Arizona Diamondbacks fans said a reluctant “goodbye” to ace pitcher Randy Johnson at the end of a highly forgettable 2004.
The “Dynamic Duo” of Johnson and Curt Schilling won over 50 games including postseason action in Arizona’s magic run to a 2001 World Series Championship. The 2006 season will see them anchoring the pitching staffs of bitter American League East rivals New York Yankees (Johnson) and Boston Red Sox (Schilling).
There have been few, if any, twosomes in baseball history that compare to Johnson and Schilling.
The Boston and later Milwaukee Braves paired the great left-hander Warren Spahn with first Johnny Sain (responsible for the famous baseball line, “Spahn, Sain and pray for rain”), then Lew Burdette to stake a claim on that distinction.
Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers may have been the best comparison. Atlanta’s John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were probably a better staff, but any twosome you picked would probably not equal Arizona’s combo.
Unbelievably, the Diamondbacks got very little for either of their stars. Schilling had a year left on his contract with Arizona when he was traded to Boston for an injured Casey Fossum and several no-name players. Management had made it clear early that they were willing to let Schilling go before the 2004 season.
This fan also interpreted that decision to mean that winning a pennant wasn’t really in the plans for that year either.
The six-for-one deal for slugging first baseman Richie Sexton proved to be a disaster of incredible proportions when he spent most of the season on the disabled list. His was only a one-year contract and he deserted the badly listing ship for the Seattle Mariners. Arizona had traded six players including three very productive starters for a free agent they could not resign.
Johnson had a year left on his contract after the 2004 season and wanted to be traded to the Yankees. They wanted him and for some reason that is difficult to understand, the Diamondbacks essentially gave him to them.
The players Arizona got for Johnson may prove themselves worth the price. Of course, I may win the next lottery. The odds are about the same.
Writers and fans have panned the Arizona Cardinals football team for their mistakes since the franchise moved here. They have made some lulus, especially in the hiring and firing of coaches. Can you imagine the outcry if that team’s management had made these deals? This is the equivalent of trading Payton Manning for a place kick holder.
These two deals (Johnson and Schilling) rival the worst in baseball history, just as those two were arguably the best twosome ever to pitch for the same team. Schilling went to Boston determined to end the “curse of the Bambino,” allegedly put on the Red Sox for selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
Schilling was the catalyst in the ending of that curse and earned a place of honor in Red Sox lore by doing so. His heroics will be marveled at and will become the stuff of legend among baseball fans.
Let’s just hope there is no curse that comes from doing deals this bad. If there is, how long will it last? I would really like to see another World Series at Bank One Ballpark (or whatever they name it) and can’t outlast a nearly hundred year curse.