Howard Johnson was one of the better sluggers on the New York Mets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the 1991 season, he put on a terrific power display.
In 1991, New York Mets third baseman Howard Johnson put together a monster campaign. Two years removed from his first trip to the All-Star Game and his first 100 RBI season, Johnson decided it was time to differentiate himself further from the hotel chain of the same name.
Once again, Johnson was an All-Star for the Mets in 1991. In what ended up as his last productive year as a big league player, we saw him leave everything on the field and more.
Johnson hit a career-high 38 home runs and drove in 117 during this career-year. Each total not only led the back of his baseball card. They also topped the National League.
Johnson did more than swing for the fences. Sometimes, he came up short and settled for sacrifice flies. In this particular season, he led the league with 15 sacrifice flies. The underrated achievement surely helped the Mets in ways other numbers cannot measure.
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Although his slash line was not his best, we can’t really criticize him. Johnson still did bat .259/.342/.535. Combined with the superior power numbers, it’s a brag-worthy achievement for sure.
The 108 runs Johnson scored didn’t lead the league like the 104 he had in 1989 did. However, Johnson never scored more runs.
As a reward for his efforts, Johnson finished fifth in the MVP voting; just as he did in 1989. He did take home his second Silver Slugger which is certainly a fine consolation prize for having such a powerful season.
Younger Mets fans likely aren’t as familiar with Johnson’s name as the older ones are. His lack of postseason success surely factors into this.
When fans are too young to remember past seasons, it helps to have an iconic moment. Johnson barely played in the 1986 World Series and went only 1 for 18 in the 1988 postseason.
Nevertheless, Johnson’s 38 home runs in 1991 stand out. He came a single home run shy of tying the franchise record set by Darryl Strawberry in 1987 (matched again in 1988).
If only a few more of those sacrifice flies traveled a bit further, Johnson would hold have held the record at some point.
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Instead, he’s a good runner-up that can at least always claim to own a home run title.