Boggs, Brett Put Randy Johnson Up with the Greats; Relieved They Don’t Have to Face Him Again
By Neil A. Carousso
Cooperstown, NY — In an era dominated by sluggers, Randy Johnson dominated the game like no other. A gifted 6’10” left-handed power pitcher from California, Johnson imposed fear on Major League and Hall of Fame batters throughout his career.
“[Johnson was] probably the most intimidating guy that I ever faced,” said Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, adding, “I’m just glad everybody wasn’t 6’10” otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.” Boggs, a member of the 3,000 hit club, is 8 inches shorter than Johnson.
The “Big Unit” began his career in 1988 with the Montreal Expos, before primarily playing for the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks, posting a career 303-166 record with a 3.29 ERA. His 4,875 strikeouts is 2nd best all-time, behind Nolan Ryan, whom Boggs said was another pitcher who caused him stress in the batters box. Johnson is the all-time leaders in strikeouts per 9 innings with 10.6.
“His ace in the hole is that you don’t know when that ball is going to be over your head and then the next thing he does is he paints you three on the outside corner and strikes you out,” said Boggs.
The biggest criticism against Johnson when he debuted in the majors was the fact that he lacked control with his high velocity. Eventually, he developed a mastery of the strike zone and picked his spots like any finesse pitcher. Johnson also introduced a slider that would break into or out of the strike zone at a velocity of 90 mph plus.
“He learned how to throw strikes and change speeds and throw that wicked slider, said Mr. Royal, George Brett, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1999. “You throw a slider that breaks that much to a left-hander and you’re throwing 98, 99, 100 miles an hour, and then you throw that 92 mile[sic] an hour slider, he was almost un-hittable,” added Brett.
Johnson will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with two other pitchers – Pedro Martinez and and John Smoltz on Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown.