Tag Archives: Randy Johnson

Griffey + Randy + A-Rod + Edgar + Ichiro + Felix = .500 Mariners baseball

Felix Hernandez’s well-deserved Cy Young Award, announced last week, places a bookend (I hope) on 20 years of maddening Seattle Mariners baseball.  Being an M’s fan over the past two decades has given me the unique and aggravating experience of watching some of the best baseball players in the world, playing on some of the most mediocre teams in the league.

The 1990s Mariners had four of the best players of the past 25 years: Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson.  Consider what Griffey, A-Rod and Edgar did during their time with Seattle:

This does not include two second-place finishes for the AL MVP (Griffey, 1994; A-Rod, 1996).  In 1996, the Mariners scored 993 runs.  In 1997, they set the major league record for team home runs with 264.  Oh man, were they fun to watch hit.

I'm coming for ya, Kruk

Meanwhile, Randy Johnson morphed from the stuff of John Kruk’s nightmares into one of the most dominant (and terrifying) pitchers in the game.  The tallest pitcher in the history of the game (at the time), he threw two pitches: a high-90’s fastball and a sweeping 80’s slider.  He led the American league in strikeouts from 1992-1995 (as well as hit-by-pitches 92-93) and won the 1995 AL CY Young award (he finished 2nd in the voting in 1993, 4th in 1996, and 2nd again in 1997).  He.  Was.  Awesome.

What did these Mariners teams do, with four Hall of Fame-calibur players?  From 1992 through 2000, the Mariners won 695 games and lost 694.  One game over .500.  They went to the playoffs three times (1995, 1997, 2000), advancing to the AL Championship series twice (95, ’00).  A decent showing, but nothing that could be mistaken for a perennial contender.

If the 1990s Mariners were the teams of Randy, Griffey and Edgar, the 2000’s are Ichiro’s teams.  We’ve had Ichiro all decade, and now we have Felix, and the trend continues.  Ichiro won the AL MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Batting title in 2001.  He won another batting title in 2004, and has led the league in hits in seven of the past ten years.  Felix finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting last year, and won it this year.

These teams?  With Ichiro, the Mariners are dead even over the past ten years, at 813-813.  Over Felix’s last two dominant seasons, the M’s are 146-178.  Take out the miraculous 2001 season, and the Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000.

In new-fangled stat terms

What’s the takeaway here?  Mariner fans have watched, up close, the best individual pitching and hitting in all of baseball over the past 20 years.  Those twenty years have resulted in teams cumulatively one game above .500.  I’d argue that no fanbase has a better appreciation for the ways in which baseball is a team sport masquerading as an individual sport.  Would I trade Griffey’s brilliance for a trip to the World Series?  Probably not.  But would I trade Felix’s 2012 Cy Young Award for a trip to the playoffs?  Absolutely.

Top 5 sports moments of my life thus far

I normally try to avoid “whiny personal blog” entries like this.  You know the type, reminiscing or ruminating out into space without any objectively interesting content for anyone besides perhaps the author’s mother.  But I’m still floored by Roy Halladay’s no-hitter last night, and so forgive me this indulgence.

I don’t have the memory for these things that I’d like to have, but I think Roy Halladay’s no-hitter last night was the second-most exciting and meaningful sports moment I’ve ever witnessed or watched.

"The throw to the plate will be late..."

1.  Mariners-Yankees Division Series, 1995, Game 5.  Randy Johnson and Jack McDowell in from the bullpen to pitch in extra-innings.  The Yankees going ahead in the top of the eleventh.  And then Edgar’s double down the left-field line, scoring Joey Cora from third and Griffey all the way from first for a walk-off series win.  I can still recite Dave Niehaus’s call, verbatim, including the pauses and the inflections, and if my mood is right, I can give myself goosebumps.

2.  Roy Halladay’s no-hitter, 2010 Division Series.  Less drama than the Mariners game, but more mind-bogglingly astounding.  One of my favorite players, and one of the most impressive pitchers of the past ten years, in the playoff start he’s been aching for for more than a decade.  And he throws a no-hitter.  There weren’t even any great defensive plays to save it either.  Complete domination of a very good hitting team.  I keep trying to think of analogies and I keep failing.

3.  Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon Finals, 2008.  Federer was this demigod, an untouchable genius of tennis for whom Wimbledon was his most sacred altar.  I always rooted for him.  But everyone had seen Nadal coming for a couple years, like a massive freight train you spot from a long way off.  Both player’s storylines were perfectly complimentary, they collided in the best possible scenario, and then both men played tennis that lived up to the impossible hype.  One of the best tennis matches, both in terms of play and of significance, ever.

4.  Phillies winning the 2008 World Series.  The World Series wasn’t particularly dramatic (in fact, thanks to the weather and Bud Selig, it was almost anticlimactic), but it’s here for me for two reasons.  First, the first sports team I’ve cared about that’s won it all.  Second, that weekday night’s walk to Broad Street.  My housemates and I walked from West Philly to Broad Street, and the spontaneous public celebration of thousands of baseball fans was something I’d never experienced before.  In a city I felt was dominated by a “get out of my way” street mentality, the public street happiness that night blew me away.

"Randy points to the sky..."

5.   Seattle Mariners – Anaheim Angels one-game playoff, 1995.  After Luis Sojo’s bases-clearing double the game wasn’t particularly close.  But Cy Young-winning Randy Johnson pitching a dominating complete game (3 hits, 12 k’s) against the pitcher we traded to get him (Mark Langston) was only half of it.  It was the first time the Mariners had ever made the playoffs, it was the season that kept baseball in Seattle, and, well, things are just more meaningful when you’re 12.

Also up there:

  • 2005 Champions League final, AC Milan vs. Liverpool: watched it while on study abroad in my tiny London dorm kitchen.  Best soccer match I’ve ever seen and the moment I “got it.”
  • 2002 US Open Final, Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi.  Last time they ever played each other.
  • 1996 Summer Olympics Women’s Team Gymnastics Final: had an 11 year old’s crush on all the girls on that team.
  • Michael Phelps, 2008 Summer Olympics (in particular the 4×100 meter freestyle relay where we beat France)