Through their first 75 games the Bisons are a respectable 38-37. When you consider the team has already had 54 different players make an appearance they really have done quite well. That sort of instability on a roster can derail a team, yet they stand in third place with plenty of opportunities to climb up the IL north. There is never one reason for a team's success, but with the turmoil this year's Bisons have dealt with, a leader like Dan Johnson becomes truly invaluable.
The now 34 year-old Johnson has been the rock in the middle of the order for The Herd day in and day out. He truly has been the only constant for the team as no other player has started more than 52 games while he has started all 75 batting cleanup each time. With all of the young players that have streamed through Buffalo this year a strong example like this can be hugely beneficial.
"I have been through this before...I know what to expect," said Johnson. "You got to prepare yourself every day. I have learned from guys in the past, so hopefully guys can take from what I am doing and learn from it," he continued.
One thing the young players can really take away from Johnson is his approach at the plate. For a power hitter he has been able to show the discipline to not only limit his strikeouts, but also draw walks at an incredible rate. This is a part of the game that he has always excelled in, keeping a level head even through struggles.
As valuable as Johnson's veteran presence has been for the team, it is still his offense that has played the biggest role. Just over the half-way point of the season Johnson finds himself in the league's top 5 in On-base percentage, RBI's, extra base hits, total bases, and runs scored. On top of that he leads the league in home runs with 16 and walks with 60, which is 10 more than the next closest guy. With that said Johnson still does not fell like he has been hot yet this season.
"I really haven't gotten hot this season...I got into a nice homer streak and then I ran into some tough ballparks," said Johnson.
Despite hitting the ball hard throughout the season there have been rough stretches for the big lefty. He is not the kind of guy to make excuses, but baseball can be a wickedly unfair game at times. He has not been able to catch any breaks to this point, but the fact that he has been able to stick with his approach throughout the year even at this stage of his career is impressive.
He is still waiting to put together a dynamic stretch of games, but it could be coming soon. The team only has three games left on this current home stand before playing 15 of their next 25 contests on the road. Perhaps this could be a good opportunity for Johnson to take advantage of some more hitter friendly parks. Coca-Cola field is not the biggest of parks, but the wind often will knock down fly balls in right field. For a pull hitter such as Johnson this can of course be problematic. There still have been several times throughout my short time watching the team that I have seen him muscle balls right into the wind and out of the park.
Johnson is not currently on the 40 man roster but there is still some speculation over the possibility of a September call-up. This sort of speculation can be difficult for players to handle from a mental stand point, but Johnson has been here before.
"I need to be ready at all times. Whenever the situation calls for it I need to be ready to go up and produce," he said. "Get on base, drives runners in, whatever the situation may be that's what I need to do. I need to be prepared defensively and offensively at all times."
It is unclear what the future will bring for both the Blue Jays and Dan Johnson, but just the past few days have shown that anything can happen. Injuries are always a part of the game and I think the Jays are lucky to have a guy like Johnson to turn to.