Johnson struggled through nagging back problems in 2007 after he was forced to undergo surgery on a herniated disc in his back shortly after spring training. He hit a mere .231 with only 14 RBI in just 79 games.
Why should Jays’ fans be excited about re-signing a player who had such trouble last year though?
Well, because Johnson has the intangible characteristic of heart. Anyone who follows the Blue Jays will be able to tell you that Johnson is spark plug for a sometimes uninspired team, and will do anything to get himself on base. In fact, in Johnson’s first game back from injury last year, he made a huge diving catch to preserve a slim lead and save the game—I guess his back was fine after all.
After Johnson signed the extension, he was quoted on the Blue Jays website as saying, "I'm the type of player that, when something like this happens to me, it fuels me… I'm going to make sure it doesn't have an effect on the rest of my career. I'm going to come out next year, and I'm going to show everybody that I can still play at an elite level."
Besides, its not like Johnson has never been good before. In 2006, Johnson set career highs with 12 home runs and a .319 batting average, as well as leading all AL leadoff men with a .390 on-base percentage. Also, maybe his most impressive statistic that further defines his “do-anything-to-help-us-win” mentality was that he moved into second all-time on the Jays hit by a pitch list. Not bad for a guy who has spent most of his time in the big leagues either in a platoon role, or on the disabled list.
It still remains to be seen whether or not Johnson’s role on the team will be a major one this year. After all, Matt Stairs will most likely split some time with him in left field, and the addition of David Eckstien may see Johnson’s role as a leadoff hitter reduced. Nevertheless, Johnson is quality player who wears his heart on his sleeve, and Jays’ fans and players alike should be excited to have him back in the fold.