The Expos' Trade of Randy Johnson to the Mariners

Arne ChristensenContributor IIApril 2, 2009

When the Mariners traded Mark Langston and Mike Campbell to the Expos in late May of 1989 for Randy Johnson, Gene Harris and Brian Holman, virtually all the Seattle players were unhappy.

Third baseman Jim Presley said, “This is a sad day for Mariner baseball. In four months now, we’ve lost two of the best pitchers in Mariner history. (Langston and Mike Moore, who signed with Oakland as a free agent). Yeah, this is a sad day. I don’t know what went on, whether they made an offer to him or whether he wanted out of here. But maybe they should have been thinking of how we’re supposed to replace him.”

Second baseman Harold Reynolds said, “This crushes me. And the reality of it all won’t hit me until we take the field tomorrow in Milwaukee and Mark Langston won’t be there.”

Catcher Dave Valle said, “Oh, no! Oh, no!”

Manager Jim Lefebvre said, “I hate to see him go. I’m sorry we could not work out a deal with him so it [the trade] had to be done. Mark is one of the most professional guys I’ve ever worked with. Under tremendous pressure, he went out and did all he could for our club every time he pitched. I’ll always remember him as a class individual.”

First baseman Alvin Davis said, “We’ve just traded our franchise player and it’s for you guys to analyze. I can’t come out and blast the ballclub because I’m not privy to everything that’s gone on. I don’t know what they’re thinking but I do know Mark wanted to stay here. He really did. I’m qualified to say that he did. It’s a business and that’s the bottom line.”

Jerry Reed, who had been a member of The Johnsons, the rock group that had included him, Langston, Pete Ladd, and Matt Young, said, "I would never have guessed I’d be the last one [of the band] here. This is the worst, though. Baseball aside, Mark is a good friend. The Johnsons will not be a solo act. They are now officially disbanded.”

On the other hand, in early June, Randy Johnson said, “As you can probably tell, I’m pretty laid back. I enjoy life. I don’t have a care in the world, except every fifth day (when he pitches). Then it’s all business.” At the time, one of his nicknames was The Intimidator. Johnson said: “I’ve been called that and I think it’s the most realistic. If you’re on the mound throwing a good fastball, in the 95-mile-per-hour range, coming in from the left side and being 6-10, that can be a bit intimidating.”

You can look at Johnson’s minor league stats here.

The Big Unit (he got that nickname from Tim Raines) summarized, “I don’t feel the pressure on me here. I’m not Mark Langston. He’s been around for seven or eight years. This is my first full season. I’ve worked hard to be a major-leaguer and someday maybe I can be a Mark Langston or anyone I want to be."

“It’s a relief to be over here. I’m not under a microscope like I was in Montreal. I just think they (Expos) gave up on me sooner than I thought they would," Johnson continued.

“They thought they could give up their three best prospects of the future for one player who may not be there the rest of the year, not to mention next season. This team (Seattle) is building for the future. In any other league (division) they’d be only four or five games out," Johnson said.

“I’m happy to be here. No more French dictionary and no more French money . . . er . . . make that Canadian money,” Johnson quipped.

Twenty years later, people are still writing about the Big Unit and his pretty incredible career. The Expos no longer exist (neither does the Kingdome), Mark Langston left the big leagues ten years ago (four years after losing a playoff showdown with Johnson and the Mariners), the other players involved in the trade are practically forgotten, and Johnson is nearly to 300 wins.


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