Randy Johnson: Shadow Of a Giant

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst IMarch 2, 2009

Roger Clemens, David Wells, Gaylord Perry, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and even going back to Warren Spahn, in every case it was gone by 44.

It, that thing that made them a quality leader in a rotation for two decades, had disappeared and left behind a vestigial body that looked like a formerly-great pitcher.

The durable Nolan Ryan saw it leave at 44. For Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver it vanished at 40. Phil Niekro somehow made it to 47. He is the exception, not the rule.

Seeing Randy Johnson carry on in a Giants uniform, trudging towards his 46th birthday in September, is one of those disgusting sports sights that should be withheld from the eyes of children and senior citizens.

He had a respectable year last year, but it's a Shakespearean tradegy, sports style, waiting for its final acts, the cruel game that put Mays in the Mets uniform and Ruth in a Braves jersey.

The Big Unit should have taken a page from Mike Mussina, who has retired after his first 20-win season. It's hard to let go of the ball, but it's a much better option than putting on an alien jersey and waiting for the inevitable 2-8 season and the ballooning ERA.

He might well have a good season this year, but the odds are against him and he's pushing his luck to unforeseen boundaries.

While many want Randy Johnson to reach 300 wins, it simply does not matter in his case. He means more than a silly benchmark.

He was an icon of baseball for 15 years, the epitome of the menacing pitcher, unattractive in either appearance or four-seam fastball. To left-handed batters, he was unhittable, a Sandy Koufax-like legend who transcends longevity statistics.

Unfortunately, he's chosen to risk his image and reveal his mortality for a number that means nothing to a man with five Cy Young awards and the highest K/IP ratio of all time.

Like many tragic heroes who wantonly risk and discard valuable items, sports heroes generally realize the value of their iconic image long after it's gone.

While he may put on a Giants jersey, Randy Johnson, sadly, will most likely be a giant no more.