Hold your horses Giants fans. The jury is still out on whether picking up the Big Unit is worth the risk.
What made the Giants so confident in him, that they rolled the dice on a 21-year veteran? What says he doesn’t break down? Yeah, it’s a one-year contract, but does that guarantee 30 starts? Ten wins?
I’m worried about re-occurring back problems. Maybe arthritis. Or some mixture of the both. I should just flat out say it. I’m worried about old people. Particularly, 40-year olds playing on a professional ball club filled with guys my age.
Johnson is walking on to a team that totally reinvented itself from the set of Cocoon. Where once it was filled with the has-beens of Major League Baseball, now it is filled with the up and coming stars of the mound.
You see that hill in AT&T Park, Randy. That’s Timmy’s. He owns it. He earned it. He’s the future. And you … well, you are the byproduct of a mixed philosophy and general manager Brian Sabean’s dismal planning efforts for the future.
I take no solace in typing these words. On the outside, it’s pretty mean-spirited. But the fact remains, Johnson doesn’t belong on a team whose nucleus includes the likes of Lincecum (24), the heir and savior, and Matt Cain (24) the go-to guy. Barry Zito (30) … well, I’m tired of ripping him. Noah Lowry (28), Jonathan Sanchez (26) and all-star Brian Wilson (26) are the Giants’ base of operations. Success of the organization starts with these fellas. The young guys.
Why do you throw in a 45-year old and expect things to get better? All the while, the G-men are pontificating whether they’ll move Lowry or Sanchez.
Does any of this make sense?
This isn’t a case of gerontophobia or some other maligned ignorance. It’s a disagreement of philosophy. Sabean, who has proved time and time again that he has no plan, dropped all pretension of youthful reinvention when he picked up Johnson.
Maybe he didn’t notice, but the Big Unit’s on a downward spiral. He went 11-10 last year in 184 innings, scored 173 strikeouts making him just as feared as any average pitcher.
I won’t sit here and compare the Big Unit out of his prime against last year’s Cy Young award winner. That’s just unfair. Instead, I’ll compare him to the guy fourth in the rotation: Sanchez. In 2008, Sanchez finished 9-12, dropped a 5.01 ERA and dispatched 157 batters by way of strikeout in 158 innings. That’s almost one strikeout an inning.
That kind of talent, although average in terms of ERA, is solid in terms of production. Plus, he doesn’t come with the price tag Johnson carries, who is reportedly drawing $8 million in base salary and another $2.5 million in incentives.
Hmmm. Do I want average and cheap production or do I want average and expensive production? So hard to choose.
How about neither? How about, for once, we stick with the plan? How about we let the young guys develop into the superstars they are and surround them with other young guys who are hungry to win?
How about next time, we save that money for a cleanup hitter?
This column originally appeared in The Union.