About a year ago, I looked up the reactions to the M's trading for Randy in '89. It was funny, because apparently none of the players liked it-Langston was a popular guy. Jim Presley said “This is a sad day for Mariner baseball" and Harold Reynolds said “This crushes me." But Johnson was already pretty cocky about what he could do in MLB. I think if anything, he's been slightly underrated, maybe because of that whole neglected West Coast player issue.
The one I remember best -- he's in the minors with Montreal. The other bench is riding him hard and, after striking out the last man of an inning, stomps over and stands on the top step of the enemy dugout.
Challenges the entire bench to fight him 25-on-1. "I'LL TAKE YOUR LIFE!!" Johnson screams.
Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson weren't fakes out there. In other lives, they'd have been Huns. No team fielding either of those two pitchers was ever laughed at.
Cindy and I remember at the Dome once, when the young Johnson (about 1994) was destroying the Red Sox. Like, one of those 14-K games. Johnson took to waving the Sox back to the bench after each strike three.
Mike Greenwell, a lefty, started yelling smack as he walked back to the bench. Johnson, well-and-truly enraged, stomped over to fight Greenwell. Both benches emptied.
Hitters kept their heads down against Johnson for 20 years. Even in the batters' box, it was like they were hoping Johnson wouldn't notice them. Some guys, you don't bluff them. You walk away or you swing. Batters walked away from the confrontations.
Johnson hit Jim Leyritz of the Yankees in the head. Leyritz, understandably hysterical about his near-death experience, started talking to the press. "I've got the right to find Johnson on the street, go up to him and punch him. It's the same thing."
The writers, of course, scurried over to tell Johnson and try to stir stuff up. Johnson laughed. The sooner the better, he said. "He is the intimidatee. I am the intimidator. You can't intimidate the intimidator."
When Randy was young, and not all that good, his control would frazz in and out. Mostly out, but sometimes in. With the Mariners not playing well, and Johnson rather, um, immature, Johnson would go for no-hitters and 15-strikeout games.
Very often, Johnson would mow down the first 9 or 12 hitters and then, as soon as the first ground ball went through, get knocked out of the box. As one scout put it back then, "He gives up the first hit and then just totally loses interest, like, 'The no-hitter's gone. What's the point?' "
Check Johnson's splits in 1998, before and after the trade. Scouts used the same language that year. "He is pitching with a total lack of interest."
Wok has challenged Felix on a similar point. Great pitchers want to nuke opponents, win and win in destructive fashion. When it doesn't happen that way, they can lose interest.
Johnson, however, hit the LH J.T. Snow in the head once, in ST if I remember, and after that was never as belligerent on the mound. He rarely threw inside and I never remember him throwing chin music after that AB.
It didn't matter. The beanball was established when he walked out to the mound. "Nothing's more important than life," as John Kruk put it about crowding the plate on Johnson.
Manny being Manny? The Mariners cut Randy Johnson a wide berth, but David Segui was a red-ears with a bodybuilder's strength and temperament. Segui didn't let Johnson's crankiness slide one day, and the two went at it in the locker room.
Reporters later asked what it was about. "I dunno. He's just weird."
During the 1995 playoff run, KING-TV's Tony Ventrella interviewed Randy Johnson during a joyous postgame and complimented Johnson on the way the Mariners had converted so many brand-new fans.
Tony laughed in an interview, "Randy, I was talking to a grandmother tonight and she said, 'That Randy Johnson is pretty good! He should pitch every night!' "
Johnson, immediately angered, glared at Ventrella and shook his head menacingly. "$#@#$, that can't happen."
The above memories are mine and Cindy's, but here's one I like better. The website doesn't buy it, but I do. The umpires used to laugh about Johnson all the time.
=== LOOGY ===
I suppose Randy would have a metric ton of rehab to do in his late 40's. But he will be able to twirl that slider until he's 55. Johnson only throws upper 90's now, but his slider still cracks like a whip, and even hurt last year he fanned 23 of 82 lefties to face him.
A few of you kids might not realize that in the 1995 ALDS, Piniella began using Johnson as a reliever in between his 130-, 140-pitch starts. "It's his throw day, anyway," Lou reasoned. The next year, Johnson was on the DL almost the entire season.
Wouldn't it be nice if the M's could talk him into unretiring at the ASB. They've got the org that loves fan faves, too.
Making a big thing out of it in spring training, when those guys get here, I want them accepted, like you were accepted when you were new...
MOST of the great trades, didn't look that way, the day of...
M's trading for Randy in '89 is very interesting because it is the first trade of that line.
Langston>Randy>Garcia>Reed>Guti and others.
I guess the Langston trade was the most important in franchise history: the major pivot between the '80s teams and the '90s teams. The Griffey trade made more news, but wasn't such a clear divide in the team's history. And then trading Randy helped set up the '00 through '03 run. So that points to Johnson being the most important player the Mariners have had.
That echoes Larry Stone's "teammates chain."
Bet you nobody had noticed that RJ was in a Gutierrez "trade chain." Great catch. Of course trade chains would be a lot more selective than teammates chains.