Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Not Sold On Randy

It’s nice to see everyone back on the Randy Johnson bandwagon. After four months of inconsistency, he deserves a firm pat on the butt and a, “hey, Unit, nice job!,” right?

Not for the sake of being different, but I just don’t get why everyone is singing this guy’s praise. Are we forgetting the four months of ups and downs, three run outing after three run outing? Or how about those two seven run performances in late June and early July?

His lowest monthly ERA was in June, with a 3.63. His July ERA is 4.23. And it seems that I’m the only one who isn’t convinced that Randy is going to be Randy. Maybe it’s because I’m the only one who remembers seeing flashes of a youthful Randy earlier this season, only to be disappointed by his subsequent starts.

Just one year ago, on July 27th, 2004, Randy had a 2.68 ERA, and had 14 starts in which he gave up less than three runs. His ERA has just dipped to 3.95, and only eight (of 22) starts with less than three given up.

Everyone knows what Randy was brought in for: dominance. And we’re reminded of that after every start, whether mediocre – “what happened to the Randy of old? This isn’t what we brought him here for.” – or stellar – “Now THIS is what we’re paying this guy to do.”

Point is, Randy’s standing with the media and fans depends on his latest outing. He tosses a shutout, we’re kissing his ass. He gives up five runs and we’re wondering if he’s finally over the hill at age 41.

What we should be wondering is, “What is Randy going to do for the rest of the year?” If he’s going to turn out four mediocre performances for every dominant outing, the Yanks are going to be in the same position as they were last year, without a surefire ace of the pitching staff. Difference is that Boston is in the same boat this year.

Another difference is the other Sox, who have three starters with a better ERA than the best on Boston and New York. And Chicago’s fourth guy, departed Yank Jose Contreras, has an ERA .10 higher than Bronson Arroyo, Boston’s leader (who has also been involved in trade rumors). So while pitching within the division may have evened out, come October, both teams may find themselves in a heap of trouble. Because teeing off against guys with 4.50 ERAs is a bit different than teeing off against Buehrle and Garland.

But if Randy thinks he can get by pitching just good enough to stay ahead of his Boston counterparts, he’s sadly mistaken. For the $16 mil he’s making this year and with the hype that came along with his relocation to the Bronx, he owes the team and the fans five more starts just like yesterday before we can start singing his praise. And then we have the whole subject of October, which I won’t get into since this is the first year that we aren’t all but guaranteed to be playing then at this point.

While the rest of the media will suck up to Unit’s current success, I just can’t be sold at this point. Get back to me in a few starts, when his ERA is below 3.50, which would be the highest acceptable ERA for him. Until then, I guess I’m going to expect more of the same: mediocre starts, a few gems and a few 7-run bombs mixed in there.

And to end on a positive, a happy birthday to A-Rod.