"The difference between championship teams and good teams every year seems to be two guys who pitch lights out in the postseason," says righthander Mike Mussina, the likely No. 2 behind Johnson. "Randy is one of those guys."
The only concession Johnson makes to age is to ride an exercise bike rather than take part in the pitchers' standard running program--with one notable exception last Saturday. When rookie righthander Chien-Ming Wang botched a grounder during a fielding drill, under penalty of running to the foul pole and back with two teammates of his choosing, he boldly fingered the veteran Johnson as one of his punitive running mates. "He looked at me, and I thought he was kidding," says Johnson, who completed the run with a mock limp.
last july the Diamondbacks were discussing a Johnson trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Johnson, armed with a no-trade provision and owed $16 million for the '05 season, told Arizona that he would accept such a trade. That deal fell through, however.
Johnson said he was perplexed after the season when Arizona did not approach him about a contract extension or to discuss the direction of the team. He said it was not until December, and only after the Diamondbacks had signed a pair of free agents--third baseman Troy Glaus and righthander Russ Ortiz, to contracts totaling $78 million--that prospective CEO Jeff Moorad called with a proposition. If Johnson wrote a check to the Diamondbacks for $8 million, half his 2005 salary, the team would grant an extension worth $8 million in '06 and $8 million in '07. Johnson quickly refused and gave the club two choices: keep him for the last year of his contract or trade him to the Yankees. A month later, after a series of near misses and aborted deals, the trade was finalized and New York gave Johnson a two-year, $32 million extension.
It was less than a month later, on Jan. 10, while walking on a Manhattan street on his way to his Yankees physical, that Johnson stiff-armed a TV camera operator. "Dad," his eight-year-old son, Tanner, told him excitedly on the phone that night, "I heard you took down a cameraman!"
Johnson issued repeated public apologies and even lampooned the incident on Late Show with David Letterman. Now he's brought his dry lounge act to Tampa, happily courting the media and defusing any whiffs of controversy with humor.
Jose Canseco's book? "I wouldn't waste my money," he says. "I'd rather pay to watch Waterworld. Twice."
His secrets to staying fit, which include hits from an oxygen tank in his locker between innings; a liquid-filled, titanium-lined corset to support his back; four midseason injections of a synthetic lubricant into his right knee; a Canadian professor he pays to advise him on nutrition and fitness; and the occasional nap in a hyperbaric chamber? "Nothing from BALCO," he says.
His response when manager Joe Torre asked him before a Friday workout if he was going to throw in the bullpen: "I threw yesterday. I only pitch two days in a row in the World Series"--an allusion to his Game 6 and 7 wins over the Yankees in 2001.
A possible Opening Night start against Curt Schilling and the Red Sox on April 3? "I'm looking forward to it," he says, "and a root canal next week."