posting the league’s best ERA. On September 16th, he allowed one run and three hits over nine innings but again got no decision.

He finished the season leading the National League in ERA (2.43) posting a 9-6 record, pitching in 207 innings and striking out 125 batters. He pitched well at home, posting a 1.67 ERA at Shea Stadium, with a 5-2 record.

Swan was the Mets 1979 Opening Day starter & earned the win in a wild 10-6 win at Wrigley Field. In his next start he allowed just one earned run in nine innings pitched against the Expos but go no decision. On April 25th at Shea Stadium, he tossed a two hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants walking only one batter.

In June he won three straight games, allowing only three runs over three straight complete games. In San Francisco he tossed another shut out against the Giants, this time a six hitter with seven strike outs on July 25th. He won his first three games in August, then suffered four losing decisions.

He finished off the season with two victories at the end of September, giving him 14 wins on the year. That total was more than any of his two team mates combined in that dismal season. He averaged two walks every nine innings which was one of the league's best ratios as well.

For 1979 he led the staff in ERA (3.29) wins (14) strike outs (145) shut outs (3) complete games (10) innings pitched (251) starts (35) as well as HRs, hits & runs allowed. His numbers were pretty much all career bests as by now he had developed into a mature pitcher. In the off season, he became the highest paid Mets pitcher in history signing a large contract that got him $560,000 for the 1980 season.

On Opening Day 1980 he beat the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, with a lineup of Frank Tavares, Eliot Maddox, Lee Mazzilli, Steve Henderson, Mike Jorgenson, Jerry Morales, John Stearns & Doug Flynn behind him. On May 9th he beat the Expos in Montreal allowing just one run on three hits. On May 25th he beat the Atlanta Braves throwing another three hitter, this time a shut out performance.

By mid-June he was 5-4 with a 2.21 ERA on another bad hitting team. After losing his next four decisions, he was placed on the disabled list in what turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. He made two more starts pitched poorly & was done for the season by mid August. He went 5-9 with a 3.58 ERA, pitching 128 innings striking out 79 batters & walking 30.

He started out pitching in 1981 but went down again, missing most of the season, appearing in only five games. In one freak accident he fractured a rib, when he was hit by a throw from John Stearns trying to nail a base runner. He really should be recognized for the amazing accomplishment of being maybe the first pitcher to successfully come back from rotator cuff surgery.

After suffering a loss on April 12th, he earned a win pitching one inning of relief on April 21st at Shea Stadium. By June he was back in the starting rotation, winning his first two starts in the month. After two early season starts he spent some time in the bullpen, earning a save and posting a 1.30 ERA in relief. On August 4th, the day Joel Youngblood made history driving in the winning run for two different teams, Swan hit his only major league HR.  

In September as the Mets were on their way to lose 97 games, Swan won four of his five starts, with a complete game in his final start.

In 1982 he was second for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, leading the team with 11 wins (11-7) with a .611 winning %, pitching in 37 games, 166 innings, 67 strikeouts & a 3.35 ERA. During Spring Training the next season, he Swan felt something pop in his arm but he pitched through the injury.

He pitched the second game of the season after Tom Seavers Opening Day return to New York, and beat Philadelphia 6-2. His arm trouble affected his throwing as he only won one more game on the year, going 2-8 with a 5.51 ERA.

In 1984, while the Mets were competing for the title, Swan managed only ten awful relief appearances before being released on May 9th. The Angels signed him two weeks later but after two bad appearances he was through.

After a 12 season career, he finished up Lifetime 59-72 with seven saves, 673 strikeouts and a 3.74 ERA in 1235 innings pitched. He has that one ERA title to his credit as well. Swan is 12th on the Mets all time list in victories (59) 11th in shut outs (7) 9th in complete games (25) 8th in innings (1230) & 9th in starts (184).

Retirement: As Swan was recovering from rotator cuff surgery he discovered the technique of Rolfing. It helped strengthen his muscles back into shape. He enrolled in the Rolfe institute in Boulder Colorado and went into the practice. His office is located in Greenwich Connecticut and his son has now joined his staff.

Swan now lives in the Riverside section of Greenwich, Connecticut. Among the patients he has helped, is former team mate, Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Years ago, Swannie lost millions of dollars in bad investments, and credits Fred Wilpon in helping get his daughter into the University of Michigan.

Former Mets Pitcher: Juan Berenguer (1978-1980)

Juan Batista Berenguer was born November 30th 1954 in Aguadulce, Cocle, Panama. The five foot eleven, right handed pitcher was signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1975.

Berenguer had a high nineties fastball which earned him the nickname "el gasolino" & "senor smoke". He also was known as "pancho villa" with his menacing looks of long hair & moustache on the mound.

He put up big strike out numbers in the Mets minors going from A ball Lynchburg to AA Jackson & then AAA Tidewater in three quick seasons. Unfortunately he was having major control issues & was walking almost as many batters as he struck out. By 1978 he was 10-7 with a 3.67 ERA & 130 Ks at Tidewater when he got the big league call up to a Mets team looking for something.

He debuted on August 17th, getting his first start, but gave up five runs on four hits to the San Diego Padres earning a loss. He returned as a September call up taking another loss on September 4th, as the Pirates roughed him up for five more runs at Pittsburgh. He ended the year at 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA.

He got another September call up appearing in five games going 1-1 with a solid 2.93 ERA. In his last start on September 29th he pitched 7.1 innings beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2 for his first career win. In 1980 another September call up resulted in a 0-1 record, with a 5.79 ERA in six games. In his three seasons with the Mets he struck out 40 batters but walked 33 in 53 innings of work. The Mets did not like his control issues & traded him to the Kansas City Royals for Marvell Wynne.

Trivia: He appears on two different Mets Rookie Prospects cards- 1979 & 1981. The 1981 card features Mets future hero; Mookie Wilson.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, he led the AL in losses (13) between the Royals & Toronto Blue Jays. He would end up on the Detroit Tigers pitching four seasons there, winning a World Series with them in 1984 while going 11-10 with a 3.48 ERA.

He spent one year with the San Francisco Giants before going to the Minnesota Twins (1987-1990) where he had much success. In the Twins 1987 Championship year he was 8-1 with four saves and a 3.94 ERA.

Post Season: He appeared in four of the five ALCS games against the Detroit Tigers, earning a save in Game #1. He pitched in three games of the 1987 World Series, taking a loss in Game #3 after blowing a 7th inning 1-0 lead, as Vince Coleman & Ozzie Smith both drove in runs.

Berenguer then moved on to the Atlanta Braves (1991-1992) going 3-4 in 77 games as a reliever, as the team got to the World Series in 1991. He missed out on playing as he had a freak accident breaking his arm, at home while wrestling with his kids. He ended his career getting traded to the Kansas City Royals in July of 1992.

In a 15 year career he was 67-62 with 32 saves in 490 games, 95 starts. He struck out 975 batters walking 604 in 1205 innings of work.

Post Playing Career: After his playing days he worked for a Minnesota television station.

He has been at ceremonies honoring the Twins & Tigers Championship teams.

His son Chris played hockey in the US Hockey League.

Nov 29, 2016

Cespedes Remains A Met!!

Yoenis Cespedes & the Mets have agreed to a four year $110 million deal! That means the Mets are series & ready to avenge their NL Championship title from two seasons ago & take it to the next level, a long awaited championship.

Cespedes has more than proven his worth as a Met, I have been saying this for the past two contract negotiations, it's a no brainer.

He is a proven All Star, he has proven that he can play in New York. He has proven he can hit for power, drive in runs & throw out almost any one with his arm. He is good in the club house & the fans love him. He has taken the Mets to the playoffs both seasons he has been on the roster, including a World Series.

And in case anyone forgot, had the greatest performance any player has ever had in a pennant race two seasons ago, with an incredible August.

Looking forward to a great 2017 with Cespedes a crowded talented outfield, solid defense up the middle, a good bench & a healthy pitching staff with lots of talent fighting for spots as well. Lets Go Mets!!

Former Mets Hitting Coach: Dave Engle (2001-2002)

Ralph David Engle was born on November 30th, 1956 in San Diego California. The six foot three, right hand hitting Engle began his career as an outfielder but was converted over to a catcher. 

He attended the University of Southern California & won championships on the baseball & football teams in his junior year. In 1978 he was selected as a third round pick of the California Angels.

In 1979 Engle was sent to the Minnesota Twins along with Ken Landreaux in exchange for Hall of Famer; Rod Carew. With the Twins he was a team mate of his brother in law; Tom Brunansky. By 1981 he was an outfielder for the Twins hitting .258 with 5 Hrs 14 doubles & 32 RBIs. He came in fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. 

 In 1982 he was the first player to hit a HR in the new Metro Dome Stadium. Two years later in 1983, Engle was fully transformed into a catcher, he played in a career high 120 games, hitting a career best .305 with 8 HRs 22 doubles & 43 RBIs. In 1984 he made the AL All Star team, although he did not finish with as good a season as he did the previous year-  .266 average.

By 1985 he was moved over into a DH role due to a strange psychological arm throwing issue.He was then was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He spent 1986 with the Tigers then signed on with the Montreal Expos for two seasons as a reserve player.

 In his first at bat in Montreal he hit a pinch hit HR & filled in the spot of Tim Raines as he remained unsigned. He ended his playing career in 1989 with the Milwaukee Brewers. In a nine year career, he hit .262 with 431 hits 31 HRs 88 doubles & a .311 on base %.

Retirement: After his playing days he began as a minor league coach from 1995-1997. He then coached at the big league level with Houston Astros in 1998. 

In 200 he joined the Mets organization, coaching for the A Ball St. Lucie Mets in 2000. The next year; 2001 he joined Bobby Valentines staff as Mets hitting coach replacing Tom Robson. 

As the Mets team struggled batting a collective .249 with 147 HRs in 2001 (both 15th in the league) they made some big off season moves. The Mets acquired Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn & Jeromy Burnitz for 2002, but nothing worked out well & the Mets finished fifth.

Engle was released from his coaching role & replanted in the minor league system. He was replaced by Chris Chambliss. Engel is currently a scout for the Baltimore Orioles.

The Legend of New York Giants Outfielder: Moonlight Grahm (1905)

Archibald "Moonlight" Graham was born on  November 12th, 1877 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Graham made one appearance in a major league game.

On June 29th, 1905 he was placed in right field, but never got a turn at bat for John McGraw's 1905 World Champion New York Giants.
It was not on the field but in fiction where Graham became famous.

In 1975 author W.P. Kinsella, had taken notice of Graham's statistic in the Baseball Encyclopedia. He used the character in his novel; Shoeless Joe which the movie Field of Dreams was based on. In the movie Kevin Costner & James Earl Jones are sent to Fenway Park in Boston by the voice that tells them "If you build it he will come." And "Ease his pain".

At the game the Graham stat is seen only by them on the scoreboard.  The voice tells them, "Go the distance..." as the two soon drive off to Chisholm, Minnesota, to find out what they can about the man and his mysterious MLB career.

In the movie Graham as an older man was portrayed by Burt Lancaster & Frank Whaley as a younger man. The film also gives the message that during that era, many of the minor league teams, such as the ones Graham had played for,  may have been as good as the major league teams. Some of the actual dates were changed for the films purposes.

As for the real life Moonlight Graham, he attended the University of North Carolina where his brother was president of the School. He later became a United States Senator. Moonlight played baseball in college & then moved onto the minor leagues in New England.

In 1905 he played in the New York State League where his contract was purchased by the New York Giants. On June 29th, 1905 he was inserted in right field in the 8th inning, at Washington Park in Brooklyn, in a game against the Brooklyn Superbas. In the 9th inning he was the next batter when the final out was made, so he never got a chance to hit.

He went back to the New York Penn. League, where he missed winning the batting title in 1906 by just four points. Graham was considered one of the fastest players on the base paths in his league as well.

Graham finished medical school & gave up baseball to become a medical doctor. He was known as Doc Graham & worked in schools in the Chisholm, Minnesota area. He would have used glasses sent to his office & on weekends, he checked the eyes of children who's fathers worked in the Iron Range & distributed them as needed, free of charge. The Graham Scholarship is still given to this day, in Chisholm schools, named in his honor.

Moonlight Graham passed away in August 1965, at age 85.

Nov 28, 2016

1986 World Champion Mets Infielder: Howard Johnson- Part One (The Eighties)

Howard Michael Johnson known as "Hojo" was born on November 29, 1960 in Clearwater, Florida. The five foot eleven switch hitter was originally drafted as a first round, pitcher out of St. Petersburg College, by the Detroit Tigers in 1979.

In the minors he was converted into a third baseman due to bat & his strong arm. In his third minor league season he hit 22 HRs at AA Birmingham in 1981. In 1982 he hit 23 HRs while batting .317 stealing 35 bases at AAA Evansville earning a call up to the big leagues.

He came up to the Tigers in 1982 as a back up to Tom Brookens batting .316 with 4 HRs in 54 games. By 1984 he was being platooned with Brookens, starting out the year hot, driving in run in six of ten games in May. A strong June had him hit up at the .300 mark along with four HRs. But he tailed off as the year came to an end, and he saw less playing time in September after the Tigers rolled over the American League. Soon veterans Darrel Evans & Marty Castillo were getting more playing time, especially in the post season.

Hojo had 12 HRs 50 RBIs & batted .248 in 116 games, but only had one at bat going 0-1 in the post season as the Tigers won the World Series. After the season, he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher Walt Terrell.

He arrived in New York as one of three third baseman, but Hubbie Brooks was quickly traded in a deal to acquire All Star catcher, Gary Carter. Hojo was the Mets starting third baseman on Opening Day1985, getting a hit & drawing an RBI walk in the 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Hojo's debut went under noticed, since Carter was also making his debut & hit a walk off game winning HR.

Johnson struggled not getting above the .200 mark until July 4th, that month things got better for him. As Ray Knight struggled, hitting just .218 on the year, Johnson remained the teams main third baseman. He drove in 16 runs, raised his average thirty four points and hit four HRs. On August 3rd his top of the 10th inning HR in Chicago, off the Cubs George Frazier broke the 4-4 tie & was the game winner. On September 10th he hit a grand slam HR off the St. Louis Cardinals John Tudor, keeping New York in first place, one game up after the 5-4 win.

Three weeks later on September 29th, his three hit three RBI day, including a HR, helped the Mets beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh 9-7. Hojo hit, 242 with 11 HRs 18 doubles & 46 RBIs, posting a .300 on base %. For 1985 he played 126 games at third base posting a .941 fielding % making 15 errors in 253 chances.

In 1986 he started out well batting .357 in April. On April 24th Hojo hit a two run HR off St. Louis' Todd Worrell tying up the game in the top of the 9th inning. The Mets went on to beat the rival Cardinals 5-4 on George Fosters RBI base hit. From there he spent time on the DL miss most of the month of June.

Upon his return he struggled, losing his starting job at third base, to Ray Knight who would bat .298. On June 23rd he hit two HRs in a game against the Montreal Expos, even though the Mets lost 5-4. Johnson had only hit one HR going into mid June then went on a tear hitting 6 HRs during the next month.

One of his biggest blasts came during the legendary July 22nd game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The Reds Eric Davis had slid hard into third base & Mets third baseman Ray Knight went crazy. He immediately took his glove off & threw a punch at Davis. A classic bench clearing brawl occurred as both dugouts & bull pen's emptied. Players were ejected & manager Davey Johnson had to fill spots on the field, including having pitcher Roger McDowell play outfield.

Johnson followed up with a three-run HR off Ted Power in the top of the 14th inning, which led to the Mets 6-3 victory. Hojo’s constant smile and good sense of humor was constant throughout the year.

He became Roger McDowell’s side kick in issuing the “hot foot” to Mets players in the dugout. The “Hot Foot” was when a matchbook was stuck with bubble gum to the back of a players shoe & lit on fire by either Johnson or McDowell.

This was demonstrated in the 1987 “Let’s Go Mets” video by Johnson & McDowell. He finished the 1986 Championship year batting .249 with 10 HRs 14 doubles, 39 RBIs & a .341 on base %.

Post Season: HoJo was shut out in the postseason, going 0-for-7 in the four games he played in. His only start was Game #2 of the 1986 World Series when he went 0-for-4 in the Mets loss. His only other at bat in the series was in Game #6 when he struck out in the ninth inning.

Trivia: Hojo goes down in Mets history as the first Met to greet Ray Knight at home plate as he scored the miraculous winning run in the classic World Series Game # 6.

At age 25 Johnson already had won his second World Series title. Ray Knight was gone after the World Series and Johnson became the Mets regular third baseman. He developed into one of the league’s top power hitters over the next two seasons. After a slow April, he went on a three month tear starting out with a five HR 15 RBI stretch from May 10th through May 20th. In June he had a stretch where he homered in three of four games & then three more HRs in three straight games the next week.

He had 20 HRs by the All Star break and in July he had a stretch of driving in six runs in a seven game span. From July 10th through July 16th he hit six HRs driving in eight runs. He started August with a grand slam in Montreal in the Mets 12-4 blowout win. During a thirteen-game span he had at least one RBI in all but one game. In mid August he homered in three straight games, driving in seven more runs in that span.

On August 31st he hit a top of the 10th inning HR off The Pares Keith Comstock for a game winning 6-5 Mets win in San Diego. Two days later his two run HR off Ed Whitson led New York to a 3-2 win, helping Dwight Gooden complete the three game sweep of the Padres. On September 21st he hit another grand slam, this one at Wrigley Field in Chicago helping the Mets to a big win. The win had the Mets keep pace with the Cardinals just 2 1/2 games back. They would fade away in the final week of the season & finish a very close second by just three games.

Hojo had always been a quick base runner as well. In the late eighties the trend became joining the & so called exclusive 30/30 club. Hojo did just that as he stole 32 bases & finished the year with 36 HRs (7th in the league). That year he set a HR record for NL switch hitters with his 36 HRs. He was overall a much a better hitter from the right side of the plate.

He had 99 RBIs, second on the club to Daryl Strawberry & tenth most in the league. He hit 22 doubles with 93 runs scored while posting a 3.64 on base percentage. He was now being recognized as a new Mets slugger as the careers of Gary Carter & Keith Hernandez were beginning to wind down. Johnson even earned 42 points in the MVP voting as well. The free swinging Hojo struck out 113 times (9th in the NL). It was the first in a five year stretch where he struck out over 100 times.

In 1988, Johnson’s numbers fell off, especially after he suffered a right shoulder injury. In April he batted just .171 with three HRs. On May 1st he helped Doc Gooden go to 6-0 as he hit a three run HR & drove in four of the Mets 11 runs in an 11-0 shutout. On June 2nd he hit a walk off HR against the Cubs Frank DiPino in the bottom of the 13th inning. In the final week of the month he hit four HRs & drove in runs in six of eight games. On June 29th he hit a bottom of the 9th inning HR at Shea Stadium, off the Pirates Jim Gott. The HR tied the game, in which the Mets went on to win in the bottom of the 13th.

He began July by driving in runs in the first four games of the month. hitting just .230 on the season. But he still showed some power with 24 HRs 24 doubles & 68 RBIs, setting a Mets record with 25 intentional walks. On August 27th, his first inning two run single, were the only runs Ron Darling needed in his 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants Rick Reuschel. On September 8, 1988 at Wrigley Field he had the only five-hit game of his career, going 5-for-5 with a three-run HR & four RBIs.

As Johnson was struggling on the field, mostly due to his back issues, the Mets tried out the highly touted 21-year-old prospect, Gregg Jefferies at third base, Jeffries started out on a tear & had a hot September. The Mets clinched another NL Eastern title that season, as Johnson batted .230 with 24 HRs 21 doubles & 68 RBIs. He walked 86 times (fourth in the NL) posting another good on base % at .343%, while playing in 148 games.

Post Season: Johnson struggled in the 1988 NLCS going just 1-for-18 with six strikeouts. He did not help the Mets cause, in the losing effort to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was benched in the final two games, with the exception of a Game #7 pinch hit role, where he struck out. Greg Jeffries played third base in both those games.

Trade rumors about Johnson were all over the news during that off season, but instead it was Wally Backman who got shipped out of New York. Jeffries took over second base & Johnson remained as the Mets third baseman. He would commit 24 errors at third, second most in the league in the position & fifth most out of all position players. Johnson committed a lot of errors in his career (163 overall), leading the league twice (1990-1991) & coming in the top four at third base four times.

Davey Johnson moved him up from sixth in the batting order to the number three spot in front of Daryl Strawberry in 1989. He responded by having an awesome year & the fact that he stayed healthy certainly was a difference. It began with a solo HR & three RBIs on Opening Day, as he helped New York beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-4.

In May he hit HRs in back to back games at the start of the month, including a walk off HR against the Cincinnati Red's Rob Dibble. He went on a tear in June, as he hit 11 HRs driving in 24 runs, winning the NL Player of the Month award. He hit five HRs in the first eight games that month, and had a hitting streak where he hit safely in 16 of 18 games entering July.

That season he was name to his first All Star team & started at third base for the NL in the All-Star Game held in Anaheim. In his first at bat, he drove in a run with a single off Oakland's Dave Stewart. The AL won the game 5-3.

On August 20th he hit his 30th HR of the season & joined Bobby Bonds and Willie Mays as the only multi-year members of the 30-30 club. He hit five HRs in September but the Mets finished second that year, six games behind the Chicago Cubs.

He personally finished 1989 second in the NL with 36 HRs, (tying his career-high and his own NL record for switch hitters) He led the league with 104 runs scored, drove in 101 runs (4th in the league) hit 41 doubles which set a Mets club record & was third most in the league. Johnson stole 41 bases (4th in the NL) finishing fifth in the MVP voting.

1986 World Champion Mets Infielder: Howard Johnson- Part Two (The Nineties & Beyond)

In 1990 Howard Johnson doubled his salary, earning one point six million dollars & with that, the expectations for him were very high. He hit a HR on Opening Day but finished April at .252 with just four HRs. He began May with HRs in back to back games, & hit a third two days later, but didn't do too much more the rest  of the month. That June, he had one of his best games, having his first career five-RBI game. That day he also hit a grand slam HR in a 15-10 Mets win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On June 26th in St. Louis, his double in the top of the 10th inning, off reliever Ken Dayley broke the tie & turned out to be the Mets game winning runs.

When Kevin Elster went down at short stop with injury, Hojo moved into the position for the last two months of the season. On August 31st he drove in the winning run off Steve Bedrosian to beat the San Francisco Giants. In September he hit three HRs & drove in 14 runs as the Mets finished the season in second place, four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1990 he played 154 games, stealing 34 bases with 37 doubles (fourth in the NL) & 90 RBIs, but his HR production fell to 23 HRs and he hit just.244 with a .319 on base %. His 63 extra base hits were sixth in the league & his nine sac flies were 8th most. On the field he led the league in errors for the first of two straight seasons & struck out 100 times.

Trivia: Between 1987 and 1991, Howard Johnson hit 157 HRs. Only his Mets team mate Darryl Strawberry, along with Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco hit more HRs during that period.

In 1991 the Mets faded off to a fifth place finish & there wasn't too much left over from the '86 Championship team. Just six other players besides Johnson had been around that long & the face of the organization was certainly different. Hojo returned starting out a bit slow in April, batting just .211 although he did hit fur HRs. On May 4th he hit a walk off HR off Mike Lacoss to beat the San Francisco Giants 4-3 at Shea Stadium. A week later he hit another HR off Lacoss in a 4-2 Mets win at San Francisco.

At the end of May he drove in runs in nine of twelve games & had 11 HRs for the season. In June he picked up his pace, as he hit six HRs in the month & passed Dave Kingman going into second place on the Mets all time HR list.

On June 8th he won the game in Houston with a top of the 11th inning HR off Mike Capel. On June 18th Hojo hit a grand slam off the Reds Tom Browning at Shea Stadium. Midway through at the All Star break, Hojo had 19 HRs with 63 RBIs & was voted to his second midsummer classic.

In August he hit six HRs, topped off by hitting a pair of long balls on May 31st in Cincinnati. That day he drove in three runs leading to the Mets 8-7 win. He finished out the year with a fantastic September, hitting 10 HRs with 28 RBIs, earning him his second National League Player of the Month award. He was one of the very few bright spots for a lowly Mets team.

It was possibly his best season of all, as for the first time in history a Mets player led the league in both HRs (38)& RBIs (117). Not only that but he is also the only Met to have ever have led the league in the RBI category. He also became the only player besides Barry Bonds to join the 30-30 club in three different seasons.

Hojo scored 108 runs, which tied a Mets club record, hitting 34 doubles while stealing 34 bases. He posted a .342 on base % & hit .259, while finishing fifth in the league's MVP voting. He was so bad in the infield that, that season he began to play some outfield (30 games).

In the off season, the Mets went out & bought a bunch of high priced free agents that all would pretty much all fail, especially as a team together. As the team went down strangely so did Johnson. In 100 games he hit only seven HRs with 43 RBIs batting a lowly .223 his worst average of his Mets career. Johnson's only bright spot was when he passed Ted Simmons for the N.L record with most HRs by a switch hitter (183).

The next year (1993) was even worse for him, as injuries limited him to 72 games and at age 32 he seemed washed up. The Mets let him go to free agency & he moved on, signing a one year deal in Colorado with the Rockies.

In his nine year Mets career, Howard Johnson ranks high in many offensive categories. He is fourth all time on the Mets list in HRs (192) RBIs (629) doubles (214) stolen bases (202) runs scored (627) & walks (556). He has 997 hits (10th on the Mets all time list) in 1154 Mets games played (6th all time) with a .251 batting average. He is third in sac flies (50) & in strike outs (827).

In 1994, Johnson signed with the Colorado Rockies & in the strike shortened year he batted a career low .211. He signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1995 hit only .195 and retired at age 35. After a 14 year career he had batted .249 with 1229 hits 228 HRs 247 doubles 231 stolen bases 692 walks & a .340 on base % in 1531 games played.

With his glove he made 163 errors on the field. He played 1031 games at third base (98th all time) posting a .929 fielding %. Johnson played 273 games at short, 217 games in the outfield eight games at second & five games at first base.

Retirement: In 2001 Johnson was named the batting coach of the Mets' new minor league A ball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones. He became their manager the following season. He was then the hitting coach for the St. Lucie Mets, winning the Florida State championship in 2003. The next year he moved up to the AA Binghamton Mets. 

In 2005 he was the Norfolk Tides batting instructor & had the team hitting their best in six years. In 2007, he returned to New York as the Mets first base coach and eventually became their hitting coach in 2008. He served two years in that capacity but was not asked back in 2010 although he still was working in the organization.

Hojo joined the Seattle Mariners organization in 2013, starting out as coach for AAA Tacoma. Since 2014, he has been the Seattle Mariners hitting coach under Manager Lloyd McClendon.

Honors: He remains a popular Mets figure & was on hand for many of the recent team celebrations. He was on hand at the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1986 team in 2006 and the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008.

Johnson & his wife have three children. His daughter Shannon is a figure skating coach in Florida & his son Glen plays pro baseball. He was offered a contract by the Mets in 2007 being drafted in the 37th round but did not sign.

In 2011 at age 50 he returned to pro ball playing two minor league games with his son for the Rockland Boulders