Todd Hundley is no longer tied with Carlos Beltran as the single-season New York Mets home run champion. However, his 1996 performance is still a marvel in MLB history.
With Pete Alonso passing Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley for the New York Mets single-season home run record, we have to rewrite a lot of the franchise’s history. For Beltran, he still has plenty of notable achievements. Statistically, he’s one of the best offensive players and possibly the best outfielder the team has ever had.
For Hundley, the story is a bit different. He cannot possibly compete with Mike Piazza, who many can claim is the best hitting catcher of all-time. Now without one of the records boys dream of owning when they become men, his 41 home runs in 1996 now mean a little less.
And when I say little, I really mean it.
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You see, Hundley hit his 41 dingers as a catcher. Before him, only one other player in MLB history hit 40 while playing behind the plate. Roy Campanella’s 1953 season included 40 strolls around the base. In 1996, Hundley passed him by one.
Piazza joined the 40-home run club in 1997 and revisited again as a member of the Mets in 1999. In 2003, Atlanta Braves catcher Javy Lopez managed to swat 42 home runs and become the single-season king of catcher home runs. Since, nobody else has joined the three.
Several National League catchers have passed the 30 home run mark. However, only five American League players have. The highest total in the DH league is 35—a record belonging to Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.
National League sluggers don’t have the same benefit as American Leaguers do. Catchers cannot take off a day from wearing the catcher’s mask and DH. Gary Sanchez, for instance, has already hit 30 home runs in his career but gets the chance to start as the DH every so often to save his knees from the wear and tear of the season.
Hundley may no longer hold the shared Mets home run record. His spot in Mets history remains relevant yet not quite as topical.
As far as Major League Baseball goes, his 1996 campaign will go unmatched. The man started 142 games for the Mets that year and completed 135 of them. During a losing season, he gave the team a whole lot of production.
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Alonso is the single-season home run champion for the Mets and nothing can take that away. Although we erase Hundley from atop the list, his outstanding peak season in the year I first became a baseball fan is one we shouldn’t forget. Regardless of the era it took place in, Hundley had a season for the ages.