1996: Bernard Gilkey has an outstanding year at the plate, while Todd Hundley and Lance Johnson also break Mets records
Bernard Gilkey’s most iconic Mets moment might be his Men In Black cameo, but his greatest moment was the entire 1996 season. He had come to New York the prior offseason via a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals, and spent parts of just three years in Flushing. However, in 1996, he had one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history, partially overshadowed by two of his teammates.
The 1996 Mets were, to put it kindly, fairly dreadful. They finished 71-91, and trudged to a fourth-place finish in the NL East. Amidst the losing, Todd Hundley set a new club record with 41 home runs, which is still the most for any catcher in a single season in team history. Center fielder Lance Johnson set two franchise records that still stand, notching 227 hits and 21 triples. Johnson also hit .333 that season, which is the fourth-highest single-season batting average in Mets history.
Not to be totally outdone, Gilkey mashed 44 doubles, which is still the Mets’ single-season record. He accompanied that mark with 181 hits, 108 runs scored, 30 home runs, 117 RBIs, a .317 batting average, and a .955 OPS, all of which were career highs. In 1996, while other Mets history was made around him, Gilkey led the Amazins in doubles, RBIs, OBP, and slugging. Gilkey also accumulated 8.1 position player bWAR in ’96, which is the third-highest single-season total in franchise history. He finished 14th in that year’s NL MVP voting, while Hundley and Johnson tied for 18th in the voting.
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These three standout offensive performances all occurred in years where the Mets did not make the playoffs, and none resulted in an MVP award, so they’re not quite as revered as they might otherwise be. Still, they all deserve to be recognized as impressive hitting achievements that rise near the top of the pitching-heavy Mets canon.