clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Randy Johnson's career and what he means to me

New, comments

Randy Johnson enters the Hall of Fame this weekend. I look back at the best player in Diamondbacks history

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

My first vague memory of Randy Johnson was him throwing over John Kruk's head in the 1993 All-Star game.

watch.0.html



"Throw at someone? Future Diamondback amirite?" Media people would have said if they had known the Diamondbacks would be a thing or the media narratives dogging them 17 years into their existence.

That moment did establish the initial persona of Randy Johnson in my mind, a very tall, very intense, very scary pitcher who could put the genuine fear of God into you.

I also remember Randy Johnson for his cameo appearance in Little Big League. For those of you who haven't seen that movie, well what's wrong with you, and Randy's appearance consists of him coming in for a relief appearance in the last inning of a playoff game (Bob Brenley definitely saw it and used this tactic to his advantage later.) There's no clip on YouTube, but he came into the game, and a sinister guitar and bass grove (If you had slowed the tempo down of it, you'd probably hear that music in certain more, uh, free-loving parts of the internet), but it still established "woooooo, this guy is kinda scary."

A few years later, in another All-Star Game, Randy pulled similar shenanigans with Larry Walker.

You might think this is weird, but Larry Walker is from Canada, who gave us Kids in the Hall. Also, the look on Johnson's face is a mix of bemusement and "Who the f*** does this a**h*** think he is?

A year after that, Randy Johnson's career came to a close in Seattle and he was dealt to the playoff-pushing Houston Astros, who didn't make it out of the first round, so there's a lesson there for current trade deadline buyers. He was a free agent after that, and 11-year old me had thoughts that maybe he could be on the Diamondbacks. Wouldn't that be neat? Probably wouldn't happen.

EXCEPT IT TOTALLY DID.

Now, the late-90s were a bit of a spoiled time for young Clefo the sports fan. in 1997, UA won the NCAA Basketball Championship. In 98 and 99, the Broncos won Super Bowls, and so Randy Johnson being signed was cherry on top of what could have become some *very* annoying sports fandoms. Thankfully, all three of those teams have humbled me greatly since then

The Diamondbacks signing Randy was the first step in their "Jerry's going all in, y'all!" strategy to contention, and it helped keep me interested in them as I went through all the growing up and whatnot. (Of course, this strategy turned out to be financially insolvent, but that's a Jim-Hacks argument for another time.) This towering, scary, hard-throwing guy was a force for good, and he showed it throughout his time in Arizona.

The '99 and 2000 teams didn't make it to the promised land, and it kind of felt like it might not ever happen. After all, there is a certain degree of randomness in the MLB playoffs, get hot at the right time and you're great, get cold and you're definitely not, etc. So when the Diamondbacks made the playoffs in 2001, I had tempered expectations. I was also 14 and kids at 14 are weird and stuff. Always have been, always will be. And with the exception of his outing in the NLDS against the Cardinals, RJ was lights out that postseason.

I had mentioned those other teams I liked that won championships, but the 2001 Diamondbacks were definitely the most special to me. I was at the right age to start appreciating it more, it was an intense series, and I reaaaallly got to rub it in the face of this smug-as-hell Yankee fan guy I knew.

I think he recently got married.

But back to Johnson specifically. I know now that his performance out of the bullpen in Game 7 was amazing, but I'll be honest, I don't remember a lot of it. Soriano had hit that home run previously, and everything felt terrible and kinda hazy. Not to get into anything personal, but the time of the 2001 World Series was not a great one for me personally or my family, so stuff like that happening was commonplace for me.

Gonzo's hit brought me out of that daze, and I remember seeing Johnson and Schilling get the MVP award, and I was like "Yes!", as I'm sure we all were.

************

Randy Johnson was the greatest Diamondback ever. Whether you want to go by most decorated (All those Cy Young awards), advanced stats (He is well above the next closest player, Luis Gonzalez, in career fWAR, and even moreso above the next closest pitcher, Brandon Webb.), or just pure awe-inspiring greatness (everything.)

The zenith of Randy Johnson's career with the Diamondbacks was, of course, the perfect game against Atlanta in 2004. It was the only bright spot of an incredibly forgettable season, but it may become one of those kind of moments where people remember that and not the situation surrounding it, much like how people might forget that after Carlton Fisk's foul pole homer in the World Series, the Reds ended up winning the next game.



He is also the only person to strike out 20 batters in a game in the Hall of Fame.



Of course, after the 2004 season, Johnson was traded to the Yankees where everything was fine for him, and the Diamondbacks were totally fine.

************

Randy Johnson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and he will be the first to do so as a member of the Diamondbacks. He might be the only one to do so as a member of the Diamondbacks for a looooooong time (The next possible candidate is maybe Paul Goldschmidt, but he's still really early in his career.) He "only" spent eight seasons of his 21 year career in Phoenix, but they were easily the best of his career. Sorry Mariners, you're gonna get Griffey and Ichiro soon enough.

And really, part of Johnson's appeal was his intensity and surliness. He had the pure stuff to be an amazing pitcher, sure, but his demeanor amplified it tenfold. I mean, could you imagine Fred Rogers with Randy Johnson's pitching ability be as scary to face on the mound?

It also made the absurd moments of his career even moreso. Would the infamous bird incident be as well known if some more vanilla pitcher had done it?



But being able to watch this dominating figure, both in stature and in skill, pitch for those years was something that adolescent me looked forward to every time I could. We as Diamondback fans were incredibly lucky to get his prime years, and everyone as Baseball fans were lucky to see this incredible and rare type of pitcher in his career.

Congratulations Randy, you deserve it