The Mets signed Lance Johnson to be their leadoff hitter and centerfielder prior to the 1996 season. In his first season in New York, he far exceeded everyone’s expectations as he had perhaps the greatest offensive season in franchise history. Johnson a career .285 hitter went on to rewrite part of the Met record book in 1996. He led the Mets with a .333 average, which was also 4th best in the league and at the time the second highest in franchise history, Cleon Jones hit .340 in 1969. He became the first player in Met history to record over 200 hits. His 227 hits not only led the National League it also obliterated the franchise record of 191 by Felix Millian in 1975. He also set the franchise records for triples (21), runs scored (117) and total bases (327). He also stole 50 bases, which was just eight shy of Mookie Wilson’s club record 58. He also drove in 69 runs, an impressive number coming from a leadoff hitter. For his efforts, he was named to the National League All – Star team where he could easily have been the game’s MVP – he went 3 for 4 with a double and stolen base.
Needless to say, expectations were high for Johnson entering the 1997 season. He did put up some decent numbers in 1997 but injuries, mainly shin splints, hampered him for much of the season. He was hitting .306 when the Met brass sensing that his 1996 season was more an aberration than the norm decided to include him in a six-player trade with the Cubs in August. The Mets acquired pitchers Turk Wendell, Mel Rojas and outfielder Brian McRae for Johnson, Manny Alexander and Mark Clark. It turned out the Mets knew what they were doing when they traded Johnson, as he never again approached the numbers he put up in 1996. He retired following the 2000 season.
In 1 ½ seasons with the Mets Lance Johnson appeared in 232 games and hit .326 with 10 home runs and 93 RBIs.
While with the Mets Johnson wore number 1.
Lance Johnson also played for the following teams:
St. Louis Cardinals – 1987
Chicago White Sox – 1988-1995
Chicago Cubs – 1997-1999
New York Yankees – 2000