Nov 11, 2019

Mark Johnson: 2000 NL Champion Mets Utility Player (2000-2002)

Mark Patrick Johnson, was born on October 18, 1967, in Worcester, Massachusetts. The big six foot 230 pounder attended Dartmouth University playing football there as the teams quarterback. He set many school passing records there (later broken by Jay Fielder) in the two years he was their starting QB.

Johnson was also a gifted baseball player & switched to full time baseball by his junior year. getting drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990. His minor league career didn’t take off until 1994 when he hit 23 HRs with 85 RBIs at AA Carolina.

Johnson joined the Pirates big league team in 1995 batting just .208 in 79 games, but in 221 at bats he did hit 13 HRs. In 1996 he became the Pirates main first baseman playing in 127 games; he hit 13 HRs again but this time had 343 at bats. He hit 24 doubles driving in 47 runs posting a .345 on base % batting .274.

Over the next two seasons he only appeared in ten games at the major league level. He was placed on waivers, picked by the Cincinnati Reds then sent to the Anaheim Angels. 

Trivia: He also played one season in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers in 1999, where he was a team mate of Japan star Tsuyoshi Shinjo who would be his team mate in New York. 

2000 Mets Pennant Season: In 2000 he was signed as a free agent by the New York Mets. He joined the club in May and debuted as a pinch hitter on May 16th at Shea Stadium in a game against the Colorado Rockies.

He got his first start on May 19th, batting 7th & playing left field in game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the 4th inning he drove in his first run grounding out as Robin Ventura scored. 

After not seeing any MLB action for a month, he hit a HR on June 26th, in a game against the Florida Marlins. That hit finally raised his average to .200. He remained on the club through the end of July, but was only batting .182 when he was sent to AAA Norfolk. The success of Daryl Hamilton after recovering from injury, kept Johnson in the minors. Johnson did not make the post season roster.

2001: He began the 2001 season with the Mets, but after five games in April, he was sent back down to AAA Norfolk. In 41 games he batted .316 returning to the Mets in early June. 

In his third game back, On June 8th, he hit a three run HR in an interleague loss to the Rays, at Tampa Florida. Two days later he hit another HR during the series finale in Tampa, in a 10-0 Mets win. 

On June 13th, on the same road trip, in a game at Camden Yards, he helped the Mets come back from six runs down, with an 8th inning two run single, bringing the Mets to within a run. The Mets went on to beat the Oriels 7-6. But from there he went hitless in three games of the subway series. 

On July 14th, he hit a two run HR driving in both runs helping Glendon Rusch in the Mets 2-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

One of his career highlights came in Pittsburgh on September 17th, in the first game played after the 911 attacks. Johnson came to bat as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning after Rey Ordonez had singled to put the Mets ahead. Johnson doubled to right field just missing a HR, driving in Jay Payton & Ordonez as the Mets won the game 4-1.

On July 14th, Johnson drove in both runs, including a solo HR, of a Glendon Rusch 2-0 shut out at Fenway Park, over the Red Sox. On August 9th, he doubled & then scored the tying run, in a 4-3 comeback win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

On September 17th, in the first game played in MLB after the 911 terrorist attacks, Johnson doubled in two runs in the 4-1 Mets win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh. It was the first of three multi RBI games he had that month.

In the first game played back in New York on the night Mike Piazza hit his famous 911 HR, Johnson appears on the scorecard but never came to bat. He was announced but never came to the bat.

In 71 games that season, Johnson batted .254 with 6 HRs 6 doubles & 23 RBIs, while posting a .338 on base %. He played 21 games at first base (mostly used as a defensive sub for Todd Zeile) & 19 games in the outfield.

2002: He returned for his third season with the Mets in 2002. On April 25th, he hit a top of the 9th inning pinch hit HR, off the Cards Dave Veres, breaking a 6-6 tie giving the Mets the win.

 On May 23rd, he drove in the only run of the game, with a pinch hit single off the Phillies, Jose Mesa at Philadelphia.

 He would play in 42 games, but after batting just .137 was sent to AAA Norfolk in early June. He finished out the year there batting .259 with 14 HRs & 37 RBIs.

In his seven year career Johnson batted .232 with 229 hits 38 HRs 50 doubles 154 walks 137 RBIs & a .338 on base %.

No comments: