The player known to fans everywhere as simply "The Big Unit," 6'10" pitcher Randy Johnson, became only the 24th Major League pitcher to win 300 games last Thursday evening in Washington D.C. He is only the sixth left-hander in that select group. He's also the first pitcher to win his 300th game on his first try since Tom Seaver did it in August of 1985. The next six who reached this great milestone needed more than one start. The six were Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
And at age 45 Randy Johnson is the second-oldest pitcher to reach the 300 mark—behind only Phil Niekro, who achieved the feat when he was 46 years. Johnson accomplished his milestone win against the Washington Nationals, the same team who launched his professional career by drafting him in the second round in 1985 when they were then known as the Montreal Expos. Baseball is filled with interesting ironies.
In his characteristically calm manner Johnson said: "I think I'm satisfied, but I've never been content. That’s probably why I never really got caught up in the . . . personal things because I always tried to excel and continue to do that." Johnson is a five-time Cy Young Award winner and has always possessed a dominating delivery and performance on the mound. But when Randy Johnson broke into baseball he was so wild that most scouts and managers wondered if he could ever gain the composure and control to harness his huge potential. His imposing physical size and his great velocity made him intriguing but unlikely to ever reach true greatness. I have never met Randy Johnson but I am under the impression that he is a fine person of deep faith and a gracious gentleman. He sure seems that way to fans of the game.
Some fans and students of this game actually believe that Randy Johnson may well be the last 300-game winner, due to the present-day five-man rotation which reduces the number of appearances a starter can make as well as the scarcity of pitchers able or willing to play long enough to win 300 games.
But, having been dismissed by many experts as the next to win his 300th when Tom Glavine did so two years ago, Johnson pointedly said, "Don't overlook Jamie Moyer"— the Philadelphia left-hander who ranks second among active pitchers with 250 victories, a goal he also reached only a few days ago.
Johnson didn't record his first Major League victory until he was 25. At age 30 he had won only 64 games, in 1993. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Johnson's 236 victories since turning 30 are the fifth-most in Major League Baseball history. This alone makes his feat all the more amazing, especially considering he was a power pitcher, not a soft throwing finesse pitcher like Tom Glavine, the last 300 game winner.
In his characteristically self-deprecating way Johnson said: "I'd say anything's possible as long as you stay healthy and are driven and continue to succeed.”
My hat's off to a great pitcher and a fine person. Randy Johnson is what this great game is all about. Next stop, when he hangs it up, Cooperstown. There will be quite a few great pitchers to enter the Hall of Fame in a five or six years: Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. What is really amazing is that three of these guys pitched for the same team for about a decade. Had the Atlanta Braves had a real closer in the bullpen they would likely have won two or three more pennants and one or two more World Series Championships.