Will Big Unit be last member of 300 club?

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I remember writing a column two years ago, when Tom Glavine was on the cusp of 300 wins, and remarking that he was the last of a dying breed.

It was hard to blame me at the time, Randy Johnson, who was next in line with 284 wins, was 43 years old and had just had his season cut short due to back surgery - the second such procedure of his career, by the way.

Forgive me for jumping to the conclusion that Johnson's remarkable run was more than likely over.

Two years later, and Johnson is still going strong at age 45 and on the doorstep of his 300th win, which he will take aim at on Wednesday against the lowly Washington Nationals, the franchise that drafted him in the second round in 1985 when it was known as the Montreal Expos.

Despite my history on this topic, I will say with confidence that he will be the last 300-game winner for a long time.

Of the three other active pitchers with at least 200 wins, 300 is a number that is likely too far out of reach. Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer would be next up with 250 victories, but he is 46 years old. Andy Pettitte (220) and John Smoltz (210) follow Moyer, but are not remotely close to the milestone. At this point, you cannot make a compelling argument for anyone else.

"He quite possibly could become the last 300-game winner, unless they go back to four-man rotations and eliminate some people from the bullpen," said Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand, "[or] 'The Freak' [Tim Lincecum] stays healthy and keeps doing what he's doing...You look at what it takes to win 300 games -- 15 wins for 20 seasons or 20 wins for 15 seasons? I mean, it's just ridiculous."

To further illustrate the point, let's take a look at the three best pitchers today - Johan Santana, CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay.

Halladay, 32, leads that trio with 140 wins. If we give him at least 10 more victories the rest of this season, he would still have to average 15 wins a year for the next 10 years. I guess you could make an argument for him, but there are an awful lot of innings on that arm, and it's hard to imagine him pitching into his 40's.

Santana has 116 wins at the age of 30, and he would have to be extremely lucky to both last long to have a chance at 300, and to win that many games period. If you watch Santana pitch with the Mets, you know luck does not seem to be on his side, no matter how magnificent he may be.

Plus, he has won more than 16 games just once in his last four seasons.

Sabathia is the youngest of the group at 28 and has 122 wins. He is probably in the best situation of the three, being with the New York Yankees and all, but even he has to be considered a longshot at best.

On the positive side for all three of the guys named above, it is important to note that Johnson didn't really get it going until age 29. He had only 49 wins up until that point, but won 19 games or more six times after that, and got as high as 17 on four other occasions. That decade of dominance got Johnson to where he is now.

Who am I to say it won't happen again?

I have to be honest, watching Johnson with that big frame throw as hard as he did back in 1995 with the Seattle Mariners, never in a million years did I think he would last long enough to get to 300 wins.

So never say never, but be honest that with the way pitching staffs are assembled and the way the game is played today, starting pitchers just don't rack up the wins like they once did.

I hate to say it, but on Wednesday we may see our last 300-game winner.


If you went out on the street and quizzed the average sports fan on who is leading the league in home runs, how many guesses do you think it would take before someone named San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez?

I am sure you'd get a lot of mentions of Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, and even some Alex Rodriguez, but I am betting it would be a while before Gonzalez crossed someone's lips.

In addition to his league-leading 22 home runs, Gonzalez is also in the top 10 in walks, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS in the National League.

Yet outside of hard-core baseball fans, he barely registers on the radar of Joe Sports Fans around the country, save for those in San Diego, of course.

Not that I put much stock into this, but take a look at the early All-Star ballot returns. Gonzalez is nowhere to be found, as he currently sits fifth at first base in the National League behind Pujols, Prince Fielder, Howard and Joey Votto.

Like I said, I don't pay much attention to the balloting anyway and first base is a tough go in the NL, but shouldn't a guy who is having one of the best all-around seasons in the NL have more than 220,000 votes, which by the way are over a million less than Pujols?

It's not as if Gonzalez is a complete surprise here either. He belted 36 home runs a year ago and has averaged roughly 30 longballs and 100 RBI over his first four full seasons.

If Gonzalez played in New York, or even Los Angeles for that matter, he would already be a big star. If he keeps it up this year, though, he can play on the moon and be a household name by the end of the season..

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
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