The 1996 New York Mets didn’t win too many games, but there were some notable offensive performances resulting in new franchise records.
The 1996 MLB season was an important one in my life. It was the first year I started following baseball. I had the 1996 version of Strat-O-Matic which I loved to play as often as possible. This was long before the internet was commonplace for baseball numbers. I memorized a lot of the stats from that season and know which offenses were unstoppable. The New York Mets had one of those lineups thanks in large part to three records set by players on the team.
I romanticize the 1996 MLB season because of what it means in my life. However, it wasn’t all peaches and cream. The New York Yankees won the World Series. The best players in the game were on steroids, as much as I loved the home run. At 71-91, the Mets had a season to forget about.
Maybe not. The offense did have a jolt to it. Specifically, three players helped make it a season to watch. In 1996, three notable Mets offensive records were set. One of them remains intact.
Todd Hundley – 41 Home Runs
By far the most notable Mets record set in 1996 is the one where Todd Hundley hit 41 home runs. We know all about this one because it’s a record that remained until 2019 when Pete Alonso hit 53. Carlos Beltran did tie Hundley in 2006, but nobody ever managed to hit more than the club’s catcher in 1996.
Before Hundley, the franchise record sat at 39. Darryl Strawberry knocked those dingers in 1987 and 1988, never quite going over the hill with 40.
Lance Johnson – 227 Hits
The record still intact from the 1996 season came off the bat of Lance Johnson. The speedy center fielder knocked 227 hits for the Mets. Only Jose Reyes has ever crossed 200 hits which could mean this is one of those unbreakable records no one in franchise history ever matches or beats.
Johnson beat the previous Mets record of 191 hits held by Felix Millan since 1975. Many have topped Millan’s old record since, but no one has come close to touching Johnson.
One more thing about Johnson’s 1996 season: he set a few other records, too. His 21 triples and 166 singles remain franchise records
Bernard Gilkey – 8.1 WAR
WAR wasn’t a thing in 1996. However, Bernard Gilkey set the franchise record with an 8.1 WAR. In the years since, only David Wright (8.3) in 2007 and Carlos Beltran (8.2) in 2006 have topped Gilkey’s total.
The record he broke? It belonged to Cleon Jones in 1969 when the great Mets outfielder posted a WAR of 7.
Like Johnson, Gilkey does have a record nobody has taken down. His 44 doubles bested the 41 by Howard Johnson in 1989. At the time, Gilkey’s 117 RBI was also a franchise record, tied with HoJo’s 1991 total.
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The 1996 season marked the first full season back from the shortened 1994 and 1995 campaigns. These three Mets took advantage of it with a trio of historic seasons at the plate.