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01/05/10 8:48 PM EST

Big Unit could be last in 300 Club

Shorter starts make it unlikely another hurler will reach mark

On a Thursday night in our nation's capital last June, Randy Johnson, the left-hander known as the Big Unit, dusted off the Nationals to become the 24th inductee into Major League Baseball's circle of 300-game winners.

Twenty-four, and skidoo?

Randy Johnson

This generation's fans can be reasonably certain of having witnessed the last pursuit of this kind, and that now the 300-game winner will follow dinosaurs, dodo birds and 59-cent Big Macs into extinction.

Every time someone has stalked or reached 300 wins, the question has been raised as to whether he will be the last of the breed -- a contradictory exercise to say the least.

But this time, the sky really could be falling.

It's quite basic:

• When Roger Clemens pulled into the 300-win club on June 13, 2003, Greg Maddux sat on 278 wins.

• When Maddux crossed the threshold on Aug. 7, 2004, Tom Glavine had 259 victories, also in the neighborhood.

• And when Glavine got his 300th on Aug. 5, 2007, Johnson was at 284, although gripped by a recurrence of his back woes.

But there is no active pitcher on Johnson's trail.

The pitcher closest to him is Jamie Moyer, with 258 wins. And, Moyer, 47, only posted 12 wins last season, so it would seem that he does not have enough shelf life to sniff 300.

As for the younger set, we're looking at 37-year-old Andy Pettitte with 229 wins and 38-year-old Pedro Martinez with 219.

And neither is a Big enough Unit to pose a threat.

So hopefully you enjoyed Johnson's ride into a glorious sunset, because it's a tale you could be relating to disbelieving grandkids.

Player Wins
Tom Glavine 305
Jamie Moyer 258
Andy Pettitte 229
Pedro Martinez 219
John Smoltz 213
Tim Wakefield 189
"Pitching 271 innings? Winning 24 games? Striking out 372 people? C'mon, who are you kidding?"

Any more 300-game winners upcoming? Who are we kidding?

"I don't think there will be one for a while," said Nolan Ryan, who bagged his 300th in 1990 with the Rangers, for whom he now serves as club president. "A lot of it depends on changing the way pitchers are used now. It's not the five-man rotation as much as starters not going deep into the game, and the fact that they use as many as three bullpen guys.

"When the starter goes out, the more bullpen guys you use, the better chance you have of one of them having a bad night. I don't think [the 300-win club] is like the 500-home run club, where you have a lot of guys moving into it. There are a lot less 300-game winners."

"You don't want to say never, but this could be it, with Randy," Glavine said. "It wouldn't surprise me if there's not another.

"We're not developing 250-, 270-inning pitchers. When you throw 250, 270 innings, it gives you a better chance to get a win. It's tough to get a bunch of wins if you're going five or six innings. There are many pitchers who have the talent to win 300 games. But I'm not sure you're going to see the durability you saw a generation ago."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.