Monday, December 29, 2008

The Big Unit!

There's been an ongoing debate chez nous about the man they call The Big Unit. My college-aged son thinks the Giants are crazy to spend $8 million to acquire the services of Randy Johnson for one season. I say it's one of the smartest moves the team's made in a long time.

Since I'm the one with the blog and he's the one sleeping in during winter break, you'll have to accept my version.

Sure, Randy Johnson is 45 years old. He's the second-oldest active player in the majors (behind Jamie Moyer, who just signed a two-year deal with the Phillies!), and he's had back problems. Sure, he has weird hair and he can be a bit cranky with reporters.

But ask any big-league hitter (especially a left-hander) who they'd least like to face, and Randy Johnson is high on the list. I don't care how old he is. Nobody wants to dig in against this guy. He's 6' 10" tall, he still throws hard, and he can still tuck one up under your chin. Hey, he once killed a bird with a pitch!

The Big Unit isn't what he once was (who is?), but he still threw 184 innings last year and struck out 173. His WHIP number (walks plus hits per inning pitched) was better than anyone in the Giants rotation except Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. In short, he's still a solid big-league starter.

There are also the intangibles. The Big Unit is a Bay Area native, and his presence is certain to put a few more butts in the seats at AT&T Park. He's Cooperstown-bound and will win his 300th game sometime this season. And while Johnson may not be the kind of guy to toss his arm over the shoulder of a young guy and give him pointers, you can bet the Giants kids will be watching carefully.

Now, my son's argument: Johnson's too old and the Giants should have spent the money on a bat. Perhaps they still will, but look what the Yankees paid for Mark Teixeira. The Giants had no hope of matching that kind of offer.

Bottom line: the Giants made an interesting pickup and didn't break the bank to do it. They could still use some offense, but they play in a park where pitching is pretty important.

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