Will the indignities ever end for Ben Johnson? Here’s a guy who, a year ago at this time, was optimistically looked upon as an up-and-comer with a shot at stealing at least a part-time job in the Mets outfield. While visions of another Xavier Nady were a stretch, Johnson, like Nady, was a young outfielder with some nascent skills acquired in a trade with the Padres. His chances of making the team last spring were reflected in his slot on the 40-man roster and the dignified uni number, 4.
But after a year spent mainly nursing injuries in AAA and flubbing what seldom chances he got with the Mets (5 hits in 27 at-bats), the Mets assigned No. 4 to weak-hitting infielder Anderson Hernandez and Johnson was released this winter. Heath Bell, the relief pitcher traded to San Diego for Johnson, had in the meantime had established himself as one of the league’s top set-up men, not that the Mets could have used one of those last season. Cough.
Recently re-signed to a minor league deal by the Mets, Johnson is reporting to camp this week in No. 92. Not that we’ve ever kept these kinds of records but if there’s a larger drop from one camp the next than 88 digits, we’d like to know.