Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mariners Need to Make Commitment to Johnson

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mariners Need to Make Commitment to Johnson

Article excerpt

Before the trade deadline, it seemed every contending team wanted Randy Johnson. Toronto, Philadelphia, the New York Yankees and San Francisco called Seattle, thinking Johnson was the missing link in the pennant race.

Back home in Seattle, Johnson waited quietly, uncomfortably. He often has wondered whether the Mariners really wanted him. The trade rumors fanned his unease.

Johnson is a sensitive man. Sometimes that is mistaken by managers and general managers, teammates and sports writers for petulance. His reputation suffers because of it.

In the month before the Aug. 1 deadline, Johnson staggered. He didn't win a game. He was knocked out early in Cleveland. He had an on-the-mound confrontation with manager Lou Piniella.

Instead of peaking, Johnson appeared to be piquing.

It seemed Johnson and the Mariners just made a rotten marriage. It seemed best to trade him for the mother lode of prospects his arm would command.

But the trade deadline went and Johnson stayed and he has been overpowering.

He is 5-1 in his past seven starts, has allowed only 41 hits in 53 innings, struck out 67 and walked only 17.

Johnson eternally endeared himself to his teammates and his manager by volunteering to relieve against Baltimore on Aug. 16. Johnson struck out four of six Orioles and literally saved a Mariners win.

With five starts remaining, Johnson, 15-8, has a chance at 20 wins and 300 strikeouts - Cy Young numbers.

And now, "whither Randy?" is the most important among many questions to mull this season's final month. He can become a free agent at the end of next season.

In a perfect world, the answer is simple.

The Mariners sign Randy Johnson for the rest of the decade. They give him the ball every fifth day and smile.

Baseball, however, is an imperfect diamond.

The Mariners could lose as much as $13 to $15 million this season. They will lose $8 million in national television revenues. They already are looking to excise $6 million from their payroll. …

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