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February 7, 2005
From Great Pitcher to Hall of Famer. by sj
Johnson signed a 4 yr, 53 million dollar deal with the fledgling Arizona Diamondbacks after the 98 season.It may have been the best contract in the history of sports.
In their second year, The Big Unit led them to a 35 game improvement over their inaugural campaign.
In a year when the NL average ERA was 4.43. Johnson posted 2.48 ERA, good enough for a 178 ERA+, first in the League.He won 17 games, led the league in complete games, K/IP, and Ks.He easily bested Mike Hampton to win his second Cy Young award
As good as Johnson was in the regular season, he was that bad in the postseason.Facing the very solid 99 Mets team, Johnson struggled.In Game One, he gave up homers to John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo early.Johnson settled down, allowing only one additional run, and the game was tied heading into the ninth inning.In what has become a Buck Showalter trademark, Johnson was left into the game a little too long.Johnson gave up a few hits, and the bullpen let them all score.
Johnson would not have a chance to pitch again; the Mets closed it out in 4 games.
Randy was left answering question, why couldn’t he win in the postseason?His personal losing streak reached 6 games.
In 2000, Johnson continued to terrorize the National League, even if the Diamondbacks didn’t.Despite a midseason trade for the quiet clubhouse leader Curt Schilling, the team faded late, and finished well behind Giants and the Mets for postseason berths.
For Johnson individually, 2000 was nearly identical to 1999.He posted a slightly higher ERA, 2.64, in a few dozen fewer innings 248.His ERA+ was 177, and he won the CY Young in a walk.
His stats would have been a little better, but in the final game of the year, Showalter, in an attempt to get Randy his 20th win, shocked the world by leaving him in long after he was effective (Anyone see a theme?). In that game, the unit allowed 8 ER.He only allowed 65 in the other 245 innings of 2000.
Johnson became only the third NL pitcher in history to win back to back Cy Young awards.
2001 saw Johnson play under a new regime, Bob Brenly took over for “Mr.147 pitches”, and the Diamondbacks thrived in spite of him.
The year started off well, as Johnson struck out 20 Reds, a feat matched only by Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens.This game is marked by an asterisk, as Johnson only pitched 9 of the 11 innings.Johnson has the record for most strikeouts in 9 innings, but not in a 9 inning game.
Johnson continued to pitch amazingly well, winning 20 games for the second time in his career.His final tally,21-6 with a 2.49 ERA.Good enough for a 184 ERA+.He won his third straight Cy Young, grabbing 30 of the 32 first place votes (Only teammate Curt Schilling grabbed another vote).Johnson set personal records for strikeouts (374!!) and K/9 (13.41!!),
He entered the 2001 postseason as the best pitcher in the National League, but he did not start game one of the NLDS against the Cardinals.He started and lost game 2, 4-1.His personal postseason losing streak was now at 7.Johnson nearly missed a chance to pitch again in the 2001 postseason, because the Cardinals very nearly lost game 5 to the Cardinals, but overcame Brenly’s overmanaging.
Entering the NLCS, questions about Randy’s ability to win on October hovered around him.Luckily from him, he was facing the team that every struggling postseason pitcher wants to face, the Braves.Johnson was finally able to shake the postseason losing streak, pitching brilliantly against the Braves, allowing only 2 runs in 16 innings.
Wait, there was more to 2001?Oh yeah, Johnson won 3 games in the 2001 World Series, including game 7 in a relief appearance on ZERO days rest.Johnson won the Co-MVP with quiet clubhouse leader and all around good guy Curt Schilling.
In the final year of his original 4 year deal with the D-backs, Johnson won his fourth Cy Young.In his age 38 season, Johnson had his finest year, throwing 260 innings and winning 24 games. He won the pitching triple crown (W/ERA/K).Johnson set career highs in wins, ERA and ERA+, games started, and BB allowed (full season).This time, the voting was unanimous.Johnson became only the second pitcher to win 4 straight Cy Young Awards.
Johnson found himself back in the postseason in 2002, facing the Cardinals again.The Cards rocked Johnson for six runs in six innings, and he took the loss.He didn’t pitch again in the series, and the Cards swept the D-Backs in 3 games.
2003 was the second “lost summer” in Johnson’s career. The Diamondbacks winning ways had ended, and Johnson had arthroscopic knee surgery on May 1st.He pitched only 114 innings, going 6-8 with a 4.26 ERA.
This was not a banner year for the Diamondbacks. In the off-season, quiet clubhouse leader Curt Schilling engineered a trade to Boston.In return, the D-backs received a few injured minor leaguers.They then turned around traded half their 40 man roster for Brewer Richie Sexson, presumably so Johnson wouldn’t look lonely in the back row of the team pitcher.Sexson then got hurt, and the season was over.
Despite the offseason sabotage by the front office,Randy returned to his winning ways.On May 17th, He pitched a perfect game in Atlanta.Despite being surrounded by nearly hourly trade rumors, Johnson pitched well enough to finish second in the NL Cy Young race.His finished quite a distance from the winner Roger Clemens, despite an ERA .38 better, a WHIP .25 better, and 72 more strikeouts in 32 more innings.His ERA+ was also 26 points higher.However, the anemic Diamondback lineup let Johnson down, and he lost 14 games finishing just 2 games over .500
Then, after a few false starts, Johnson was finally traded to the Yankees and signed a 2 year extension.
The Arizona years cemented his legacy as one of the finest southpaws in baseball history.When he signed with the Dbacks, he was the best pitcher on the market.When he left Arizona, he was one of the best pitchers ever.Despite all his success, Johnson still remained one of the ugliest players in baseball.
Since it is highly unlikely that Randy will be pitching against the Yankees in these playoffs, I submit this chart without editorial comment….