One at a time over breakfast on Friday, the Seattle Mariners got to their Denver Post sports pages, then gasped or laughed - or both.
A local columnist had ripped Randy Johnson, accusing him of feigning an injury to avoid facing the Colorado Rockies and having to bat in a National League park.
“Coward of King County,” was among the things the columnist called Johnson, and the writer also implied that the “Big Unit” - he called him the “Big Eunuch” - was risking the pennant chances of his team to sit out the game.
Tendinitis? The writer called it a sore finger.
Other sportswriters were profoundly embarrassed by the piece - the writer hadn’t been to the ballpark, hadn’t talked to Johnson or anyone with the Mariners or Colorado Rockies.
Manager Lou Piniella angrily called the piece “irresponsible journalism” and defended his pitcher.
“Randy Johnson has never backed away from a big game and he never will. This writer didn’t talk to me, didn’t talk to our trainer, didn’t talk to Randy,” Piniella said. “It’s totally unprofessional, a cheap shot, and you can see why players are reluctant to talk to some writers.”
Johnson declined to discuss the piece, but teammates responded with a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment.
“Coward of King County?” Ken Griffey Jr. asked, shaking his head. “There wasn’t a fact in there. How do y’all get away with that bleep?” Jamie Moyer gave the matter some thought.
“I asked myself why anyone would write something like that without caring if any part of it was true,” Moyer said. “The best I could come up with is that this guy just wanted to write something sensational, where people would talk about it. And to just make something up to get your name out there is sick.”
Mike Blowers had X-rays taken of his rib cage, where Tim Raines’ knee hit him last week, and though they showed no break Blowers continues to have soreness that’s kept him out of the lineup…. Bobby Ayala’s nine wins this season match the major league high by a reliever, a total he shares with Baltimore’s Arthur Rhodes and Florida’s Robb Nen.
Seattle makes its first visit to Dodger Stadium in a 1:05 p.m. game that will be televised by Fox. Probable starting pitchers: Bob Wolcott (5-5, 5.63) vs. Ramon Martinez (7-3, 3.34).
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