Time again to look back at a Mariner from the past. This week's decision was very easy given the significance and history behind the player.
If you don't know who the "Big Unit" is, what rock have you lived under for the last 20 years? Tomorrow is Opening Day at Safeco Field for the M's home opener. The man throwing out the first pitch tomorrow announced his retirement this past January. It has been a stellar career that will land him in Cooperstown in 2014. I know he will be wearing a D-Backs hat, but I am fine with that. He did good things for them, but also did great things for us.
Randy Johnson was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 1982 draft by the Atlanta Braves(imagine the rotation of Johnson, Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz). He did not sign with the Braves opting to attend USC instead. While at USC, his most famous teammate was none other than Mark McGwire. He was again drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 2nd round in 1985 and signed with them. After nearly three years in the minors, Randy made his debut on September 15, 1988 against the Pirates. He got the win going 5 IP, giving up 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. After starting the 1989 season 0-4 in 6 starts the Expos traded Randy along with Gene Harris and Brian Holman to Seattle for Mark Langston and a PTBNL(Mike Campbell).
While his first few years with the Mariners were trying at best with him not having the best of control, he was coming into his own. He lead the team with 152 walks in 1991, but was able to turn that around and lead the team with 308 strikeouts in 1993. Although wild, he did throw the first no-hitter in Mariners history at the Kingdome against the Detroit Tigers on June 2, 1990. Randy was named the Opening Day starter six times for the M's. He did it five years straight from 92-96 and again in 98. While he may be known for the 51 on his back, he did wear 34 on September 26, 1993 as a tribute to his hero and mentor Nolan Ryan. Unfortunately, Nolan was hurt four days earlier and was forced to retire with his last pitch coming against Dave Magadan.
After learning about pitching from the "Ryan Express," Randy started coming into his own. He lead the Mariners in strikeouts from 1991 to 1995, and in 1997 and 98. He lead the team in innings pitched in 1991, 1993, and 1995. He also lead the team in wins in '91, '93, '94, '95, and became the first 20 game winner for the M's in 1997. He also lead the team in ERA 1993-95, leading the league with a 2.48 in 1995, and lead the team again in '97. While he did win a Cy Young award in 1995, his best season was 1997 and finished second in the voting to Roger Clemens(CHEATER!!). Twice in 1997, he struck out 19 batters in a game. He went to the all-star game five times for the Mariners in 1990, 93, 94, 95, and 97. He holds many team records, and is first or second in many team history categories.
In his 9 1/2 seasons with the Mariners, he is 2nd in wins with 130, 2nd in starts with 266, 1st in walks with 884, 2nd in complete games with 51, 2nd in innings pitched with 1838 1/3, and 1st in strikeouts with 2162. He was one of the reasons this team made the playoffs in 1995 and kept baseball in Seattle. Unfortunately before the 1998 season, the Mariners were not willing to offer him a long term contract because of concerns with the health of his back. While not being happy about it, he had a sub-par season and was traded to the Houston Astros minutes before the deadline with the Mariners receiving Freddy Garcia, John Halama, and Carlos Guillen. Mariners fans were not happy with what we got in return right away. While they were good players eventually, none were the "Big Unit." In his 11 starts for the Astros, he only went 10-1.
In 1999, he signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and started his run of total dominance. From 1999-2002, he won 4 straight Cy Young awards. He will always be remembered for the strange play in spring training against the San Fransisco Giants, when he hit a flying dove with a pitch.
While never known as a great hitter, he was able to hit a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 19, 2003. His crowning moment was probably being able to pitch a perfect game at the age of 40 against the Atlanta Braves on May 18, 2004. After the 2004 season the D-Backs traded Randy to the Yankees for three minor league players.
While those two years with the Yankees were not the worst, they also weren't the best. In the off-season between 2006 and 2007, the Yankees traded him back to Arizona, receiving four minor leaguers in return. While being hurt during most of 2007 and having a .500 year in 2008, he did have his moments. On June 3, 2008 he struck out former Mariner Mike Cameron to become second on the all-time strike out list passing Walter Johnson. In December 2008, he signed as a free agent with the San Fransisco Giants. History came to Randy on June 4, 2009 as he won his 300th game in Washington, DC against the Nationals. His career had come full circle against the team that he first started with.
On January 5, 2010 he announced his retirement from baseball. He finished with great numbers: 618 GP, 603 GS, 303-166, 3.29 ERA, 1497 BB, 4875 K, 100 CG, and 37 SHO. If those aren't hall of fame numbers, I don't know what is. I will be excited to see Randy throw out the first pitch, and know he will get a huge welcome home from the fans at Safeco tomorrow.