When Randy Johnson won his 300th game two years ago, staggering towards the finish line of a brilliant career, there was strong talk that the Big Unit might be baseball’s last 300-game winner, given the limitations and constraints (read that pitch counts) of the modern game. Not so fast.
CC Sabathia already has 167 wins, and he won’t turn 31 until July 21. This is his 11th major league season, and through the first 10 the Yankee southpaw has averaged just under 16 wins a season.
Sabathia is 167-92 for a .645 winning percentage. He’s led the American League in wins the past two years with 19 and 21 victories respectively.
CC already has 10 wins this year, as many as anyone in the majors. He’s durable, having pitched at least 230 innings in every season since 2007. Never been seriously injured, hardly ever misses a turn, been on the DL just once in his career, that for a strained oblique early in the 2006 season with the Indians. No arm troubles. The very definition of a staff ace, a horse.
Do the math. If Sabathia keeps on his current pace and pitches eight more seasons, he’d reach 300 wins somewhere around the age of 39.
Recent 300-Game Winners
That would be younger than three of the four pitchers who won their 300th game since 2000 — Roger Clemens (40) in 2003 with the Yankees, Tom Glavine (41) with the Mets in 2007, and Johnson (45) with the Giants.
Only Greg Maddux, who won his 300th at the age of 38 with the Cubs, would be younger. Maddux went on to win 355 games, eighth on the all-time list and one more than Clemens.
Before that, Nolan Ryan in 1990 was the last pitcher to reach 300 wins, at age 43, with the Rangers.
Only four active pitchers have more wins than Sabathia — Tim Wakefield (197), Roy Halladay (179), Tim Hudson (171) and Livan Hernandez (171). Halladay is the youngest of this group at age 34, Wakefield the oldest at 44.
Only 24 pitchers have won 300 games, and of that group only six — Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Eddie Plank, Glavine, Johnson and Lefty Grove — are left-handers.
CC Sabathia has a long ways to go, but he has a legitimate shot at becoming the 25th pitcher in baseball history to reach 300 wins.
Ah, those Montreal Expos. Funky red, white and blue hats. Canada’s first baseball team. Les Expos.
Although they never won a National League pennant during their 36 seasons in Montreal before morphing into the Washington Nationals, the Expos produced several Hall of Fame caliber players.
Two of those players — catcher Gary Carter and newly-inducted outfielder Andre Dawson — have gone into Cooperstown as members of the Expos.
The Hawk, below right, National League Rookie of the Year in 1977, played his first 11 seasons with the Expos. He later won the 1987 NL MVP with the Cubs.
An eight-time All Star, he finished his career with 438 homers, 314 stolen bases and a .279 batting average and won eight Gold Gloves.
Carter, aka the Kid, also played his first 11 seasons with Montreal, and won a World Series with the Mets in 1986. Carter hit 324 home runs and finished with a .262 lifetime batting average.
Two other HOF candidates, Randy Johnson and Vladimir Guerrero, also began their careers in Montreal. But if the Big Unit and Vlad go to Cooperstown as expected, they will not be wearing Montreal caps.
Montreal had some other great players including Canadian-born Larry Walker, who played his first six seasons with the Expos before moving on to greater things in Colorado; Pedro Martinez who pitched four years in Montreal and was the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1997; and Andres Galararraga, who played eight years with the Expos but failed to reach the necessary five percent of votes in 2010 to stay on the HOF ballot next year.
Finally, there’s the case of Tim “Rock” Raines, who broke in with Montreal in 1979 and played his first 12 years in Montreal before being traded to the White Sox following the 1990 season.
Raines is arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in the past quarter century outside of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. His lifetime stats compare very favorably to Lou Brock, another Hall of Famer.
The Rock should be a lock for the Hall of Fame. But strangely he hasn’t come close, garnering just over 30 percent of the vote in 2010, his third year of eligibility.
Ken Griffey, Jr. slides home with the winning run as the Seattle Mariners beat the New York Yankees in the deciding Game Five of the 1995 ALDS.
The other night the MLB Network ran a replay of the fifth and deciding game of that fantastic 1995 American League divisional series between the Yankees and the Mariners. You remember, the one where the series was decided by Ken Griffey, Jr’s mad dash home on Edgar Martinez two-run double in the bottom of the 11th inning. Where the two teams combined for a record 22 home runs, 11 by each club.
Amazing how many players from that game have played a part in the destinies of the two teams in the 14 years since the Mariners won that 6-5 thriller. Consider this:
Randy Johnson, the big left-hander, won two games in the series, including the clinching Game 5 in relief. Later Johnson won three games against the Yankees for the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, ending New York’s three-time championship run. And finally the Big Unit pitched two years for the Yankees in 2005 and 2006, winning 17 games each season but failing miserably in the playoffs both years. Yankee fans would later joked that Johnson killed the when he faced them, and he killed them again when he pitched in pinstripes.
Ken Griffey, Jr.: Had a terrific series with five homers and a .391 average, and of course he scored the series-clinching run. Griffey later went on to play for the Cincinnati Reds, but never experienced the glory of those halcyon days in Seattle. He came back to the Mariners in 2009 to wind down his career. Despite more than 630 career home runs, Griffey has never been to a World Series.
Tino Martinez: Hit .409 against the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS, then was traded to New York in the off-season along with Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Tino was the first baseman on four Yankee championship teams.
Jay Buhner: Traded to the Yankees for Ken Phelps and incidentals in the middle of the 1988 season, Buhner went on to a stellar career in Seattle, He hit .458 in the 1995 ALDS.
Alex Rodriguez: As a pinch-runner in Game 5, A-Rod scored the tying run. After signing as a free agent with Texas, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees before the 2004 season. Although he has yet to play in a World Series, Rodriguez has won three American League MVP awards, including 2005 and 2007 with the Yanks.
Lou Piniella: Manager of the Mariners in 1995, Piniella was an outfielder with the champion 1977 and 1978 Yankee teams. He later managed the Yankees, won a World Series with the Reds, and managed the M’s, Devil Rays and now the Cubs.
New York Yankees
The Core Four
Four Yankees involved in the 1995 ALDS are still with the Yankees, 14 years and four World Champions later. Andy Pettitte started and took a no-decision in the Yankees 15-inning win in Game Two, and was in the bullpen warming up in Game 5 as Jack McDowell surrendered a one-run lead in the 11th inning. Jorge Posada was a backup catcher, but did score a run against the M’s. Mariano Rivera started his spectacular run of post-season success with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and eight strikeouts, including a pivotal stint in the eighth and ninth innings of Game 5. And although a youthful 21-year-old shortstop named Derek Jeter, right, did not see any action against the Mariners, the familiar No. 2 was roaming the bench urging his teammates on, a captain in waiting.
Don Mattingly: Speaking of captains, Don Mattingly, in his only playoff appearance and his final season, batted .417 with a home run and six RBIs, including a go-ahead, two-run double in Game 5. In what turned out to be his final at bat, Mattingly took a called third strike against Randy Johnson in the 10th inning.
Bernie Williams: Another member of those four Yankee champions. hit two home runs and batted .429 in the series against the Mariners. It was Bernie, playing left field, who fielded Edgar Martinez’ hit in the left-field corner in Game Five but threw home too late to nab Griffey.
The catcher when Griffey slid across the plate and electrified the city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest was star-crossed Jim Leyritz, who Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS for the Yankees with a dramatic 15th-inning home run in the rain at Yankee Stadium. Leyritz, no stranger to post-season heroics, later helped the Yankees to championships in 1996 and 1999. His dramatic three-run homer that tied the score in the eighth inning is considered the turning point in the Yankees win over the Atlanta Braves in 1996. He was later involved in a drunk driving accident in South Florida in which a woman was killed.
Randy Velarde, utility infielder who hit the go-ahead hit single in the top of the 11th inning in Game 5, signed on as a free agent with the California Angels after the 1995 season. He eventually returned to the Yankees, and helped lead them to a five-game win against Seattle in the 2001 ALCS. Ironically, Velarde recorded one of just 15 unassisted triple plays in major league history, playing second base for the Oakland A;s against the Yankees in 2000.
Derek Jeter, left, and Mariano Rivera are sure bets for the Hall of Fame.
From this catbird’s seat, the SportsLifer sees nine active players heading for the Hall of Fame.
Criteria for consideration includes at least a 10-year, major league resume. Players linked to steroids, who might otherwise be Cooperstown bound, are instead banished to the Mark McGwire waiting room.
The list of nine HOFers includes three infielders, three outfielders and three pitchers, two of them relievers. There are three other players on the cusp who will merit strong consideration by voters.
Of note, Pedro Martinez will qualify for this list once he takes the mound for the Phillies. He’s currently on the disabled list and hasn’t pitched yet this year.
Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki, each with nine years of service, will certainly be added to this list next year.
Lastly…and sadly…are five other players who would have made the list but for the needle and the damage done.
Hall of Famers
Ken Griffey, Jr, OF — Active leader, 5th all time with 621 HRs, 1798 RBIs, .286 BA, 184 SBs, 1997 AL MVP, played for Mariners and Reds, shown left
Vladimir Guerrero, OF — 396 HRs, 1289 RBIs, .322 lifetime BA, stole 175 bases, AL MVP with Angels in 2004
Trevor Hoffman, RP — All-time saves leader with 575, 2.76 ERA, played primarily for Padres, now with Brewers
Derek Jeter, SS — Captain of the Yankees, four-time World Champion, .316 lifetime BA, 216 HRs, 1039 RBIs, 292 stolen bases
Randy Johnson, P — The Big Unit, 303 lifetime wins, second all-time in strikeouts with 4867, five-time Cy Young award winner with Mariners and D’Backs
Chipper Jones, 3B — Played entire career with Braves, 417 HRs, 1416 RBIs, .310 BA, NL MVP in 1999, .364 NL batting champ in 2008
Mariano Rivera, RP — 505 saves, 2.29 lifetime ERA, post-season exploits with Yankees are unsurpassed, 34 saves, 0.80 ERA, 0.87 WHIP
John Smoltz, P — 211 victories, 154 saves, 3.27 lifetime ERA,, earned primarily with the Braves; 1996 NL Cy Young, record 15 post-season wins.
Jim Thome, 1B — 13th on the all-time home run list with 557 dingers, he also has 1545 RBIs for Indians, White Sox, Phillies
Pedro Martinez, P — Just signed with Phillies, three-time Cy Young Award winner with Expos and Red Sox, 214-99, 2.91 lifetime.
On the Cusp
Carlos Delgado, 1B — 473 home runs, 1512 RBIs for this slugger, who played for the Blue Jays and now Mets
Jorge Posada, C — Caught for the Yankees during their late 1990s dynasty, has 231 homers and 916 RBIs…276 BA
Johan Santana, P — 119-58 lifetime, 3.11 ERA, Cy Young winner with Twins in 2004, 2006, now pitches for Mets
Omar Vizquel, SS — Known as a slick fielder with 11 Gold Gloves, he has collected nearly 2,700 hits and 400 SBs
Nine Years And Counting
Albert Pujols, 1B — 353 HRs, 1066 RBIs, .332 BA, NL MVP 2005, 2008 with Cardinals, NL batting champion in 2003
Ichiro Suzuki, OF — 1936 hits, .332 BA, 334 steals, AL MVP in 2001 with Mariners, AL batting champ in 2001, 2004
Pitchers used to finish what they started.
In 1904, Jack Chesbro started 55 games for the New York Highlanders. He finished 48 of them, winning 41 games. All are major league records.
Last year, Arizona’s Brandon Webb led the National League with 4 complete games; Roy Hallady of the Blue Jays had 7.
Cy Young threw 749 complete games in his career; the current major league career leaders are Greg Maddux with 109 and Randy Johnson with 99.
In 1968, the so-called “Year of the Pitcher,” Juan Marichal of the Giants led the majors with 30 complete games. The Tigers’ Denny McLain became the last 30-game winner, and had 28 complete games.
“Nobody trusted anybody in the bullpen,” said McLain, who wound up 31-6. “Three or four of my losses were 2-1 and 1-0.”
In 1975, Catfish Hunter started 39 games for the Yankees and finished 30 of them, the last pitcher to reach that mark in complete games.
The last hurler to record 20 complete games was the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela, in 1986. Randy Johnson was the last to have double figures in 10 CGs, 12 in 1999.
Complete games have become baseball’s lost art.