November 22, 1997 in Sports

Johnson Feels Betrayed, Fans Should Too

Steve Kelley Seattle Times

Randy Johnson knows it’s all over for him in Seattle. After nine seasons and 121 wins. After two playoff appearances, a Cy Young Award and a no-hitter, Johnson knows he’ll be leaving Seattle, probably sooner rather than later.

This week he began making his goodbyes. It was after 11 p.m. his time one night this week when he called from his Phoenix home to answer questions about his impending trade.

“I think the question the Mariners have to ask is: Are they closer to a World Series with me or without me?” Johnson said. “Obviously, they made their decision. They aren’t interested in offering me a contract past next year and that’s the story.

“But I think any team that’s going to get me is a team that’s been to the World Series and wants to get back there quickly.”

Johnson made his reputation here. Along with Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, he helped save baseball for Seattle. He brought the city two American League West championships. He helped it get a stadium.

And every fifth day he brought the mystery and thrill of possibilities to the mound. He was the heavyweight champion with the thunderous left. He was 98-mile-an-hour electricity.

The Mariners have said they can’t afford to give him a contract extension, and they are shopping him to the richest teams in baseball.

“I didn’t want to leave here, but now I think I do because now I know how the Mariners feel,” Johnson said. “Maybe it’s time for me to move on. When the Mariners had a chance to step up and reward me for what I’ve done and what I’ve brought to the table for them, I’ve seen their true colors.

“I do feel a little betrayed. I feel like I’ve given my best years to date to the Mariners. I helped them save baseball in Seattle. I was one of 25 guys that kept baseball alive in Seattle. I think if this trade talk had come two years ago, when they were trying to get a new stadium, it would have been real interesting to see what would have happened.

“I mean they’re getting rid of the pitcher who has every pitching record there, and then they’re turning around and raising ticket prices. But it’s a business, so I guess its selfish of me to think I could stay in Seattle.

“I was comfortable there the last nine years. This is where my children were born … But it’s time to move on, I guess.”

Losing Johnson is the worst mistake this franchise will make since it traded Dave Henderson and Spike Owen to Boston. You don’t replace Johnson’s dependability. You don’t replace his charisma. You don’t replace his heat.

Sure he’s 34 years old. Sure he’s had back surgery. But yo, Seattle! He came back from that surgery to win 20 games.

“I read where (GM) Woody Woodward would like to keep me,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t know what to believe. When I was doing my rehab for my back surgery I didn’t hear from him for six months. I didn’t hear from (manager) Lou Piniella, either.”

Anyone who bets against Johnson will lose that bet, every fifth day.

“I’ve been hurt two times in nine years,” he said. “If anybody thinks that my career is going down from this point on, well, you go ahead and make that bet. I guarantee you I’ll show you just the opposite.

“Who cares that I’m 34? Does that mean I’m not worthy of the Mariners giving me a two-year extension? I’ll be 37 when that extension is over with. Does that mean I’ll lose 10 miles an hour off my fastball? I don’t think so.

“People are worried about my back? Hell, I just had the best year of my career. If anything my back is stronger than it’s ever been. I feel like I’m as healthy, if not healthier than I’ve ever been in my career. My back feels fine, and the finger that bothered me late in the year feels fine. I’m already starting to get tunnel vision on spring training.”

The trade will be made and Johnson will be gone. The team and the city will be poorer for it.

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