07/12/2004 5:36 PM ET
Johnson answers the big one
Left-hander would accept trade to a contender
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- After days of shutting out reporters, Randy Johnson finally gave up an answer to the big question.
|Randy Johnson has 240 career wins with a 3.10 ERA over 17 Major League seasons. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
Yes, he would allow the D-Backs to trade him to a contender.
"I haven't been approached by the Diamondbacks to waive my no-trade clause," said Johnson after 30 minutes of grilling in his pre-All Star Game interviews Monday. "The only way I'd want to leave is if a trade would benefit the Diamondbacks by my leaving."
"And if I got to a situation that was going to work for me," added the big lefty, "that's pretty logical, right?"
The Angels, Red Sox and Yankees are among the teams which covet -- and might be able to
afford -- the five-time Cy Young Award winner. They also have a legitimate shot at the postseason.
Johnson indicated that were he to approve a trade, it would have to be to a team which he felt was a serious World Series contender.
"I'm not going to leave to go to a situation where they have a theoretical chance to win," he said. "There has been no list of teams [that he would accept a trade to], just teams that have a [good] chance to win. That's the only way."
Johnson, who has tried to brush away speculation about a trade in recent days, said that he was done discussing the subject.
"So there. You got what you wanted," he said. "I'm not going to talk about it anymore."
D-Backs owner Jerry Colangelo, whose team entered the break at 18 1/2 games behind the NL
West-leading Dodgers, declined to comment on the Big Unit's availability.
No matter where he ends up going -- or not going -- the lanky 40-year-old was clearly enjoying himself in Houston. He was delighted to be in town for Tuesday night's 75th Midsummer Classic for several reasons: to simply enjoy the atmosphere and the game but also to get things off his chest, to shoot down the incessant talk-show and media babble surrounding supposed requests for an extension or a trade.
That is an unknown, he said. Even to himself.
Suppose -- hypothetically speaking -- Arizona does indeed offer to extend his pact, which currently expires at the end of the 2005 season?
"I would feel guilty being committed to do something," said Johnson. "Once again, some reports I've read [have said] that I want an extension. That's the furthest thing from my mind. I don't know where someone got that from.
"I will play this year and a half out, and if I have any desire to play beyond next year, I'll leave that door open," he said. "But I will not commit to saying, 'Yeah.' I feel great right now, but I still have a season and a half -- 300, 400 innings -- ahead of me. I pretty much take it one start at a time now. I don't go any farther down the season than one start.
"Inaccurate writing makes me laugh," explained Johnson. "Reading that I would want an extension, and that's the only way I would accept a trade, is absolutely incorrect."
After 17 1/2 big league seasons, Johnson says he still feels good physically -- arm fine, knee OK, back solid -- and will weigh his options for the 2006 season, and beyond, carefully. Seasons tear your body down, he said, and the desire to play must be there.
In a perfect world, Johnson admits he'd love to retire from baseball on his own terms, still healthy enough to be at near full power, still having fun, still able to pitch at his high level. That would be ideal.
Pushing for 300 lifetime victories on a left wing and a prayer won't cut it.
"I think I've done enough in the game where I'm not worried about whether I go to the Hall of Fame, or worry about what my legacy [will be]," he said.
"Realistically, I want to pitch well and don't want to just flounder out there trying to [reach 300 wins] -- just winning a few games here and there. I'd have to win my starts in the second half and most of them next season to do it."
Johnson emphasized anything less than his best would be unacceptable.
The winner of five Cy Young awards and the rare pitcher's Triple Crown -- 24 wins, 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts -- in 2002, said one remaining goal would be another World Series ring, to go with the championship he won with Arizona two seasons ago.
Sorry, Cy -- been there, won that enough times.
"No disrespect to the Cy Young [award], but I've had a few of those, and winning another World Series would be more important. I had more fun playing in the World Series, and winning that would far outweigh any individual accomplish I could achieve."
As to which team that would be with, Johnson wouldn't say. At this point, he can't say with certainty.
In the future, beyond baseball, Johnson envisions himself coaching Triple-A players, getting them "over the hump" from the minors to the Majors. What's on his mind now, however, is enjoying being at the All-Star Game and then helping his young, struggling D-Backs improve their game.
"Injuries have had a major impact," said Johnson, 10-7 with a 2.99 ERA this season. "It was not one person, not one thing that set our franchise back. We're in a bit of a hole, and you can't win five games by playing one. What I'm seeing is a lot of younger kids realizing this isn't the minor leagues any more, that coaches and managers get fired depending on the success of the ballclub.
"Maybe after the break, they'll start playing better, things will change and we'll get on a bit of a winning streak."
Johnson added he was "excited about being" in Houston with his family in tow, but did have one goal in mind -- "Maybe get a hit."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.