Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Randy Johnson's greatness undeniable

Although Randy Johnson's tenure with the New York Yankees was unpleasant for both him and for the team, I have to acknowledge that baseball is losing one of its most dominating pitchers now that Johnson has decided to retire at age 46 after 22 years in the game.

His credentials are impeccable: a 303-166 career record, 4,875 strikeouts (second only to Nolan Ryan), five Cy Young awards (second only to Roger Clemens), a perfect game and a no-hitter. His best years came with the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he led that team to a victory in the 2001 World Series over the Yankees, which was one of the best postseason series of all time.

Perhaps New York's expectations for Johnson were unreasonably high after that World Series victory, but Johnson stumbled badly with the Yanks. He got into a physical altercation with a cameraman during his first visit after the trade and never became the ace that the Yankees thought they were getting (that they got in a much younger CC Sabathia when they signed him last offseason). In his book the Yankee Years with Tom Verducci, Joe Torre openly talked about how self-conscious Johnson was and how easily he could get rattled. If Torre knew that, perhaps the 2001 World Series would have ended differently.
But his struggles with the Yankees don't overshadow his dominance during the rest of his career. Johnson will sail into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot when he becomes eligible in five years (unless he decides to un-retire), unlike other former, deserving players who will have to sweat tomorrow waiting for news about whether they made the Hall or not.

Thanks to Googie man via Wikipedia for the photo.

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