All throughout Randy Johnson’s career, I assumed he was from Alabama. Or West Virginia. Or Florida. Somewhere that pickup trucks are the norm and most of the reptiles are deadly. But he’s from California. Weird. He even went to USC, just like Will Ferrell. That makes him doubly terrible!
After pitching for the same institution which would later produce legendary Cubs Damon Buford, Jacque Jones, and Mark Prior, Johnson was selected by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1985 draft.
Johnson spent the next couple of years in the minors walking everyone in the world, except for the hundreds of hitters he struck out. He also drilled a few poor, poor young men and threw quite a few wild pitches. The Big Unit had quite a bit of Wild Thing in him.
Johnson was a September call-up in 1988, and he made his MLB debut on September 15, 1988 in a start against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Olympic Stadium. Johnson gave up only two solo home runs over five innings, striking out five and walking three Pirates while picking up the win as the Expos beat the Pirates 9-4.
In Johnson’s only second career start on September 20, 1988, he faced Don Zimmer’s Cubs at Wrigley Field in the second game of a doubleheader. The Cubs had won game one 5-4 behind Rick Sutcliffe, who threw a complete game and struck out eleven on 152 pitches, and even contributed an RBI. But then, the Cubs got SMACKED IN THE FACE WITH A BIG UNIT!!! The 25-year-old Johnson answered Sutcliffe with a complete game of his own. Johnson struck out eleven Cub hitters, walked only one, gave up six hits, and surrendered a lone RBI to Dave Meier as the Expos won 9-1. Johnson even had a hit, though he also struck out three times. Johnson’s complete-game effort against the Cubs would be a harbinger of the remainder of his Cub-killing career.
In May of the following year, the Expos sent Johnson along with Gene Harris and Brian Holman to the Seattle Mariners for Mike Campbell and rental, Mark Langston. Langston pitched well for Montreal, but was gone at the end of the year. Campbell was terrible, which is why he eventually became a Cub. I’d say that qualifies as an emphatic oops on the part of the Expos.
In Seattle, Johnson started cutting down on his walks while he continued striking out the world. After nearly a decade with the Mariners, Johnson was sent to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline for their 1998 playoff run for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama. Johnson was incredible in his half year in Houston, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and a .984 WHIP. He struck out 116 in only 84 1/3 innings. He went 0-2 in the playoffs despite a 1.93 ERA, because the Astros suck, and fuck them.
After the 1998 season, Johnson signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. You might recall that he pitched in a pretty exciting 2001 World Series. He went 3-0 with a microscopic 1.04 ERA and .692 WHIP. And despite the agony he put me through as a Cubs fan, I haven’t seen many Hollywood baseball moments as great as Johnson coming out of the bullpen in the 8th inning of Game Seven in a 1-1 game. The only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been if The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” would have blasted through the Arizona night.
Prior to the 2005 season, the Diamondbacks swapped Johnson to the (of course) New York Yankees for Brad Halsey, new Cub Dioner Navarro, and Javier Vazquez. After two forgettable seasons in New York, Johnson was reacquired by the Diamondbacks prior to the 2007 season for Alberto Gonzalez, Steven Jackson, Ross Ohlendorf and Luis Vizcaino. Johnson finished his incredible 22-year career with the San Francisco Giants before retiring after the 2009 season. He racked up 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts in his career, and he won a couple of awards. Like, five Cy Youngs (including four consecutive from 1999-2002). He was in the All-Star Game ten times, and that 2001 World Series? He was the MVP. Well, co-MVP. He had to split it with that doughy D&D player who also started for the Diamondbacks. He also has a no-hitter, a perfect game, an immaculate inning, and a 20-strikeout game under his belt.
All that’s well and good. Johnson had an amazing career. He was so good, he literally made a pigeon EXPLODE.
Yet, despite his career accolades, Johnson’s numbers against the Cubs are STILL mind-boggling. Where were you the last time the Cubs beat Randy Johnson? Think about it. I’ll give you a minute. Got your answer?
The Cubs have never beaten Randy Johnson. In fact, the Cubs have never even won a game that Randy Johnson started. In fact, the only time Randy Johnson has pitched in a game that the Cubs won was the last time the Cubs saw him. On September 25, 2009, Johnson pitched a meaningless inning of relief for the San Francisco Giants in a 3-0 Cubs win. If only I’d finished the T79 five years ago, like I expected to, Johnson’s teams would have been perfect against the Cubs.
In fourteen starts against the Cubs, Johnson is 13-0 with a 1.91 ERA, a .984 WHIP, and 143(!) strikeouts in 103 2/3 innings pitched. He’s thrown three complete games, including a shutout. If possible, Johnson is even better at Wrigley Field, where he’s 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five starts.
And the Cubs don’t really have an excuse against the big lefty, since they’ve never had a left-handed power threat, RIGHT, JIM HENDRY???
Why You Should Hate Him: I suppose his complete-game shutout on August 25, 2002 should suffice. Johnson whiffed sixteen batters (including Mark Bellhorn and Joe Girardi three times each) en route to a 7-0 shutout. Johnson even contributed two RBIs, doubling his total for the season.
Did You Know? “The Big Unit” got his nickname from one of the only other well-nicknamed players in recent baseball history, Tim “Rock” Raines.