NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when the Mets owned New York City.

Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were larger than life; the biggest stars on the bad-boy, mid-80s Amazin’s. Gotham’s back pages were plastered with piping from the Mets’ now-classic uniforms. Older fans can remember how Shea Stadium would rock, how its concrete structure swayed during nearly every home game.

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And at the center of it all was Davey Johnson, manager of the 1986 championship Mets.

In town this week with his first-place Washington Nationals, Johnson couldn’t help but notice the difference between then and now.

“Citi Field is like a morgue here,” Johnson told 106.7 the Fan on Wednesday. “I remember when I was here, we had 50,000 packed in Shea.”

Johnson’s club would later complete the three-game sweep, adding to the post-All-Star-break misery of the Mets.

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And while fans haven’t exactly been heading out to Nationals Park in droves, Johnson insisted the juice is there for his team.

“Let me tell you, I love our ballpark, man,” he said. “The fans have been outstanding. I mean, they’re into it. It’s great. I’ve seen a big change since I’ve been there. … I really like the fans. I love the ballpark.”

There was much talk recently about the Mets’ so-called goals: .500 ball. Building optimism. Third place?

For Johnson, keeping his players motivated won’t be as challenging.

“Guys, we’re in a pennant race,” Johnson said. “These guys come to the ballpark and they’re flying high, man. They can’t wait. The energy is there. Trust me. I don’t have to do a Knute Rockne on these guys. They’re pumped. Believe it.”

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Mets fans — do you have any response to Davey? Sound off in the comments below!