Thursday, June 4, 2009

Johnson's quest for 300th win lacks sentimental value

I can’t say I’m a Giants fan but I can say it would be hard for me to get excited about Randy Johnson’s quest for his 300th career win if I were.

I mean, Johnson has pitched more games against the Giants (24) than for them (11) and only five of his 300 wins have come in a Giants uniform so there’s naturally not as much of an emotional attachment. The Big Unit’s history with the Giants goes months and not years. It would be like Barry Bonds hitting his 500th home run as a member of the Kansas City Royals.

When Johnson reached the milestone on Thursday, it seemed there was only one fan for every win he's had watching in the ballpark in Washington, D.C. Johnson's career started in Montreal, which lost its baseball team to Washington D.C. because Expos fans wouldn't support the game.  I know it was raining in our nation's capitol on Thursday but there is no excuse for so few fans coming out to see a historic moment in our national pastime. The crowd was said to be about 6,000 but D.C. resident and Giants fans Rocky Fox, son of 49ers team photographer Bill Fox, was there and he emailed me to tell me it was closer to 2,000.

It sounded as if there were more Giants fans there as it was, even though the Big Unit doesn't have a big love affair with Giants fans. It’s understandable if they  aren’t exactly captivated by a pitcher who has never been perceived as being warm and fuzzy.

However, if Johnson’s 300th win lacked sentimental value for Giants fans, it’s significant for all baseball fans in general.  Unlike 354-game and seven-time Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens, the Big Unit has never been directly suspected of taking or needing performance-enhancing drugs (though he has admitted to taking over-the-counter supplements) and the bulk of his 300 wins have been compiled in the so-called steroid era. That enhances Johnson’s achievement. In a four-year span from 1999-2002 – when steroid use allegedly accelerated – Johnson averaged more than 20 wins and had an ERA under 2.50.

So when Johnson won his 300th game, I saluted him. I did not however jump up and down.


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