"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Now, Legend

We’ll never see the likes of Randy Johnson again. The image of this enormous man, who resembled a pre-historic serpant on the mound, hair flying, limbs flailing, as if backed by the wailing guitars of Satan’s house band, will be impossible to erase from our collective memory. He was one of the greatest starting pitchers I’ve ever seen in his prime–along with Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux–as well as one of the most viscerally intimidating. He was downright frightening, almost to the point of being comic. But he wasn’t a fool, and  it was hard to laugh too tough when he was stuffing up the Yankees’ asses, first with Seattle and then Arizona. That he was able to harness all of his moving parts, his wildness–both physical and emotional–and become an all-time great pitcher is one of the great feats of the past twenty-five years.

One of a kind, as they say. With an all-time moniker: The Big Unit.  I don’t know if  many fans will exactly miss him, but nobody is sure to  forget him.

[Painting by Viasta Volcano]

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1 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 5, 2010 10:13 pm

There certainly wouldn't be baseball in Seattle without Randy. I have to wonder where the Arizona franchise would be as well.

2 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 5, 2010 10:21 pm

I remember watching him come out of the pen in Game 7 in Arizona and thinking "this cannot possibly be a good omen"

3 Just Fair   ~  Jan 5, 2010 11:10 pm

Somwhere Kim Jones weeps
Champange Shower Unit grins
Burned into my brain

4 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 5, 2010 11:18 pm

What exactly does "The Big Unit" mean?

Only one better in his prime was Pedro. I'd take RJ ahead of Clemens or Maddux.

5 Raf   ~  Jan 5, 2010 11:25 pm

Even though this current era is remembered primarily for offense, we have seen some damn fine pitchers.

Been a heck of a career for Johnson, glad to say that I got to see him pitch, even though he wasn't as dominant as he could've been due to his back.

6 Boatzilla   ~  Jan 5, 2010 11:37 pm

[4] Check out the article. It started out as "Big Bird" when he first came up, but his teammates eventually changed it to Big Unit, out of respect. Another thing you'll find in the article are more reasons to hate Schilling. What a pompous ass.

7 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 5, 2010 11:43 pm

[6] oh come on, theres NOTHING pompous about covering your locker with Patton quotes!

8 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 5, 2010 11:59 pm

[6] Oh, I remember reading this awhile back. Schilling is SUCH an asshole, truly unlikeable person.

[7] Yes, Boss Steinbrenner did it too! :)

9 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jan 6, 2010 2:31 am

yo thelarmis, where are you? you gotta check this out. Kenny G gets killed by Pat Metheny..


10 thelarmis   ~  Jan 6, 2010 3:14 am

[9] i was practicing! holy crap! metheny completely DESTROYED kenny g. whoa. that was wild!!!

[4, 6, 8] i didn't read the article linked above, but i thought Rock Raines gave him the name "big unit" during an Expos camp when they had a collision. whichever...

11 Paul   ~  Jan 6, 2010 5:13 am

Thanks for linking the Jordan piece. Boss Steinbrenner should have read that before making demands. A goofy kid who learned to withdraw, and is happy there, is not made for NYC. The jackass Patton-lover would have fit right in. No doubt NYC would have loved Schilling from the opening press conference.

"nobody is sure to forget him"

He's utterly unique. There's something really beautiful in that.

As for Unit or Pedro, you have to choose Pedro's peak, but Unit's career. It would be fun if they went into the HOF together.

12 bp1   ~  Jan 6, 2010 8:05 am

Saw an interview with Alice Cooper once. He owns a restaurant with Randy, and apparently they have this big hot dog they serve called The Big Unit. "More Meat Than You Can Eat".

Great pitcher, clearly. One of the best ever. I can't remember who it was who said that when they faced him, it seemed like the ball came out of his hands halfway to home plate. There just wasn't any time to pick up the pitch and react.

Too bad the Yankees got him on the downside - which seemed to be a theme for the early 2000's (Roger, Randy, Kevin, Sheff, etc). The lasting memories I will have of him is his being kind of a dickhead in post game interviews, frustrated that he wasn't the pitcher he used to be, and bothered by all the intrusive questions from the NY media. Understandable, but not fun from a fan's perspective. I think my annoyance was more with the Yankees paying big dollars for past-their-prime players, expecting something that was no longer possible. He wasn't the Big Unit from 2001 anymore.

I got a feeling his HOF speech will be a bit awkward and very short.

Strange dude. Tons of physical talent, but never seemed comfortable in his skin. Hope he manages to find peace in his post baseball life.

13 Raf   ~  Jan 6, 2010 8:38 am

The problem with Johnson's time with the Yankees wasn't that he couldn't handle NY or being a Yankee, it was a cranky back, as evidenced by him breaking down in 2006. I remember him getting an epidural before his ALDS start.

14 Boatzilla   ~  Jan 6, 2010 8:47 am

[9] JAY-sus Jazz. Us mid-40s folks can not read reverse type online, and whoever laid that text out ought to be skinned and burned and shot and then tortured. Gah! That page is an abortion. However, anyone who rips Kenny G(ag) is a friend of mine. His music is like white bread in an Italian bakery. Please tell me what Metheny said some day.

15 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 6, 2010 9:01 am

As a lefty hitter, I'm sure there's no professional pitcher I'd be less comfortable against than Randy Johnson.
I always had a hard time hitting tall, lanky, hard-thowing southpaws, and struggled against them until my uniform wearing career ended in high school.
I'd watch Johnson thinking he could throw me 100 pitches, and I'd be lucky to hit one past him. That's probably true of most professional pitchers, but none intimidated me more than Randy.
He could make professional hitters feel like they were stepping up to the plate with two strikes against them.
I was at Game 2 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona (the only WS game I've ever been to), watching Johnson through binoculars from a luxury box between home and 3rd. It was the most impressive pitching performance I've ever seen firsthand. Torre had benched all the lefty hitters: Tino, Justice, O'Neill. That's respect. That's how great Randy Johnson was. Game 2 of the WS, and Torre has to bench his best hitters. Has to bench them.
He was very good as a Yankee, and I was happy to root for him, but you knew his best days were behind him, and he pitched like he knew it too.

16 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 6, 2010 9:04 am

Leaving aside the spectacular memories of the guy, there's one moment that sticks in my mind.
Some random game midseason, probably around 2000, I caught a couple innings of him pitching against I don't know, St. Louis or someone.

What I remember was the way lefties were absolutely bailing out as Johnson's slider kept catching the outside corner. It was quite dramatic to see these major league hitters bailing out like little leaguers--and the pitches ended up being strikes!

It was unreal.

17 lroibal   ~  Jan 6, 2010 9:09 am

More so than his time with the Yankees, or all those years he overpowered Yankee batters, I remember Johnson for that one All Star performance when the tough, gritty, 300 career hitter John Kruk wanted no part of Johnson. He was a scary dude on the mound.

18 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 6, 2010 9:16 am

[9] Oh, I love that Metheny riff on Kenny G. Starts slow, and calm, then builds to a funky groove, then a wailing crecendo, and back to the calm, slow finish -- and it's all coherent, and true!

Thing is, I'm surprised Metheny's surprised that people were surprised by his diatribe. I think when most people think of Metheny, they picture him as I do: poised in front of his band, eyes closed, smiling, leaning into his beautiful music like a warm breeze. Who knew Pat could work up a rant like this? Not me, but you had to figure if Metheny would rant, it would be methodical, on point, and true.

19 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 6, 2010 9:17 am

Randy's upside as a Yankee: gave us 200+ IP both years and was 6-1 against Boston over those two years. Plus his pretty impressive relief appearance in game 5 in Anaheim.

Randy's downside as a Yankee: eh, pretty much everything else.

his 2005 really was pretty impressive in hindsight when you consider it was a 41 year old in the AL East...2006 was just painful.

20 bp1   ~  Jan 6, 2010 9:55 am

In addition to what I said earlier, I will also add that during his time in NY, Randy's starts were "must watch". You never knew when his back would feel good and he'd flash some of that menace and brilliance and "unhittability". I think that lead to some of the disappointment fans and media felt, because the "it" was still there, and he'd flash it from time to time, but more often than not we'd get "average" Randy, not "OMFG" Randy, and it seemed people couldn't help but ask him why.

Expectations are funny things. If Jared Wright pitched as well as RJ, we'd have done jumping jacks, but a 6'10" reputation, a $16mil salary, and an "ace" label bring along a different kind of baggage.

Good luck to you, Randy Johnson. I hope you are free from back problems and have a long, healthy, and happy retirement.

21 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 6, 2010 11:15 am

There's no doubt that when it comes to the 'fear factor, nobody was scarier then RJ. However, looking st some stats:

OPS+ Career AL. NL. Whip
Gregg: 132 ------ 132 1.14
Randy: 136 122 157 1.17
Roger: 143 139 180 1.17
Pedro: 154 190 127 1.05

While Randy played longer, frankly, Pedro's numbers are far better. Randy had 6 years with an OPS+ of 177 or better, but never quite hit 200. Pedro had 5 years with an OPS+ over 200, including 243 and 291, both in the AL East!

Roger also pitched most of his career in the AL East, posting an AL ERA+ 17 pts better then Randy. I would give Clemens the nod over RJ.

I'm not sure how far you have to go back to find a pitcher better then Pedro. Gibson? (127, 1.19), Sandy? (131, 1.10), Walter Johnson? (147, 1.06), Cy Young? (138, 1.13).

Considering the 'Steroid Era', lowered mound, pitching in the AL East, and Pedro NOT retiring 2 years ago when he was basically done, I think an argument can be made that he was the greatest Starter in history.

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