SEATTLE – Former Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson used his Mariners Hall of Fame induction weekend to open up about how leaving the team affected him emotionally all those years ago.
Johnson struggled through the first half of 1998 with the Mariners, then went 10-1 with the Houston Astros after being traded there.
On Friday, following a luncheon at Safeco Field honoring him and catcher Dan Wilson, Johnson admitted it hurt him that some in Seattle felt he “tanked” the first half of 1998 to force a trade out of town.
“The one thing that bothered me when I left here was when people thought I wasn’t trying my hardest,” Johnson said. “As an athlete, that bothered me a lot. I’d be the first to say I didn’t play well, I didn’t pitch well. Did it distract me? Absolutely.
“But if the game was that easy, to leave here and be a mediocre pitcher in a good pitcher body, and go on to Houston and do legendary things, how can I answer that? I never did it when I was in Arizona. And I won four straight Cy Youngs. I never went 10-1. The game is funny.”
Johnson – the “Big Unit” – and Wilson will be added to the Hall during a ceremony before today’s game. They were honored during the luncheon by video-board tributes from Ken Griffey Jr., broadcaster Bob Costas and even John Kruk, the former Phillies slugger famously brushed back by an “effectively wild” Johnson pitch during the 1993 All-Star Game.
“I was very fortunate to have played 22 years in the major leagues, and the two moments that strike more people is killing a pigeon and John Kruk,” Johnson said.
Wilson talked about the difficulties of breaking into the majors as a light-hitting catcher and the pressure he felt to connect more at the plate. He thanked former hitting coach Lee Elia, who was seated at the luncheon’s head table, having flown in from Florida.
Former American League Rookie of the Year Alvin Davis, the first Mariners player chosen for the team’s Hall of Fame, also attended the ceremony. Davis just joined the team’s player-development staff as a roving minor-league instructor. Davis will help Single-A and Triple-A players with their approach and technique at the plate. … The Mariners scored five more runs in the first two innings Friday. It’s the 10th time in 11 games the Mariners have scored in the first two frames, totaling 23 runs during that 20-inning stretch.