Fish Stripes is bringing you daily articles as part of the All-Time Marlins Countdown leading up to 2021 Opening Day.
Today and every Saturday through the end of the series, I will be a “pinch-hitter” for the Fish Stripes staffers who ordinarily handle these articles. Charles Johnson is more than worthy of his own feature.
12. Charles Johnson
The Marlins whiffed on nearly every pick in their inaugural MLB amateur draft class, but they struck gold (literally) with their 1992 first-rounder, University of Miami catcher Charles Johnson.
Within two years of being selected, CJ debuted at the major league level. The year after that, he emerged as an above-average hitter—.251/.351/.410, 104 wRC+—and won the first of four consecutive National League Gold Glove awards (1995-1998). He was behind the plate for 23 of Kevin Brown’s 32 starts during the 1996 season which was arguably the best pitching campaign in Marlins franchise history (1.89 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 0.94 WHIP in 233.0 IP).
Johnson earned NL All-Star honors for the first time in 1997. His performance throughout the months of June, July and August was especially impressive. Offensively, he slashed .295/.381/.576 with 15 home runs in those 65 games. Defensively, he threw out 36 baserunners on 69 stolen base attempts (52.2 CS%).
Oh yeah, and the Marlins qualified for the postseason in ‘97, too. Johnson started all 16 games of that championship run.
The Marlins needed a 9th inning rally to stay alive in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Álex Arias and Charles Johnson walk us through it pic.twitter.com/buW5IYjC6R— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) May 12, 2020
At the one-quarter mark of the depressing 1998 season, Johnson was dealt to the Dodgers, in the Mike Piazza-Gary Sheffield blockbuster. After struggling with the bat for much of that summer, another trade—to the Orioles—rejuvenated his career in 1999. He jolted the White Sox to an AL Central division title in 2000, then returned to Florida in free agency.
Johnson began his new five-year, $35 million contract on the right note. He once again represented the Fish in the 2001 All-Star Game and the team spent a large chunk of the season above the .500 mark. Unfortunately, his production plummeted in the second half of the season.
As a 30-year-old in 2002, Johnson saw his role diminish. He dipped to a total of 638 1⁄3 innings at catcher despite regularly racking up 1,000-plus during his 20s. After the season, the Marlins traded him to the Rockies for a package of Juan Pierre, Mike Hampton and cash.