Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Big Unit

I'd just like to type a few thoughts on Randy "Big Unit" Johnson.

First, my opinion of him... I like him as a player. At one point, specifically 1998, I did not care for him in the least, but after that year my opinion has softened, and now I consider myself a fan of his again.

1995 - Johnson was the MAN. He could do no wrong. He pitched hurt, on short rest, anytime, and was still effective. In that one-game playoff with California he singlehandedly, (well, assisted by a clutch Sojo), put the Mariners in the postseason. He was just as godlike to me as The Kid or Edgar.

Fast forward three years to '98. I was living in a converted barn with four friends, partying, generally having a great time 25 hours a day, except when it came to my Mariners. They were bad. The worst part was that my favorite pitcher, Johnson, was seriously sucking it up, physically, on the field, and in the clubhouse. His back was about to give out, they said, and they didn't know how much longer he'd even be able to pitch in the league. Plus, the M's hadn't offered him the big extension he deserved, so he was childishly sulking, which did not help matters at all. The night of his trade to Houston I was pretty happy that the Mariners had gotten three players for one guy who was about to retire, for all I knew.

Well, he proceeded to tear up the NL, going something like 10-1 with a miniscule ERA for the last couple months of the sesason. At that point, I had no doubt that he had been jaking it with the M's, and he became my Public Enemy #1. Needless to say, the good years he had with the Mariners were shoved far into the back of my memory, banished like a kid's baby blanket into the back of a closet when he becomes a teenager.

However, just like that teenager, now married, pulls out that old blanket and remembers all the good times and secure feelings it provided him with in his youth, so did my good thoughts about Johnson return over the years. His dominance of the National League since he joined it has been a pleasure to watch. I remember with fondness all the hope he gave us early-'90s Mariners fans -- the constant possibility of a no-hitter, the double-digit strikeout games, the crowd's excitement with two strikes, the menacing presence on the mound and on the bench, the drum playing, and the mullet from hell. I am once again a fan.

Now he's forcing his way out of Arizona like he did Seattle, and I can't help but think "same old Randy". However, with a team as horrible as the D'Backs, I dont' blame him. At his age all he wants is another championship, and he's not going to get it there. Too bad he wants to be on the Yankees, but who else could afford him?

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Now the Dodgers have pulled out of the 3-way deal. All I have to say is: good decision. They would have not gotten much of a good deal in the least, having to give up their top offensive threat and a serviceable pitcher for a questionable, overpriced pitcher. Now the Yanks are pissed.

Randy Levine: "For some reason, the Dodgers over the weekend started to backpedal. Why they would break their word is only something they can answer. It sure is disappointing, and we'll have to think long and hard before ever doing business with the Dodgers again."

Pardon me while I laugh at the Yankees: (hahahahahahahahahahaha!). DePodesta hasn't shown much in L.A., but at least he was smart enough to pull out of that foolish deal. And the Yankees, in their spoiled manner, are crying like the brats they are, threatening the Dodgers with (gasp!) not trading with them any more! Oh, no! You mean the Dodgers wouldn't be able to trade any more good players for overhyped "prospects" and overpriced castoffs? What will they do now?!

Man I hate the Yankees.

3 Comments:

At 12/22/2004 3:17 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

This is DePodesta's best non-move this offseason. There still may be hope for DePo and Dodger fans yet. They're sure better having not made this trade. I still question DePo a bit, but thinking in the aggregate, things are stacking up OK in LA.

Back in '98, though, I blame that on Woody as much as anyone. The M's FO was worse than this current one (and the most recent previous one), and there are reasons why Randy, JR and Pay-Rod wanted out. Besides, with Bobby "1-10, 7+ ERA" Ayala as the closer (and a younger, nearly as fun to watch Mike Timlin as the backup), RJ was right to want out. It was downright disappointing, at the very least, and I was quite upset when I heard about the "crap" we got for him (just as I was quite upset over the "crap" we got for Langston) especially in light of some of the rumored guys we were going to get (though I cannot recall now who those guys were, and Google isn't helping much right now).

I can go long into my favorite RJ stories, including the night I was there for the 19-K performance (a loss) in the 'Dome (and McGwire's 550' blast just below the scoreboard, about 15 rows over from where we were sitting); jumping up and down so hard upstairs that I broke the lightbulbs downstairs the night of the no-hitter; and (going back even further), going through the (short!) line about 5 times at a card show to meet him and get his autograph right after he came to Seattle via trade (I got all of his rookie cards autographed, as well as a few other things -- but not a baseball, stupid me -- and even got to shake his pitching hand as a fellow lefty).

RJ is and will be my favorite pitcher of the 90's era, followed VERY closely by The Rocket. Between he and Buhner, we just had to have the ugliest but most beautiful team (1997). October 3rd, 2004 marked the day the nail was placed in this coffin, though, with Edgar's last AB. The Glory Days of the M's are over, and I'm seriously hoping the new era has begun!

 
At 12/22/2004 3:31 PM, Blogger (Deleted user) said...

I also remember his no-hitter night. I was at my cousin's graduation in Auburn, when somebody came in all excited and was whispering, actually quite loudly, that a Mariner pitcher had just pitched a no-hitter. I didn't know who was on the mound that night, but I thought "it had to be Johnson!", and it was. What a performance!

I also remember Bosio's no-no. I was in Washington D.C. on a school trip, and read about it in the USA Today the next day. I had just purchased a cheap Red Sox hat from one of the "swap-meet Louie"-style (go, Mix-A-Lot!) vendors near Ford's Theater, when I saw the Sports section lying in the gutter. I picked it up, read the headline, and started cheering. I got some strange looks from my tour mates for my apparently random outburst of mirth, but when I showed them the paper they were excited too.

I bought an autographed RJ Upper Deck rookie card at a card show here in Walla Walla, but it surprisingly doesn't appear to be increasing in value. Perhaps when he makes the HOF.

Also, I have most of Griffey's rookie cards and most from his first 4-5 years, but they also don't appear to be going up n value - what's up with that? Did I waste all my allowance back then for nothing?

 
At 12/22/2004 3:47 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

I actually got both of my 89 UD Griffeys on the same day. One I bought for 8 bucks, and the second one I (finally) pulled from a pack. Too bad I didn't sell them when they were up to $150. And, too bad Griffey's lost his hold on the baseball card popularity market.

I have this strange feeling, though, that like the 84 Mattingly, the 89 UD Griffey will always be a marquee card, and won't completely fall through the floor.

Turn forward the clock about 15 years, and I'm now debating what to do with that 2001 Donruss Elite Albert Pujols I pulled a few years ago. I could probably get close to $100 even on eBay for it (usually 1/2 book or so). Hmmm -- but it's a cool card, and Pujols has to be my favorite NL player right now.

Speaking of cards -- I had this urge to collect the collection of insert cards that featured RJ's photography. I think I bought the set of 5 for like 15 bucks back then, and it was a great set! Griffey sitting on top of the fence grabbing a HR ball; Ripken and A-Rod reading Marvel Comics. I don't care what they book for, it's a good set and has sentimental value for me.

You have to remember, too, what the BoSox said about Clemens before they let him fly north with the Blue Jays (the year previous to RJ being traded to Houston). Not a good couple of years for front offices, that's for sure.

RJ still has game, and won't for much longer. I'd LOVE for him to add another ring. How 'bout a trade straight up for Shawn Green? But, then again, the Dodgers need one or two more bats in their lineup (especially if Green is dealt). And RJ has stated that it's the Yankees or bust.

 

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