Roger Clemens has done it twice, Kerry Wood has done it once and I don't care what the Elias Sports Bureau says -- 20 strikeouts in nine innings is a record unto itself.
Randy Johnson's 20-strikeout effort Tuesday night was as dominant a performance as you'll ever see. The human aspect of this accomplishment is incredible. Johnson threw 124 pitches, 92 for strikes, with no walks, against a solid Reds offense. He deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Clemens and Wood.
|Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson struck out 20 and walked none Tuesday against the Reds.|
For a guy whose career began back in the '80s by being traded for Mark Langston, Johnson has gone on to do incredible things. Not only will he be remembered as one of the greatest, most dominant strikeout pitchers of all time, but in the last six or seven years he's also become one of the most accurate pitchers in all of baseball.
At 6-foot-10, Johnson is one of the most intimidating forces to ever play the sport. At 37, he still possesses a fastball that approaches 100 mph and a wicked slider. Johnson goes out every fifth day with no complaints and busts his butt with one goal in mind -- a world championship.
He's not a stat-driven glory hound who loves to talk about himself -- you have to respect him for that. Johnson is actually a very quiet individual, a lunch-pail, bread-and-butter guy. But you know that when he takes the ball, you have a great chance of winning. He is what every pitcher strives to be -- a guy the team can count on.
Every time Johnson takes the mound, whether he's on the road or at home, he fills stadiums because he's such an entertaining performer. Fans know that he's capable of throwing a 20-strikeout game or a no-hitter in each outing, which makes every fifth Diamondbacks game that much more enjoyable and memorable. Very few athletes in any sport generate that kind of excitement (especially for a two- to three-hour contest, one of 162 games a year).
I liken Johnson to Pedro Martinez -- every time he pitches, I have to see it. As both a fan and a former player, I love to watch these guys. When a Johnson or Martinez is warming up between innings, every guy on the other side of the field is watching. It was the same phenomenon with Nolan Ryan. When Ryan took the hill you didn't want to miss a warm-up pitch or an at-bat or, for that matter, anything he did.
Johnson has had a career full of amazing accomplishments, and despite what the record books may say, this 20-strikeout game is up there with the best of them. It couldn't happen to a better person. I hope he does it a couple more times before he's finished playing.