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Happy 15th Anniversary: Randy Johnson agrees to sign with D-Backs

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Randy Johnson joined the Diamondbacks and changed history forever 15 years ago today.
Randy Johnson joined the Diamondacks and changed history forever 15 years ago today. (USATSI)

On this date in 1998, the Diamondbacks landed prized free agent starter Randy Johnson with a four-year contract worth $52 million. The contract became official a week or so later. Johnson, who was already 35 years old at the time, surprisingly joined the last place Arizona club because it allowed him to be closer to his family home in Phoenix.

So what did the Diamondbacks get back from that investment? How about four Cy Young Awards (!) and the only World Series title in franchise history. Johnson's performance during the four years covered by the contract is straight out of a video game:

Randy Johnson Pitching Stats
YearTeamWLERAGGSCGSHOSVSVOINNHRERHRHBPBBSO
1999ARI1792.48353512200271.2207867530970364
2000ARI1972.6435358300248.2202897323676347
2001ARI2162.4935343200249.21817469191871372
2002ARI2452.3235358400260.01977867261371334

That's 1,030 innings with a 187 ERA+ and 1,417 strikeouts in a four-year span. Johnson managed to pile up 38.3 WAR during that time, more than the career totals of Hall of Famers Bob Lemon (37.3) and Catfish Hunter (36.5), among many others.

Of course, Johnson's biggest moments in a Diamondbacks' uniform came during the 2001 World Series against the Yankees. First, he struck out 11 during a three-hit shutout in Game 2 of the series:

Johnson then held the Yankees to two runs in seven innings in Game 6, keeping the series alive and sending it to a very memorable Game 7.

In that Game 7, less than 24 hours after throwing 104 pitches in Game 6, Johnson came out of the bullpen to throw 1 1/3 innings, giving his team a chance to come back against Mariano Rivera:

The Big Unit spent eight of his 22 big league seasons in Arizona, and during the summer of 2015, he'll be the first Diamondbacks player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Johnson is arguably the greatest left-hander in baseball history, and a decade-and-a-half ago, his tenure with the D-Backs began.

 
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