On August 8, 1997, Mariners ace Randy Johnson strolled into Comiskey Park II and struck out 19 Chicago White Sox batters while allowing zero earned runs en route to a complete game, 16-3 victory. From there, Johnson apparently developed some kind of opinion of the Good Guys as a bunch of losers and for that, friends, we should all be thankful.
In the 2004-2005 offseason, while the White Sox were shopping for a new arm to round out their Mark Buehrle/Jon Garland/Freddy Garcia/Jose Contreras rotation. At the same time, Johnson, languishing on a 100-loss Diamondbacks team, sought a way out of the desert. A trade was rumored to exist between the Sox and the Snakes where Garland and Paul Konerko would head to Phoenix in exchange for Johnson.
Johnson, apparently sensing a better chance of success elsewhere, instead waived his no-trade clause to head to the Yankees in exchange for The Most Interesting Man in Baseball. The Big Unit said hello to New York by first going after a cameraman, then apologizing for it:
“Come to one of the biggest media markets, one of the winningest franchises in the history of any sport, and that’s the way I enter? I’m sorry, I don’t know how many more times I can say that,” he added. “I hope I can move on and can get another chance to prove that I’m worth coming here.”
One of the winningest franchises in the history of any sport that year was not in any way a bad team, but was eventually outplayed in the ALDS by the Los Angeles Angels. Johnson personally pitched well during the regular season, but the 6.14 ERA that October certainly wasn’t what he had in mind.
The White Sox, conversely, never stopped winning.
But what if Johnson had given the green light to Chicago? Jon Garland, arguably the best April-to-October Sox pitcher that year, would have been doing his SoCal indifference schtick out in the desert. Paul Konerko, ALCS MVP, would not have become the first Sox batter to post back-to-back 40 home run, 100 RBI seasons. Orlando Hernandez, the Sox’ substitute for Johnson, would never have pitched the greatest half-inning in the history of baseball. The whole thing theoretically never would have happened and for keeping the last championship team in Chicago intact, Randy Johnson, we salute you.
Johnson signed a one-year contract with the Giants today just four wins shy of number 300. Not like he needs the milestone; when you’ve struck out more batters than anyone besides Nolan Ryan, and when you win five Cy Young Awards without a whisper of chemical assistance, and when you turn in one of the great postseason performances of all time, and when your name is on the short list of Greatest Pitcher Of Your Time, you probably don’t need them.
And when he’s even good enough to get his revenge on the Sox by costing them the 2008 ALDS by way of the post-2005 El Duque/Javier Vazquez trade, well, that’s just hilarious in a spiteful kind of way.