NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson earned more than 10 percent of his 303 big-league victories in pinstripes -- he went 34-19 in his two seasons with the Yankees -- but his brief tenure in the Bronx will be remembered more for how it began and ended than for anything that happened in between.
Johnson came to New York with a bad attitude, shoving a TV cameraman who had the nerve to shoot footage of him arriving for his team physical, and left in a trade for four forgettable players -- Luis Vizcaino was the best of them -- in what could only be described as a gesture of good riddance.
My memories of him as a Yankee are murky at best -- I think I covered just a handful of his starts as a columnist over two seasons -- and I came away with the impression that he didn't like New York, didn't like being a Yankee, didn't like the glare of the spotlight and certainly didn't like the media. I never really got to know him, and what I did know of him, I didn't particularly like. And that is too bad, because guys who covered him in Seattle and Arizona tell me that deep down, he's really a pretty good guy. It's unfortunate that he chose not to show that side of himself during his time here.
He didn't pitch all that badly the first season -- he was 17-8 with a 3.79 and 211 K's in 2005 -- but he tailed off badly in 2006, his ERA a whopping 5.00 in what was a miserable year for everyone involved. To underscore his unhappiness, he went back to Arizona and pitched reasonably well for two seasons, with ERAs in the high 3.00s, even though he was 45 years old.
There's no denying he was an intimidating presence on the mound, with that lanky 6-10 frame and side-winding left-handed delivery that fired BBs seemingly at the heads of left-handed hitters. Had I voted this year -- I was unable to cast a ballot due to some personal issues -- I certainly would have voted for him, because the Hall of Fame election is not a popularity contest. On merit, he belongs in the Hall, and I congratulate him.
But I think I can safely predict that he will not be wearing a Yankees cap on his plaque.