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Johnson confident Diamonbacks will win
Posted: Wednesday December 02, 1998 09:31 PM
PHOENIX (AP) -- Randy Johnson says it wasn't the chance to play a few miles from home that persuaded him to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was the team's recent addition of players who can build a contender.
"I'm coming here because I feel we can win, first and foremost, and because I felt my family would be comfortable here," Johnson said Wednesday at a news conference to introduce him as a Diamondback. "If I felt this team was going to lose, I wouldn't be here."
"If those things hadn't been done, I'd probably be holding a press conference somewhere else," he said.
Johnson has heard the criticism that at age 35 he's thrown away any chance of winning a World Series by signing a $52.4 million, four-year contract with a second-year expansion team that lost 97 games this year.
He's heard talk that he's sacrificed the ultimate team goal that has eluded him throughout his career for the convenience of playing a short drive from his Paradise Valley home.
"It obviously disappoints me when media people think I'm taking a step backward," he said. "You know, 'He's not going to win.' I mean, who are you to say I'm not going to win? I have a lot of respect for writers, but none of you have ever been in my shoes and realized the expectations that I have in a game."
Johnson said there was no certainty he'd get to a World Series no matter which team he chose.
"Baseball is a funny game. There are no guarantees," he said.
Johnson's contract has a no-trade clause, so he and the Diamondbacks seem wedded until he's 39. He could pitch for five years, since the deal includes a fifth season at the club's option.
He said he expects the Diamondbacks to be much better next season and contend for a wild-card spot or the NL West title in 2000.
But Johnson has no doubt he is worth it.
"I'm one of the winningest active pitcher in all of baseball right now," he said. "I've struck out more hitters in the '90s than anybody else. I've been able to pitch with anybody in the game. I don't know why anybody would think that's a bad investment. I'm one of the best pitchers in the game."
He said he will not allow the Diamondbacks to continue to lose.
"I won't let that happen," he said. "I think with the intensity that I have, the intensity that Todd Stottlemyre brings, every fifth day, people feed off of that.
"When we would be in a three- or four-game losing streak in Seattle, there was a reason my teammates would come up to me and say, 'Randy, when are you pitching next?' I don't mind that at all."
With his 6-foot-10 frame nattily attired in a pinstriped suit, his mother, wife and three young children among those in the crowded room at Bank One Ballpark, Johnson said it is important for him to pitch in front of his family.
"A lot of people don't realize that what makes me tick out on the field is when I look up in the stands and I see my family up there," he said. "That really motivates me and makes me dig down a little deeper."
Johnson was asked about last season in Seattle, when he was a grumpy 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA before he was traded to Houston. With the Astros, he was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 84 1-3 innings.
"I wasn't happy in Seattle," he said. "I don't want to go back too much, but when you're pitching a major league ballgame, you need to be 100 percent mentally focused out there and it was a situation where I wasn't.
"For people who say I didn't give it my all, it's not a fair assessment. I was leading the American League in strikeouts for five weeks after I left. I pitched a couple of shutouts. I almost threw a no-hitter up there."
Johnson said choosing among the four finalists -- Arizona, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Texas -- was extremely difficult. It came down to Arizona and one other team, he said, presumably the Angels.
"I probably could have made more money somewhere else," Johnson said. "I've made a lot of money in my career. I could retire right now. I'm getting a lot of money from Jerry and the organization, that's true, but that wasn't the deciding factor. I feel I can win here. I feel the team can win here, and I feel it's in the best interest of my family, too."
Johnson insists he didn't demand that he be allowed to keep his long hair and mustache. Manager Buck Showalter already has said that the Big Unit won't be subject to the team's no-facial hair, no-long hair rule.
"If I have to look like Jay Buhner I will," Johnson said, "but hopefully I won't have to. I'll lose my hair fast enough. I don't expect preferential treatment, but I don't see where my mustache and my hair are going to not make me throw strikes or should be that big an issue. It's not like I have my hair in dreadlocks or anything."
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