Randy Johnson: Big Unit, Big Milestone...Bad Timing?
Randy Johnson was—and I stress was—one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation. He could become the last 300-game winner for a very, very long time in the very, very near future.
And when you consider the circumstances, he certainly appears to deserve a lot better. But when you look deeper, there’s perhaps no more perfect scenario for him to hit that milestone than his first chance.
Johnson won his 299th Major League game on Wednesday night, a 6-3 Giants victory over the Braves. Despite only throwing about 80 pitches, he was pulled after six innings—something that NEVER would have happened to the “Big Unit” in his lengthy, dominant prime.
But, after taking three tries to nail down 299, his first crack at 300 will come either next Tuesday or Wednesday—depending on how the Giants rotation shakes up with two off days sandwiching this weekend’s series—against the Nationals.
In Washington...Where they draw slightly more than most movie theatres.
Can you feel the excitement? Well you should.
Yes, on the surface, this looks like a horrible way to become perhaps the last man in the 300 club. Of anyone else with a realistic shot, Roy Halladay is the closest, and he isn’t even halfway there at age 32.
Of course, more than two-thirds of Johnson’s 299 wins have come since he turned 32, but work with me here. It’s going to take a lot for any pitcher, even the stiffest of aces, to get to 300.
And the Nationals…well, they suck. There’s no easy way to put that.
How many other teams have demoted almost their entire bullpen, their everyday center fielder, and a handful of reserves to Triple-A within the first 50 games of a season?
Even if he faces young phenom Jordan Zimmermann, who is scheduled to pitch Wednesday, Johnson shouldn’t have too much trouble mowing down the Nationals' lineup.
Maybe facing Washington will relieve some of the pressure of finding No. 300. It could also make it worse, knowing that he should win.
Only time will tell, but it seems like an awful setup to be on a .500 team and go for a huge milestone against a club that could rival the all-time league record for single-season futility.
Until you look back to 1985.
See, Johnson was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1985, came up through their system, made his Major League debut in 1988, and went 3-4 over parts of two seasons before being traded to Seattle.
But 20 years, several fire sales, and a pair of moves later, the Expos are now…the Washington Nationals.
Would it be bittersweet for Johnson to win his 300th game against the team that brought him to the bigs?
Considering he was there for a cup of coffee and has played for five teams since, it wouldn’t exactly be like Tom Glavine doing it against the Braves.
But it would be a nice moment, bringing his career full-circle against the futile franchise that first gave him his first shot.
The funny part? The Giants’ June schedule is set up with a few more great opportunities. They play Arizona June 9-11, but Johnson would either have to pitch on short rest or not pitch in the Nationals series to go against the team that let him go.
The Giants then play 12 games in 13 days against the AL West, but won’t see Seattle again. They already played the Mariners, and Johnson had lost his first chance at 299 so couldn't get 300 even if he beat Seattle.
Just one of those things.
But whether he does it against Washington, Arizona, or an AL West team, it will happen. And no matter how un-sexy the circumstances may be, that’s still more than all but 23 other men who have ever played Major League Baseball can say.
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