Randy Johnson Defines Dbacks History
Disregard The Hype: The Big Unit, Star Attraction Of The 2001 Reunion, Will Forever Be A Diamondback
Randy Johnson throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during his second stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Image by SD Dirk and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
By Bob Goodwood
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Sept. 14, 2011 — Amid the hoopla of the reunion at Chase Field of the 2001 World Series championship team last weekend, Randy Johnson was the center of attention.
With no disrespect to Tony Womack, David Delucci, Greg Ellis, Steve Finley, Damian Miller, Jay Bell, Mitre Cummings, Danny Bautista, Brian Anderson, Matt Williams, Curt Schilling and a plethora of others, Johnson, more than anyone else, represents the winning ways of the 1999-2002 Diamondbacks.
It was his arrival in 1999 and his departure in 2004 that mark the era of successful baseball history in the Valley of the Sun.
The crowd roared when he was announced and it was clear that some peace had developed between the organization’s most famous player and the team that shunned him in 2009. For those that don’t remember, the Big Unit was injured for most of the last playoff run in 2007 but delivered some quality stars in 2008 when the team folded down the stretch to the domestic-battery accused, Manny Ramirez led Los Angeles Dodgers.
Expecting to come back to a winning team in 2009 that had come up a bit short in 2008, Johnson offered the Diamondbacks a 50 percent pay cut. But the front office at the time, led by Jeff Moorad and Josh Byrnes, wanted even more.
The Giants were more than willing to give Johnson a one-year deal for $8 million and incentive bonuses. So Johnson won his 300th game as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Judging by statements made to news organizations during reunion weekend, he blames Moorad for that debacle, as do most fans. When Moorad had a chance to buy the San Diego Padres, owner Ken Kendrick and President Derrick Hall could not get him on a plane fast enough.
So bridges have been rebuilt and Johnson returned to Chase Field with his signature scowl transformed into a smile. Some in big media, namely Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic and KGME, made the fact that he was smiling into an debate as to whether Johnson would go into the Hall of Fame as a Diamondback or as a Seattle Mariner.
It’s just ludicrous and a reason why a guy like Johnson scowled at reporters and commentators like Bickley as much as he would scowl at an opposing hitter.
The question is ludicrous for many reason, but the first and most important reason has to be that Johnson had some great moments with the Mariners, the team where he had his first success after initially being drafted by the Montreal Expos, but he had his best moments as a Diamondback.
In Seattle, Johnson went to five All-Star games and had one no-hitter. He won one Cy Young Award in Seattle, in 1995.
In Arizona, however, Johnson went from great to legendary.
He went to five All-Star games in a Diamondbacks uniform and won four Cy Young Awards. In 2001 he won a World Series, and an World Series most valuable player award. In 2002 he won the pitching version of the triple crown — ERA, wins and strikeouts.
Then, in 2004, in his last year in purple, he threw a perfect game in Atlanta.
He has 133 victories as a member of the Mariners and 118 as a member of the Diamondbacks.
If the stats are not enough for guys like Bickley, how about the fact that he makes his home in Paradise Valley.
Even if that is not enough to persuade even the most scandalous-minded commentator that Johnson wants to be enshrined as a Diamondback, consider one of the only opportunities that Johnson has had to select one team or the other: in a recent commercial.
It is played over and over these days during sporting events and takes its cues from Field of Dreams. In the commercial for Pepsi Max, a carbonated beverage, baseball legends and current would-be legends are hanging around in a corn field while a Pepsi Max delivery guy brings a constant supply of Pepsi Max.
In this commercial, Johnson is donning Diamondbacks purple and teal.
Surely, he had some input in selecting which team’s jersey and cap he would wear.
Don’t these sportswriters watch television, or are they too busy drinking Stella Artois and eating the free food in the press room?
Such silliness makes it easy to see why Johnson had even less patience for sportswriters as he did for opposing hitters.
He couldn't throw a high hard one to the sportswriters. They threw them at him.
And some, it seems, still are.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.