Howard Johnson still only Mets player to lead NL in this category

The 1 and only … Met to lead the National League in RBIs: Howard Johnson

The Time: 1991

The Background: HoJo shared third base with Ray Knight in 1985 and on the 1986 championship Mets before breaking out as the full-time starter in 1987. The switch hitter was a National League All-Star in 1989 during a season in which he hit .287, drove in 101 runs, cracked 36 home runs and led the league with 104 runs scored.

The Skinny: The Mets finished fifth in the NL East in 1991, but Johnson put together one of the best seasons of his career — leading the league in two-thirds of the Triple Crown categories with 117 RBIs and 38 home runs. The 30-year-old drove in a run on the final day of the season to edge Barry Bonds and Will Clark, both of whom finished with 116.

The Others Who Came Closest: Most recently, Pete Alonso’s 120 RBIs in his splendid 2019 rookie season were good enough for third in the NL, six behind leader Anthony Rendon. Two other Mets have come in second place in the NL RBI race, but they had bigger margins behind the top finisher — Darryl Strawberry with 101 RBIs to Clark’s 109 in 1988 and David Wright with 124 RBIs to Ryan Howard’s 146 in 2008. (Mike Piazza’s 124 RBIs in 1999 ranked just seventh that season).

The Quote: “My dad always told me, ‘If you hit, they’ll find a place for you in the field.’ But I know I make my living driving in runs.” — Howard Johnson

The Aftermath: Johnson went on to play four more seasons, two for the Mets, and tallied a combined 131 RBIs the rest of his career as his production fell off. Plenty of other RBI champs have played for the Mets — just not accomplishing the feat in the team’s uniform. Among them: Duke Snider, Joe Torre, George Foster, Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Delgado, Mo Vaughn and Eddie Murray.

The Legacy: Johnson, who had three 30-30 seasons in Queens, still has his place in the Mets career record books — fourth in runs (627), fourth in home runs (192), fourth in RBIs (629) and third in stolen bases (202). He also later coached for the Mets, playing a role in Wright’s development.

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