Year Inducted: 2015 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 534/549)
2001 saw the country shaken by a terrible, horrifying event. And, thanks to baseball, the country bounced back. Mostly, it was due to one of the greatest World Series of all-time. The Yankees and Diamondbacks went a full seven games, even playing into November as the season was put on hold during the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. After taking the first two in the desert, the Diamondbacks headed to New York with a 2-0 lead. The Yankees used a little bit of luck and won the next three in the Bronx, including two walkoff wins in extra innings. After a trouncing in Game 6 by the Snakes, the series was knotted up at 3-3, and the stage was set for Game Seven. Curt Schilling dueled Roger Clemens to a near draw for more than seven innings. With two out in the eighth, manager Bob Brenly called upon Randy Johnson, the second best lefty of all-time, to keep the score at 2-1. Johnson dominated the Yanks in Game Six on 104 pitches, and continued to stymie them in Game Seven, setting up Luis Gonzalez’s walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth. Johnson cemented himself as one of the premier pitchers of all-time with that outing, and cemented his legacy as a Diamondback.
Johnson was one of the greatest pitchers ever. In 22 seasons, Johnson made a case for the Hall of Fame that very few could even hope to achieve. The Big Unit pitched over 4100 innings, punching out 4875 batters, posting a record of 303-166 and putting up an ERA of 3.29. Johnson put up some of the greatest seasons of all-time, even at the heart of the Steroid Era. 300 strikeouts is a typical benchmark of a dominant season, and Johnson reached that number six times. And, at a point in time where home runs and offense were on the rise, Johnson held batters to a mere .217 average, with a WHIP of 1.17 and only 0.89 HR/9 allowed. It’s easy to see how Johnson won five Cy Young Awards in his career, one of only five pitchers to win the award in both leagues.
When he first came up, Johnson was known for his velocity and his wildness, as typically happens with hard throwing pitchers. Johnson constantly had issues with his mechanics due to his 6’10” frame. From his debut in 1988 until 1992, Johnson routinely walked more than 5 batters every nine innings. Then, in Spring Training of 1993, The Big Unit met up with Nolan Ryan, who showed Unit how to better position himself and get the most out of his frame. Johnson saw his walk rate get cut nearly in half and went on an amazing roll for most of the remainder of his career.
Johnson’s tall frame and torque from his velocity would take a bit of a toll on his body as he had three major back surgeries in his career, twice in the span on a year from 2006-2007. He would rebound decently from those, and hung on a little too long to reach 300 wins, but was still an OK pitcher.
Johnson was an easy selection on his first ballot, despite not getting 100% of the vote. Very few have ever dominated the game quite like Randy Johnson did for nearly two decades.
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