Tonight, Randy Johnson will don his San Francisco Giants uniform, warm-up in the bullpen, take the mound and attempt to do something only 23 men before him have done—win game number 300 of his career. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head how many pitchers have pitched in the Major Leagues. If I had that kind of knowledge under my hat I’d be off somewhere being a wunderkind. I’m not. So I don’t know.
I do know, however, that when I open the Baseball Encyclopedia and hold the pitcher's section between my fingers and measure it, that it is some two-and-a-half inches thick.
Winning 300 games in the Major Leagues is special, from a mythical perspective and a numeric one.
Jim Palmer didn’t do it. Neither did Bob Feller. Bob Gibson has 251 career wins. Carl Hubbell only has two more with 253. Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, Luis Tiant—not on the list, either. Hooks Dauss won ten or more games 14 years in a row and 17 or more six times. He has 222, barely more than two-thirds of the target.
Jack Morris, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and Ron Guidry dominated the game for a decade—none are in the selective little club.
Vida Blue, Eddie Cicotte and Prince Hal Newhouser all have 209 wins or less. The same can be said for Don Drysdale, Rube Marquard and Big Ed Walsh, all three in the Hall of Fame.
Sandy Koufax, who some would argue was the greatest pitcher of the modern era, won 165 times, a little over half of this hellacious total we speak of today.
I think you get the point.
If you like Randy Johnson, that’s wonderful. If you consider yourself a fan, good for you, enjoy this. If you don’t care for him—even if you don’t care in general—at least take a moment to consider the task at hand. The big, ugly, mean S.O.B. is on the verge of joining one of the most exclusive and respected groups in the history of modern American sport.
No, I’m not overstating it. Where thousands have dared, 23 have succeeded, and that number is about to climb. The last time it will do so for a very, very long time.
In order to win 300 games in the major leagues there are various mathematical formulas that can lead to this historic juncture. A pitcher would have to win, say 20 games, 15 times. It would take 20 seasons of 15 wins or more, on average. This is a career full of doing the single most important thing in the game of baseball, winning, over and over and over and over again, and then some.
If a pitcher averaged 13 wins per season, a noble number indeed, it would take him 23 years of filling the vault to pack it with 300 wins. The number to me is impressive, not only for its implication of dominance, but for its’ steadfast and absolute requirement of endurance. You have to pitch for a long, long time to even get close.
So tonight when Randy Johnson and his mini-mullet take the hill in our nation's capitol, I’ll be watching. You should be watching. If you know someone who is a baseball fan you should call them and make sure they watch, too.
My apologies to you if your team is one of the many spurned and/or destroyed by the Unit over the years, but it’s no excuse. Things like this don’t happen every day. Major League Baseball recognizes statistics and records dating back more than 125 years, and in that time 23 gentlemen have done what might be done once again this evening.
Based on the state of the current game, of the ages and win totals of those with a chance going forward, on the shear mathematical improbability of the thing—it is fair to say this may be the Haley’s Comet of pitching we’re about to see flash before our eyes.
I know he is not the most popular name among teammates, opponents, the media and the fans, but he is arguably among the three or four best left-handed pitchers in the history of this great game, and that is worth something. It is worth at minimum, your attention
As of Wednesday afternoon it appears ESPN will not carry the game in its entirety, which would be disappointing from a national perspective, although I would expect the network to join in at some point if history is imminent.
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