From here on out, it’s the David Wright/Howard Johnson show, so without further ado…
#5: Howard Johnson, 1991
Howard Johnson, like Bret Saberhagen, had a weird even year/odd year thing going. Every other year, he would have a great season, followed by a down season. It continued in 1991, following a disappointing 1990 season, HoJo bounced back with a huge 38 homer/34 double/30 steal season. Call it the 30/30/30 club, the second time he pulled off such a feat. Throw in a career-high 117 RBIs, and you’re left with a damned fine season on a team that went nowhere.
This season was the end of HoJo’s prime; he would spend another two more disappointing seasons in New York, not bouncing back in the odd year 1993 from a poor even year in 1992. He never played every day again and was out of the big leagues for good by age 35. In that way, he’s pretty similar to Edgardo Alfonzo, another Mets star who peaked early and was out of the majors only a few seasons removed from one of his best seasons. It is a shame that HoJo’s last great season wasn’t spent on a team that did anything, but blame management for tearing down the 80’s Mets dynasty brick by brick.
#4: David Wright, 2005
David Wright’s first full season in the big leagues…and it’s the 4th best offensive season at third base in Mets history. I’d say that’s pretty good. In fact, in 2005 this season would have ranked second in Mets history. You could start to see the traits that would make David Wright great develop in this first season. High number of walks, 40+ doubles, 27 homers, 100+ RBIs…there is a lot to love here.
Still, I want to use this season to (once again) point out Willie Randolph’s shortcomings as manager. Here is David Wright, having a phenomenal year; in 2005, he was unquestionably the best hitter on the team. Yet, for almost half the season, Willie had Wright batting 6th and 7th, behind a decomposing Mike Piazza, a light hitting Doug Mientkiewicz, and the atrocious Miguel Cairo. Wright batted third four times all season, all in games that Carlos Beltran sat out after crashing face-first into Mike Cameron, which brought Gerald “Ice” Williams into the lineup to play center field. Best hitter on the team, buried in the batting order. Willie Randolph, ladies and gentlemen.
#3: David Wright, 2008
No longer a rookie, David Wright put together another phenomonal year in 2008. He went over 40 doubles for the fourth straight season, batted .300 or better for the fourth straight season, and 100 RBIs for the fourth straight season. He was over 30 homers for the second straight season and over 90 walks for the second straight season. Basically, 2008 was another continuation of everything he had done since being brought up from the minor leagues, and that’s awesome hitting.
That is why, when you hear talk radio or newspaper writers talk about how there’s a David Wright on every team, laugh in their faces. David Wright is good for a consistent 25+ homers a season, 40+ doubles, 100+ RBIs, .300 or better batting average, .380 or better OBP, he will steal bases at a high percentage, and will draw 70 or more walks. That is the minimum of what he will do each and every season, and often he will surpass that. There are not 29 other players like David Wright playing major league baseball; there probably aren’t more than 5.
#2: David Wright, 2007
Here is where I suspect a lot of folks will be surprised. I argued vehemently that David Wright should have been the MVP in 2007. I still believe that. And I do believe that this season was truly excellent season. It was Wright’s first 30/30/30 season, another high RBI season…I hate ranking this season second. I truly do. But being that I’ve already written so much about David Wright’s 2007 season, I think it’s time I talked a little about…
#1: Howard Johnson, 1989
Howard Johnson set a Mets record in 1989; most extra base hits in a season. How can a season where a man hits 80 extra base hits not rank #1? Throw in 41 steals, and you have a hell of a season. Howard Johnson was really underrated, mostly because he played on teams that had Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, and other big hitters, and by the time HoJo became a regular, the Mets had already peaked and were settled into a series of second place finishes.
Still, you can’t blame those seasons on HoJo, he did what he could to keep the Mets in contention. He was second in the NL in homers, third in doubles, and fourth in stolen bases. Yet he finished fifth in the MVP race, behind former teammate Kevin Mitchell. I will happily concede that Mitch had a much better season than HoJo. I will not say the same about Ryne Sandberg and Pedro Guerrero. But what HoJo did that year, hit so many extra base hits in a league that favored pitching, is perhaps unique in Mets history. His 1989 season was special, and yet it feels like it is rarely talked about.