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Welcome back, Randy

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Johnson passed his physical, and the trade is official. Randy Johnson will be announced, at a 1 p.m. press conference today, as a member of your 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks. I'll actually be just two blocks down the street, at work, so will keep an eye out as I turn the corner on 7th Street at the ballpark, around 12:30, to see if any recognisably-tall figures are making their way toward Chase Field. :-)

It's a weird kind of structure to the deal, with almost half the $26m Johnson is getting, coming in the form of a $12m signing bonus: he gets $3.5m of it this year, $500K next year, and then $4m each in 2009 and 2010. In contrast, his actual salary drops to $4m this year, before rebounding to $10 million in 2008. Not quite sure of the purpose in all this; presumably it's partly to help the team stay on budget, but that doesn't explain the hefty signing fee. Anyway, taking into account the $2m of Johnson's salary coming from the Yankees in 2007, it means the overall breakdown of cost to AZ is $5.5m, $10.5m, $4m and $4m, for each season between 2007-2010. That doesn't seem too bad, even though I have qualms about the fact we'll still be paying him the last two years, even though he probably won't be on the team.

Whatever creative methods are used to slice up the financial pie, we're paying Johnson $24m for two years service. Will this turn out to be a good investment? That's the $64,000 question, which will likely determine, to a great extent, how the Diamondbacks fare this season and next. Bob Melvin said, "You get a guy who's going to give you 200 innings of work and about 17 wins," but I'm not sure whether Bob got the memo which said it's uncertain whether Johnson will be available at the start of the season, as he recovers from his back surgery. Reports are mixed on that one, with some saying he's doing better than expected, while others are more cautions. Seems it's far too early to tell for sure, but I would be surprised to see him throw for real in April.

In the Republic, Nick Piecoro has been getting out his calculator, and working out the effect Randy Johnson has on attendance. In the six previous seasons here, Big Unit games were attended by, on average, two thousand more fans. That's more than I'd seen before, but still less than, say, the D-Train effect during his rookie season for Florida. In terms of hard cash, if Johnson makes fifteen starts at Chase Field this year, that could work out to around $1.1m more in revenue for the D'backs, though Piecoro notes the appeal of the Big Unit is likely to be less now. On the other hand, the sales of #51 jerseys in the new Sedona Red would also need to be factored into the financial gain.

There be plenty of time for analysis when the season starts, with every pitch by Johnson the subject of scrutiny as to its effectiveness. But before we do that, let's cut the guy a break, for one day: as we welcome Johnson back to Arizona, it's appropriate to look back over ten of the notable games and milestones in Johnson's career in Arizona.

  • Four Cy Young awards, including a unanimous first-place vote in 2002.

  • Led the league in ERA three times, wins once and strikeouts five times.

  • Four All-Star games, including two starts. Five shutout innings.

  • Perfect game vs. Atlanta, May 18th, 2004. Also a one-hitter, and nine starts in total with three hits or less.

  • Tied the major-league record with 20 K's against the Reds on May 8, 2001. Also three 17-strikeout games, four with 16, and three with 15.

  • Struck out 16 in relief vs. Padres, July 19, 2001. Combined with Curt Schilling on a one-hitter.

  • 2001 post-season: appeared in six games, with a 5-1 record and a 1.52 ERA. Game 7, World Series: came in from the bullpen on zero days' rest, to pitch 1.1 perfect innings and get his third win of the series.

  • On June 29, 2004, Johnson struck out Jeff Cirillo of the Padres to become only the 4th pitcher in major-league history with 4,000 strikeouts in their career.
  • Accidentally killed a bird with a pitch in spring-training.

  • Overall for Arizona: 193 games, 103-49, 2.65 ERA, 11.86 K/9, ERA+ 171.

Feel free to chime in with any I may have missed. For today, we come to praise the Big Unit, not to bury him. Your normal, cynical, snarky AZ SnakePit will be resumed tomorrow. :-)