The Big Unit Comes Up Huge

I fondly remember January 9, 2007 when the Arizona Diamondbacks completed a trade with the New York Yankees that saw the return of Randy Johnson to the desert in exchange for RHP Ross Ohlendorf, RHP Luis Vizcaino, RHP Steven Jackson, and infielder Alberto Gonzalez. At the time Randy would sign a contract extension through the 2008 season. Considering his win total; it seemed inevitable that Diamondbacks fans would see him reach his 300th career win while wearing Sedona Red. Given the landscape of the game it appeared that Randy may very well be the last 300 game winner we will see. That alone made this trade significant. Of course things didn’t quite work out the way anyone planned. Randy spent much of the 2007 season on the disabled list after undergoing back surgery. He came back strong in 2008 but due to lack of run support fell 5 games short of 300.

At the conclusion of the 2008 season Randy Johnson became a free-agent. Like many other Diamondbacks fans I kept my fingers crossed that the team would resign him and bring him back for one more year to complete the journey to 300 wins. Unfortunately that did not happen when the Diamondbacks offered Randy substantially less money than the going rate forcing the Big Unit to look elsewhere. In the end he signed with the San Francisco Giants and Arizona signed Jon Garland to fill Johnson’s spot in the rotation. Oddly enough they signed Garland for more money than Johnson leading one to wonder if there was more to this story than what has been publicly reported.

Over the first two starts of the season it appeared as though Josh Byrnes and his staff made the right choice. Randy Johnson struggled in his starts and came away with two losses and an ERA that was well over 10. Garland on the other hand was 1-1 with an ERA half that of Randy Johnson. Perhaps Randy’s critics were finally right and Mother Nature had caught up to him. Maybe he didn’t have anything left and his legacy would be that of a pitcher who hung around just a little too long. Johnson never one to believe in his critics took the mound against his former team and showed that rumors of his demise were perhaps premature.

In his first ever meeting with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Randy Johnson looked like vintage Big Unit. He went through the Diamondbacks line-up with relative ease. In fact, going into the seventh inning Randy was throwing a no-hitter and were it not for a double by Augie Ojeda he would have accomplished that feat. In the end he threw 7 strong innings allowing 1 hit, no runs, walking 2 and striking out 7. This was his first victory of the season and regardless of what was said to the press it had to be extra sweet.

Randy Johnson’s 296th victory came against the team who thought him too old to invest another year in. A team that sent him packing twice even though they desperately needed pitching. Yeah I’m not buying this was just another game. This was a critical game for the Big Unit. It got him one step closer to 300 and it quieted the critics once again. I plan on watching intently for Randy Johnson to reach that career plateau I just hope it doesn’t end up being against the Diamondbacks. I’m not sure I can deal with seeing the highlights of that played over and over and over knowing it could have been a piece of Diamondbacks history.

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