Significance — or coincidence — before Big Unit seeks No. 300
WASHINGTON — Sometimes my media brethren amuse me. Though it was extremely obvious that Randy Johnson would not address reporters before his scheduled start Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, anywhere from 12 to 15 members of the Fourth Estate loitered in the general vicinity of his dressing stall in the Giants clubhouse. Maybe they were hoping the Big Unit would bound in, happily settle into his perch and invite everyone to pull up a chair so he could regale them with baseball stories.
That didn’t happen. But a few other things did that were worth noting as Johnson approached his first attempt at securing his 300th career victory.
As part of its late-afternoon programming, MLB Network replayed the telecast of an Aug. 12, 1998 game in which Johnson, then toiling for Houston, pitched a five-hit shutout against Milwaukee. Certainly the network planned it this way. Still, it was easy tio wonder whether Johnson was somewhere in the clubhouse watching himself on TV (my guess: No).
Johnson himself appeared a couple of times. He dropped by his locker to pull on socks and, about a half-hour later, strode silently through the clubhouse toward a back room. He looked like his concentration was going full-bore.
At the opposite end of the clubhouse from where Johnson disappeared, Felipe Alou chatted with a couple of reporters. Alou officially was there in his guise as a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who wants him to watch the Major League club for a few days.
But Alou also welcomed the chance to see Johnson, who he managed briefly in the Minors when both were with the Montreal Expos organization.
“I’m glad that I’m here,” Alou said. “I wouldn’t balk at the opportunity to come here.”
A few minutes later, Giants manager Bruce Bochy held his pregame talk with the media. Mounted on the wall over Bochy’s left shoulder was a framed color portrait of the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation circa 1997 — Denny Neagle, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz — with baseballs autographed by each. Glavine and Maddux, of course, happen to be 300-game winners.
Beneath the collage, Bochy was telling reporters that he has never seen a pitcher win his 300th game. “Hopefully I’ll see it tonight,” he said.
– Chris Haft