SI Vault
 
Randy Johnson Will Grind Your Bones To Make His Bread
TOM VERDUCCI
May 25, 2009
He has more wins in his 40s than he did in his 20s, and he enjoyed his most fearsome run in his late 30s; as he closes in on 300 wins, it's safe to say there's never been another pitching giant like the Big Unit
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 25, 2009

Randy Johnson Will Grind Your Bones To Make His Bread

He has more wins in his 40s than he did in his 20s, and he enjoyed his most fearsome run in his late 30s; as he closes in on 300 wins, it's safe to say there's never been another pitching giant like the Big Unit

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5

Johnson frequently counsels young San Francisco pitchers such as 2008 Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and lefthander Jonathan Sanchez. "I told Lincecum that I won a Cy Young in '95, '99, 2000 and 2001," Johnson says. "I already had four Cy Youngs. I could have been content. But it wasn't until 2002 that I had my best year statistically. I feel like I've never been content."

Lincecum has 28 career wins and turns 25 in June. He would have to average 15 wins a year until he's 43 to reach 300 career wins. After the Unit, Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer is the active leader with 249 career wins, but at 46 he's even older than Johnson. Toronto's Roy Halladay would need to average 16 wins a year through age 42—another 11 years. The White Sox' Mark Buehrle would need 15 wins a year for another 12 years, when he'll be 41. So, yes, it's possible another 300-game winner is already on his way, but it's unlikely, and the degree of difficulty may grow greater as starting pitchers pitch fewer innings and qualify for fewer wins.

Then again, hasn't the prolific and persistent career of Johnson taught us anything about baseball's actuarial tables? Johnson has won more games in his 40s (70) than he did in his 20s (64). There may be another 300-game winner out there. It could be even longer, however, before we see another outsized character—mulleted or not—quite like Johnson.

"Fame comes in a moment," Valle says, "but greatness comes with longevity. And you've got to put him up there with the greatest of all time."

1 2 3 4 5