On June 4th of this year, Randy Johnson took the mound for a game against the Washington Nationals needing just one win for his 300th career victory, a milestone that only 24 major league pitchers in history have accomplished.
Johnson pitched six innings, giving up just two hits and zero earned runs putting another “W” on the resume and cementing his legacy as one of the best pitchers ever to play.
Many baseball know-it-alls subsequently wondered if he may be the last pitcher to ever reach the magic number of 300 wins.
Baseball is different these days: Limited pitch counts; Managers being over-protective of young phenoms; Bullpens playing a bigger role in the outcome of games; Pitchers being pulled in close games; Pitching on 5 or more days rest.
The thought was that there wouldn’t be a pitcher who could factor in enough decisions to get to 300 victories.
Johnson, the one-time Seattle Mariners’ pitcher, may be the most recent 300 win club member, but won’t be the last. Seattle has another pitcher these days who seems to be the next likely exclusive member.
Felix Hernandez is 23 years old. He is already completing his fourth official big league season. In his four full seasons he is averaging almost 13 wins each year. To get to 300 wins he would need to pitch until he is 40 (17 more seasons) averaging just 14 wins each year.
Randy Johnson was 45 when he won his 300th game. Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine was 41 years old and his fellow teammate Greg Maddux was in his late 30’s.
Is it possible to predict the feat 17 years in advance for King Felix?
Hernandez has suffered through some minor injuries in the past, but unlike other young pitchers he has escaped the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
He struggled a little early in his career, which is consistent with a young pitcher, but he seems to be putting it all together and could be the American League Cy Young Award winner this year.
If that holds true, he will be just the second Cy Young winner for the Mariners. Johnson won his first of five Cy Young Awards with Seattle in 1995. He won the other four with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately, with Seattle always struggling to hold on to their top notch talent, Hernandez and Johnson may have much more in common by the end of Felix’s career.
When he accepts his future Cy Young Awards, wins his 300th game, and enters the Hall of Fame will it be, like Johnson, as a member of another team?
There was talk around the trade deadline this year that the M’s would listen to offers and many of the baseball know-it-alls believe the Mariners will not be able to sign him to a long term deal.
That would mean Hernandez would probably end up with one of the big money market teams like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, or Chicago.
Those same baseball experts predicted there would not be another 300 game winner. King Felix could prove them all wrong and the Mariners should do everything they can to prevent another big name from leaving the Emerald City and making his mark with another team.
Barring injury, Hernandez is likely to be one of the best pitchers of his generation.
Ken Griffey Jr. will go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner. Ichiro will as well. Let’s hope their current teammate and the ace of the staff does too… as a 300 game winner.