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February 24, 2005


#23
by Fabian

Jason Stephens, 20, RHP

Jason Stephens will always be linked to, and under intense scrutiny as a result, the names Tyler Clippard and Mark Prior, at least in my eyes. When a Yankee official invoked Prior’s name following the drafting and signing of Stephens and then a Baseball America correspondent spoke more highly of Stephens following his and Clippard’s ’03 debuts, that was set in stone. While I don’t have much of a problem dismissing the Yankee claim as organizational hyperbole, the Clippard vs. Stephens issue is one that is more critical as it is part of the larger issue of stats versus scouting, which will often be the difference between my rating of a prospect and how others view the same prospect. Clippard’s dominant ’03 performance was not enough to overcome Stephens’ mediocre one, and that is perhaps a bit generous, all because Stephens projected better. In addition to being worlds better statistically, I also felt the relative projectabilities were debatable so clearly, in my mind, Clippard was the better prospect. But, enough of that, I’ll try to evaluate Stephens independent of Clippard, admittedly one of my favorite prospects.

In ’04, the Yankees sent Stephens back to the GCL, unsatisfied with what he had done there in ’03. As is often the case when repeating a level, Stephens got better, but was dominant, which I find alarming. Stephens best statistical indicator was also his greatest asset from a scouting perspective. In 48.1 innings, Stephens limited opponents to 10 walks. Unfortunately, while opponents found it difficult to work a walk against the RH from Ohio, they did not find it overly difficult to get a hit as they posted a .279 batting average. As always, this may be slightly bloated due to playing fields, inexperience of fielders, or some other aspect out of Stephens control, but my feeling is that it is a product of a pitcher who consistently finds the strike zone, but lacks the overpowering stuff to consistently fool hitters, at this point.

His aforementioned stuff would consist of both a 4 and 2 seam fastball, in addition to a curveball and changeup. The fastball currently runs from 87-90, but should get better and his curveball is supposedly very good. Stephens has also toyed around with a splitter in the past, according to Baseball America.

In 2005, Stephens is currently slated to be a member of what looks like a loaded Charleston rotation/team. I expect him to spend the whole year there and would be surprised if he puts together a K/9 above 8 or H/9 below 9. Rather, I expect him to continue to showcase good control and be a solid, perhaps around average, performer at the level as he begins his trek through the Yankee system. Perhaps some of his projectability will kick in and boost the speed with which he goes through the system.

Next prospect: Pitcher

Previous Prospect


February 21, 2005


#24
by Fabian

Erold Andrus, 20, OF-1B

I first took notice of Erold Andrus during the ’03 minor league season. Already possessing Rudy Guillen on its roster, that Battle Creek team was suddenly given another supposedly promising outfield talent a little ways into the summer. Andrus, who was one seasonal year younger than Guillen and a switch hitter as opposed to the right handed hitting Guillen, had what I deemed to be a better professional resume to that point. Considering that some of Guillen’s hype had included Vlad comparisons I thought if Andrus was able to stick with the team he could become a very interesting prospect. However, due to injury, that was not meant to be.

When ’04 began, Andrus was once again in the Battle Creek outfield, this time I felt he was playing second fiddle to Melky Cabrera. Andrus proceeded to begin the year very slowly as his offense consisted solely of the occasional double. About midway through the year he finally caught fire and tons of singles began falling for him and he even drove some balls over the fence. All told, he had a solid campaign for an age-19 CF; however, I’m not very excited about his prospects for the future.

The first knock against Andrus is that the Yankees organization feels the most interesting aspect of his player profile is his power potential and in order to give him as much room as possible to fulfill that potential, Erold Andrus will be manning 1B in ’05. That puts an immediate dent in his stock since the offensive responsibilities of a 1B are much greater than those of a CF. My second problem with Andrus going forward is that I feel his overall ’04 stats look better than they should have been, and that’s not saying much. As previously noted, Andrus had many more singles falling in during the second half of the season and, in fact, if one works under the principle that no “normal” player should have a BABIP very far north or south of .300 it becomes evident that Andrus, with a .327 BABIP, was the recipient of much luck in his second half hot streak to boost his numbers to respectability.

The most positive aspects of Andrus’ offensive game are that he is solid on the base paths, 14 SB in 19 attempts, and is a switch hitter who at this point seems to be able to hit from both sides as his ‘04 performance was almost the same whether facing right or left handed pitching. Andrus’ solid performance on the base paths combined with him grounding into only 10 double plays despite not being a hitter that lofts the ball a ton gives me reason for pause when seeing what the Yankees are doing to him. His speed indicators are good and I haven’t heard any reports that point to his OF defense saying the opposite of this, so why move him? It would appear the organization is supremely confident in its feelings of increased power.

Erold Andrus had a solid ’04 campaign and was no doubt one of the system’s hottest prospects down the stretch, but I think he is primed for an ’05 letdown of Robinson Cano in ’03 proportions. The only difference will be that it’s coming from a 1B and since those guys need to hit, my general feeling about him is not a good one.

Next prospect: Pitcher
Previous Prospect


February 17, 2005



by Larry Mahnken

I've been pretty detached from the baseball world since my apartment burned down a month ago, but it's time to get back on the saddle and write baseball again, especially with Spring Training finally underway. Huzzah!

The Yanks are looking to be, once again, a very good team in 2005, though it's obvious that the mainstream is once again overestimating them, and perhaps the analytical community is underestimating them. They certainly have an enormous amount of upside, but there are a lot of problems with this team. There have certainly been a number of unfathomably idiotic decisions made in the past couple of months, the biggest one being that they've decided to put Bernie Williams in center yet again, even though he's been one of the very worst defensive players in the game for the past three seasons.

The Bernie Williams situation should be evidence enough that the Yankees don't understand how to evaluate defense, and that they moved Alex Rodriguez because they're ignorant enough to believe that Derek Jeter is really worthy of that Gold Glove. We need to accept this fact, because if we keep giving the Yankees too much credit we fail to understand how far we have yet to go in spreading rational analysis.

The fact that the Yankees have, for the third straight offseason, failed to do anything to improve their defense, which has been a major cause for their postseason defeats since 2001, that they have been so adamant about improving their pitching the last two offseasons without even coming to grips with the simple concept that much of what is considered pitching is actually defense, it speaks volumes about how far they have to go. The fact that the Yankees are entrusting an important role -- that of the fourth outfielder -- to either Bubba Crosby or Doug Glanville -- shows how poorly this team is currently being run at the top. Throwing money at names is not a sign of intelligent management, that's the easy way to run a team. Intelligent management determines how much the players themselves are worth in dollars, and pays them appropriately. If those players can not be had at the appropriate price, then they find that production elsewhere.

If the A's were run like the Yankees they'd finish dead last, if the Yankees were run like the A's they still might not win in the postseason, but 100 wins would be the likely bottom of their potential. The best record in baseball would almost be assured every year.

Thank goodness the Yankees aren't run like the A's. As much as I love this team, I know that an unstoppable juggernaut would not be good for the game. Dynasties are good for a sport, but when there's almost no chance of an upset, it's gone too far.

And I know that a lot of people are starting to complain about the makeup of this Yankees team, that they're not the Yankees they fell in love with, the homegrown players are all veterans now, and all well-paid. The mercenaries don't seem to fit right in like Paul O'Neill and David Cone seemed to. The "something" that the '96-'01 Yanks had isn't there anymore.

Well, that's how it goes. The alternative, to be realistic, is to have a bad baseball team. The Yankees had to give up on some young talent to maximize their success in the late 90's, and at the same time, they couldn't afford to give some other guys time to get their feet wet at the expense of winning. When the window closed on that core of the 90's teams, the Yankees could either sink into mediocrity or bring in outsiders, and what team would choose to go backwards when they had the millions at their disposal that the Yankees did.

The crucial difference between this team and the mid-90's team is not the players, it's the expectation. Even a mercenary team in the mid-90's, built of comparable players to the ones they have today, would have brought a thrill that this team cannot possibly match, because back then it was new. Obviously the Yankees had won before, but they hadn't won recently, and until you see a team win a title, you don't completely expect it. With this team, you do expect it, and anything less than first place, anything less than a World title, is a disappointment. That's a terrible burden for a team to carry, and a huge loss for the fans, sort of the trade-off for winning titles.

Of course it's still lots of fun, winning always is. It just feels different than it once did.

* * *

I'm sure you've all seen "It's a Wonderful Life". For those of you that still haven't (hey, I never saw it until my early 20's), it's about a man named George Bailey who has passed up the chance for personal success several times to help the people around him in his lifetime, and when his absent-minded uncle misplaces George's business's money at the bank, he's completely ruined and on the verge of going to prison. His only remaining asset is a life insurance policy, making him worth more dead than alive. He resolves to kill himself and wishes he'd never been born, at which point an angel, Clarence, comes and shows him what the world would have been like had he never been born -- substantially worse for the people he knows and loves. He decides to not kill himself after all, and when he arrives home (and the police are there to arrest him), all the people in the town show up and give him all the money they can to help him, and he's not ruined after all. At movie's end, he recieves a card from Clarence, that says:
"Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends."
It's been a tough month for me. I lost my home, got a new job and lost it (it was physical labor which I was simply incapable of doing satisfactorily), and have had more than my fair share of stress from my personal affairs. But I know that I have hundreds of friends, even though I've never met most of you.

I'm the richest man in town.


February 9, 2005


#25
by Fabian

Method...

Jose Valdez, 22, RHP

Back in my more naïve days, my feelings towards Jose Valdez were similar to the way I currently feel about Eric Abreu. Specifically, it was after the 2002 minor league season had been completed and the Yankee minor league system wasn’t looking so great. Then it was mentioned on BA that the Yankees had some young power arms coming through the system, one of which was Jose Valdez, a lanky Dominican right-hander who could consistently pump fastballs in the 90s. Well, here we are some 2+ years later and Valdez has yet to make much of an impact in the system. He has progressed about a level at a time, without any dominant showings, 2004 was no different in this regard as he spent the entire year at Tampa.

Something that I like to separate is pitcher command as opposed to pitcher control. A pitcher with good control will have the ball in the strike zone on a consistent basis. A pitcher with good command will, in addition to having the ball in the strike zone on a consistent basis, throw tough strikes. Pitches that are difficult to drive when the hitter makes contact. In ’04 Valdez displayed decent control, about 3.1 BB/9, but poor command. This lack of command did not show up in his home run totals because Valdez is a groundball pitcher, but showed up in his high doubles allowed total.

From a scouting pointing point of view, much of Valdez’s troubles come from inconsistency generated by an abnormal pitching motion that is difficult for the right-hander to consistently duplicate. Statistics bear this out as well. Rather than consistently allow the offense to do damage, Valdez would often shut opponents down for spurts of a couple innings only to fall apart.

Valdez’s inconsistency combined with his lack of any standout secondary pitches, his best seems to be an…inconsistent splitter, leads me to believe that he should be moved to the bullpen, where I think he would become a huge asset. Other than 2003 where he gave up 14 home runs in 134 innings, Valdez has always been good at keeping the ball in the park, which is key for any late-inning reliever, and he has given up just 12 home runs in 257 career minor league innings when ’03 is ignored. Valdez’s stuff also translates better to the bullpen where his fastball should be in the mid-90s as he no longer needs to restrain himself and there won’t be as much of a worry about his secondary pitches.

Overall, I would look at ’04 as a year where Valdez was stagnant in his progress as a prospect. Thus far there have been no reports of the Yankees switching him to the bullpen so it looks as though he will get another chance to establish himself as a legitimate starting pitching prospect for AA Trenton. I wouldn’t expect to him have anything more than a mediocre year based on what he’s done thus far in the minors and almost expect his numbers to worsen. The quicker he is moved to the bullpen, the better, it is in that role that I think his prospect status will rise and why he makes this list.

Next prospect: Position player



February 8, 2005


Method Behind The Madness
by Fabian

My next post will introduce you to the prospect whom I feel is the 25th best in the Yankee organization. Before I begin posting that I would like to let you know about some of the things that went into the thought process.

When I talk about the "tools" aspects of the players, this information is generated by taking into account everything I have heard/read from sources such as Baseball America, Pinstripes Plus, scouts/players/analysts who I am in contact with, and the handful of occasions I've actually seen some of these guys play. On occasions where there were conflicting reports I attempted to go with whatever information was most common across my sources.

Tools are, in most cases, only a small part of how I view the prospect picture. Unless a player has tools that are just off the charts I will weigh their performance more heavily than I will their tools. In addition, in a case where a player has purportedly horrible tools but great production, I will side more towards the production.

The numbers that I look towards the most for pitchers are strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed. I ideally would like to see a high strikeout rate, low walk rate and low home run rate. In addition I try and make an assessment of their numbers in the context of their league and home ballpark environment. Keeping hits allowed to a minimum is also a consideration, but I do not weigh that as heavily as the other 3 peripheral factors. For hitters the numbers I look towards are Isolated Power (IsoP= SLG-AVG), XBH%, BB rate, and K rate. AVG is also a consideration when it is at extremes, but for the most part, the other stats take precedence. SB/CS totals are also factored in. Like the pitching stats, the hitter numbers are also assessed in the context of league and home ballpark factors.

Lastly, another consideration that I put a lot of emphasis on is age of the prospect. In general, my ideal prospect age is 19 for Low A, 20 for High A, 21 for AA, and 22 for AAA. I give more leeway as far as age for new players in the system playing for the R and SS-A teams unless it is an extreme in either direction.

I put a ton of work (and am actually still fine tuning some of it) into the research for this list and would appreciate any and all feedback. I use a lot of abbreviations so if there are any questions about those just put it in the Comments section to the corresponding post. The first post should be up sometime soon after this, I hope you enjoy it. I will be linking to all previous posts in the series in each post of the list.


February 7, 2005


From Great Pitcher to Hall of Famer.
by sj

1999

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.

2000

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

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.

2002

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.

2002

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

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.

2004

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….

Randy Johnson Postseason record


W

L

IP

ER

ERA

Yankees

5

0

27.3

5

1.65

Braves

2

0

16.0

2

1.13

Everyone Else

0

8

64.7

30

4.17




February 1, 2005


"He's beginning to Believe" by TVerik
by TVerik

1994 (The answer is out there, Randy, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to. )


The infamous MLB strike year of 1994 was a fairly good one for our hero, Randy Johnson. He managed a 13-6 record with 9 complete games in only 23 starts, best in the AL. That included an insane 4 shutouts, also tops in the AL. That's more than he had ever had in the majors before. His ERA+ was 154 - also easily his high-water mark. But it would improve in the coming seasons. His unadjusted ERA was 3.19, good for fifth in the league.

His Mariners finished the aborted season 49-63, and were likely happy to go home in August. Johnson's rotation mates included the likes of Dave Fleming, Chris Bosio, Greg Hibbard, and Roger Salkeld. Bosio's ERA was 4.32, and none of the rest of them managed to keep theirs under 6.

His age 30 season, RJ had finally started to put everything together and become the dominant pitcher that baseball people had hoped.

He placed third in AL Cy Young balloting.

1995 (If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain)


If 1994 was great, 1995 was super-great. Most analysts agree that this was his best year overall. Johnson put up an astonishing 18-2 record, with 294 strikeouts and an ERA+ of a superlative 196. He won the Cy Young easily, getting 97% of the vote.

I'll just list the categories in which he was first in the AL in 1995:

1. Cy Young Voting
2. ERA
3. Won/Loss%
4. Hits Allowed
5. Strikeouts


Those are the categories that he led. Perhaps more impressively, he finished on the leaderboard of fewest walks allowed/9 innings for the first time in his career (6th in the league, 2.76). Johnson just missed becoming the first AL Triple Crown pitcher (leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts) since Detroit's Hal Newhouser in 1945. His .900 winning percentage broke Ron Guidry's 1978 record, and his strikeouts per nine innings ratio of 12.35 broke the record held by Nolan Ryan.

Here's a lengthy Sporting News article about the 1995 Mariners in the regular season.

Our story is about Randy Johnson, but I can't let the 1995 season pass by without talking about the Mariners. The M's went 79-66, finishing first in the West that strike-shortened year.

They trailed the California Angels by 13 games on August 13th. But the team made an impassioned run over the final month and a half to tie the division and force a one-game playoff.

Johnson, of course, was called upon to pitch this decisive game against the Angels. He responded with a complete game three-hitter that gave Seattle its first-ever division title and first post-season appearance.

Their first-round series (in the first year of the ALDS) was against the Yankees. RJ made them pay, winning his one start (Game Three) and another game in which he relieved (decisive Game Five). He only gave up three earned runs in ten innings. Ken Griffey, Jr. homered five times, twice in Game One. Edgar Martinez drove in six runs in Game Four, on his way to 10 RBI in a five-game series. Finally, the Mariners overcame three deficits in Game Five to win the series.

This was obviously a sad day in Yankee-town. Beloved Don Mattingly retired after the series. Buck Showalter, the man who had made the Yankees a force to be reckoned with, was not asked back. The next year began the era of Derek Jeter and Joe Torre.

*sniff*

Advancing to the ALCS, the Mariners fell to the Cleveland Indians, who defeated Johnson 4-0 to clinch the series in Game Six. The loss marked the beginning of a run of hard luck that Johnson would endure in the post-season.

1996 (Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.)


This was not a banner year for our hero. He only started 8 games before succumbing to a lower-back injury which ended his season. The Mariners finished in second place.

1997 (There is no spoon.)


Now this was a very good year for Johnson. He amassed a 20-4 record, with a 198 ERA+. He finished second in Cy Young voting to an unearthly Roger Clemens. Really, it's only Clemens' presence in the AL which keeps RJ from leading virtually every pitching category again. RJ struck out 19 batters in a game, twice that season!

In the 1997 All-Star game, Johnson threw a pitch over Larry Walker's head, causing Walker to turn the batting helmet backwards and switch to the other side of the plate.

The Mariners finished first again, and faced the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. Johnson got pounded. He was 0-2 with an ERA over 5.5 for the series. Mike Mussina beat him in Games One and Four, and the Mariners were rolled over in four games.

1998 (RJ, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.)

Johnson's last year as a Mariner, and (the audience breathes a sigh of relief) the last year that I'm going to write about.

This paragraph is from baseballLibrary.com, which I used extensively throughout my piece.

Johnson's 1998 season was a tale of two cities. In Seattle, he sulked through the first half of the year after the Mariners told him they couldn't afford to re-sign him. Just 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA in late July, Johnson was rejuvenated by a trade-deadline deal to Houston. After joining the Astros, the Big Unit reeled off 10 wins in 11 starts, posting a 1.28 ERA along with four shutouts. His post-season woes continued, however, as he was outpitched by Padres ace Kevin Brown in a 2-1 loss to San Diego in Game One of the NLDS and suffered a second defeat to Sterling Hitchcock in the series' decisive Game Four.
The particulars of the trade: On July 31, 1998, Johnson went to Houston in exchange for Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen. Later (October 1), the Astros also sent John Halama to the M's.


I have long thought that postseason performances are overrated by the general public and are dominated by sample size and by better competition. Johnson finished the NLDS with a 1.93 ERA, 2 walks, and 17 strikeouts. He gave up only 3 earned runs in 14 innings. But he did finish 0-2.

The first half of 1998 appears to have been a frustrating time for Randy Johnson, and it manifested itself a few times: The "Randy Johnson Rap Sheet":

June 1998: Initiates a clubhouse fight with Mariners teammate David Segui purportedly because Segui would not lower his stereo.

July 1998: Sparks a bench-clearing brawl between Seattle and Cleveland when he whistles consecutive pitches at the head of Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton, earning a suspension.

A Sporting News column from that era makes a case that Johnson intentionally "threw" the first half of the 1998 season.

I'll let Johnson himself have the last word about this issue. Don't forget the exciting conclusion to this series, covering the Arizona years, is coming next week from SJohnny.

Johnson said, in a 1998 Sporting News article:

"People are going to want to know how I could be 9-10 with Seattle and 10-1 with Houston (in 1998)," Johnson said last week after signing a four-year, $52.4 million contract with the Diamondbacks that made him the highest-salaried pitcher in baseball and No. 2 on the game's overall list behind Anaheim's new first baseman, Mo Vaughn.

"I'll tell you exactly how I did it--because I was happy. It's a five-letter word. I was much happier in Houston. I was happy with the environment I was in.

"I was trying in Seattle. If anyone's ever seen me on the mound, I pitch with a lot of emotion. When you've got an employer screwing with your head, it's kind of tough. Look at Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens during their final years in Boston and look at what they did after they left. I'm human. I'm no different."