Thursday, September 4, 2008

45 year old Randy Johnson (294 wins) vs. 42- Year Old Greg Maddux (354 Wins) on Sunday Afternoon

Spending 10 years out in the Pacific Northwest gave me a chance to watch some special baseball players in both the majors (Mariners) and the minors. Ken Griffey Junior, A- Rod (when he has young and still like able), Edgar Martinez, Ichiro, Mark Langston and this young odd looking lefty with really long hair- Randy Johnson.

Mark Langston was a great lefty that never had a ton of run support during his days with the M's but never complained much about it. He teamed with righty Mike Moore for a solid 1-2 punch but the M's had little else. From the days of Spahn and Sain and pray for rain, I created Langston and Moore and hope it will pour. I wasn't comparing the talent level of these four but the sense of little hope when they weren't pitching!

Langston came up in 1984 and was 5 years into his career when the M's felt the need to trade him. Langston was due a big contract and he wasn't going to be getting it from the M's ownership group. Montreal was putting together a pretty serious team and was renting Langston for the remainder of the season. The M's lost Moore and it appeared they had lost Langston as all we got in return was this goofy tall guy (6'10) who back in 1989 couldn't control his fastball.

Note - Langston would go on to sign with the Angels and pitched until 1999 when he retired with a record of 179-158 (ERA-3.97) and 2,464 strike outs. Nice career that would of produced bigger numbers had he had some offense. He does remain 2ND on the Al-Time pick off list with 91, trailing only Kenny Rogers.

To say Johnson had control issues when he made it to Seattle would be like saying Babe Ruth could hit Home Runs. Johnson made his Major League debut back on September 15, 1988 while with the Expos prior to the trade to Seattle. He went 3-0 during the call-up month of September 1988 with an ERA of 2.42 but 1989 pre-trade wasn't so kind. Randy had pitched 7 times for the Expos (0-4, 6.67) before heading out West. Randy finished his second season with a overall record of 7-13 and a career mark of 10-13.

Johnson pitched for my M's from 1989 until 1998 when the M's shipped Randy to the Astros as Houston was preparing for a playoff run. This was a sad, sad day for M's fans as Randy wanted to stay and was only looking for a $12 million dollar per in his new contract. There was a choice to be made and management felt they needed all of their available money for the two guys that could be leaving soon- Junior and A-Rod. During his stay at the Kingdome Randy went 130-74 and recorded the 1ST of only 2 No-No's in Mariners history. I was fortunate enough to be one of the small crowd that witnessed the milestone.

133-78 when he left to go to Houston (for Freddie Garcia) and already 35 years old with a bad back, no one could of predicted the next decade of Randy Johnson's career. As much as I hoped he would somehow get to 300 Wins I just didn't see it being a serious possibility.Johnson was UN-touchable back in the National League where he made 11 starts for Houston and finished 10-1(ERA 1.28)!

Randy stayed in the National League and headed to the dessert in Arizona (1999) to be close to home. Randy had grown up in Southern California and pitched for USC in college. His six years in the BOB (Bank 1 Ballpark at the time) were off the charts. This other pitcher, Curt Schilling joined up with Randy for one of the most POWERFUL righty/lefty duo's ever. Randy had a four year run from 1999-2002 when he marks were 17-9, 19-7, 21-6 and 24-5 (81-27).

*** Cy Young Award Winner -1995, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002

2001 World Series Champions !

The 2003 season was the second one in which Randy lost serious time to the DL as he went 6-8 while starting only 18 games. In the season (2004) of his 40TH birthday he bounced back to finish 16-14 to end his first stint with the D-Backs at 103-49. But Randy was 40 now and still had 56 more games to win to hit the 300 mark. Randy fired a perfect game during the 2004 season to go with his No-No...

Enter the Big Apple and Randy's first run at pitching in a Major Market. He would have to make the adjustment of being left alone to having people follow his every move. It also had been six plus seasons since the hitters in the American League had faced his fastball and his NASTY off-speed that I believe that was called Mr. Snappy.Randy pitched for the Yankees in both 2005 (17-8) and 2006 (17-11) to up his record to 280-147 but now he was 43 years old and had been fighting a bad back for more than a decade.

Randy returned to the D-Backs in 2007 but another trip to the DL limited the lefty to just 10 starts for Arizona. His record was 4-3 (284-150) and for the 3RD time in his career he had a season get cut short...

1996- Seattle (8-5) only 14 starts
2003- Arizona(6-8)only 18 starts
2007-Arizona (4-3) only 10 starts= 42 starts vs. a normal 105 starts (Lost 60+ starts)

Randy made a decision to return for the 2008 season at the age of 44 in search of 16 wins and another chance to help the D-Backs get to the playoffs. Randy started out 4-1 but like Maddux this season June was less than kind to Randy. He had 5 starts in June and dropped all 5 decisions while his ERA rose from 3.83 up to 4.94. The consecutive losses reached 6 on July 1ST and the record for the year stood at 4-7. Right when it looked like the beginning of the end with 12 victories to go, Randy put together a 5 game winning streak that included 4 quality starts and one 10 run explosion for the D-Backs. Randy went from 4-7 to 9-7 in a hurry and now needed just 7 more wins to reach 300.

The D-Backs offense went into a slump at the wrong time with Randy going 1-2-2No Dec despite 5 straight quality starts (3 ERuns or less/ 6.0 innings). The next time Randy Johnson will take the mound he will be back home in the LA area and will be facing Greg Maddux and the Dodgers. The two teams are fighting over the NL West with the D-Backs leading by 1 & 1/2 games after Wednesday nights games.

While I started following Maddux as a rookie debuting way back on my 23RD birthday, I have always marveled at the fact that Randy was born exactly 1 week after me back in 1963. He will split the difference between our 45TH birthdays when he takes on Maddux at 4:05 PM Sunday afternoon. Randy is 294-159 for his career and is running out of starts left in the 2008 campaign. Arizona has 23 games left so there will be Randy starting in 4 days so the clock is most certainly ticking...

Sunday afternoon - The Tale of the Tape:

Randy Johnson- 3 Days shy of 45 years old
Greg Maddux - 42 years, 4 months

Johnson- W-294-L-159 (ERA 3.25)
Maddux-W-354 -L-225 (ERA 3.15)
Combined Wins - 648

Johnson- 5 Cy Young's
Maddux-4 Cy Young's

Johnson-4,764 K's (#2 overall)
Maddux-3,357 K's (#10 overall)

Johnson- 1 Perfect Game, 1 No-Hitter, 1 All-Star priceless moment with John Kruk
Maddux- 17 Gold Gloves (All-Time Record)

Getting to see this match-up? PRICELESS...

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