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NY Mets: 3 monster offensive seasons that flew under the radar

UNSPECIFIED- CIRCA 1989: Howard Johnson #20 of the New York Mets bats during an Major League Baseball game circa 1989. Johnson played for the Mets from 1985-93 (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED- CIRCA 1989: Howard Johnson #20 of the New York Mets bats during an Major League Baseball game circa 1989. Johnson played for the Mets from 1985-93 (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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ANAHEIM, CA – JULY 11: Howard Johnson #20 of the New York Mets and National League All-Stars bats against the American League All-Stars during Major League Baseball All-Star game July 11, 1989 at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California. The American League won the game 5-3. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

1989: Howard Johnson finishes fifth in NL MVP voting, but Mets can’t quite crack playoffs

By the end of the 1980s, much of the core that helped the Amazins reach the promised land in 1986 had fractured, and they finished second in the NL East with an 87-75 record. Ray Knight and Kevin Mitchell were long gone. Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were in the last years of their Flushing tenures. Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell were traded mid-season to the Philadelphia Phillies. The glory days were, mostly, in the rearview mirror. Except in the case of Howard Johnson.

The man affectionately nicknamed “HoJo” was an important role player in 1986, but his true offensive power did not shine until the following seasons. Starting in 1987, he played nearly every game for the Amazins through the 1991 season. In 1989, with others around him starting to fade, Johnson posted a .287 batting average and a .928 OPS alongside 41 doubles, 36 home runs, 101 RBIs, 41 (!) stolen bases, and an NL-leading 104 runs scored. HoJo led the Mets that season in nearly every conceivable category, including games played, runs scored, hits, doubles, RBIs, home runs, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

For his Herculean efforts, Johnson finished fifth in the NL MVP voting, losing out to Mitchell, his former teammate. Still, that season vaulted Johnson into team record books; his 8.0 offensive WAR, as calculated by Baseball Reference, is the highest single-season offensive WAR in Mets history. Though he didn’t win the MVP in ’89, HoJo did win his first of two Silver Slugger awards and was named to his first of two All-Star teams — both of the others came in 1991, in which he also finished fifth in NL MVP voting.

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