Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Once vs. The Future King
By Zach

So today is sure to go down as one of the biggest baseball games in Seattle history. It's certainly the highlight of an otherwise disappointing season in the Puget Basin. Randy Johnson, the greatest pitcher in Mariner history, prime architect of the great 1995 season, hurler of the first no-hitter in M's history, winner of the first Cy Young award in team history, and clearly one of the most dominant pitchers in recent memory, returns once again to the city he left in 1998. That he does so as a member of the hated Yankees is a sidenote, at least today. No, the reason today's game is so notable is that he'll be opposed by 19-year-old wunderkind Felix Hernandez. It's the sort of easy tagline for a game that sportswriters (and bloggers, to be fair), crave. Yet, as this article in today's Seattle Times shows, the two have travelled vastly different paths to pitching greatness.

I was there in 1999 when Randy returned to Seattle for the first time as a member of an opposing team. I, like almost all of the other 45,000 or so in attendance, gave him a standing ovation when he first took the mound. I've long felt that the Big Unit didn't get the kind of love and worship that guys like Ken Griffey Jr. got. I'm somewhat guilty of such neglect myself. Sometimes it's hard to appreciate pitchers, since they tend to be removed from the team (and Randy was certainly that), and because they only perform once every five days. Still, for years it seemed like the Mariners didn't lose when Randy pitched. That kind of feeling is hard to create, and harder to replace, as the Mariners have discovered in the seven years since they thought Randy was washed up and refused to extend his contract, leading to him all but demanding a trade.

Of the "Big Three," Randy seemed the most inclined to stay, and would have cost the least. Of course, they also got more from trading him then they did trading Griffey, so that worked out in at least some sense. Of course, none of the guys they got in that trade are still around. They turned Freddy Garcia into Jeremy Reed, who's currently hitting .252, Miguel Olivo (who's currently in San Diego) and Mike Morse (who came up as a shortstop and is now playing left field). Carlos Guillen became (vomit) Ramon Santiago, as well as an All-Star shortstop in Detroit. Of course, he's still injury-prone. And John Halama remained a mediocre pitcher.

So anyhow, today's game is both the biggest test for the King, perhaps the last Seattle appearance for the greatest pitcher in Mariners history, and nationally televised. Might be worth checking out.


Blogger RotoAuthority said...

Man, nationally televised in Seattle maybe. In Chicago ESPN currently is showing SportsCenter even though RJ has a NO HITTER going. I almost don't want to see him throw it, because then we're gonna hear all of this sportswriter-tailored BS about how the 42 year old showed the kid how it's done and age is meaningless and look at Clemens and blah blah blah. If RJ had to face the Yankees he'd give up 2 runs too.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Yeah, and of course the game was blacked out here in New York because the Yankees have the most ridiculous deal with the YES network and all.

10:18 AM  

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