The Big Unit introduces himself to New York

I think we’ve seen the true Randy Johnson.

He’s certainly a great pitcher and a fierce competitor, but he’s no class act. He’s no Yankee off the field. His incident with the CBS 2 cameraman in New York was a punk act. Does Johnson really think that he can walk down a Manhattan street and not be photographed? From watching the video, it appears that the cameraman is down the sidewalk, awaiting Johnson’s approach. Johnson had enough time to move around him, as inconvenient as that may be. But it certainly looks like Johnson got in the cameraman’s face, not the other way around.

If the Big Unit expects to be treated the same way in New York as he was in Arizona, he’s severely mistaken. It was one thing last year when he snapped at a New York-area reporter who suggested where he might find a house if he came to the Yankees. Johnson replied that he wasn’t a Yankee and he wasn’t going to talk about it, which was a reasonable answer at the time. But now he is a Yankee, and cameras on the streets of New York are part of that.

The Yankees are clearly the World Series favorite on paper, as a fantasy team. But can they be a team? Can the various personalities from Jason Giambi to Gary Sheffield to Hideki Matsui to Derek Jeter to Alex Rodriguez to Randy Johnson co-exist as a cohesive unit, the kind of collection of athletes that wants to win for their teammates more than they do for themselves? I’m not so sure of that. It’s why I don’t ever see Barry Bonds winning a World Series, or Jeff Kent. You also have to be careful when you try to buy winning. It doesn’t always work out. It certainly didn’t last year, when all seemed lost after the Yankees went out to get Alex Rodriguez, Sheffield and Kevin Brown. But good won out in the end.

I think the one thing we can be sure of is that this will be one entertaining season in New York. Randy Johnson and Brown on the same team (if Brown sticks around) should be good enough for at least two scuffles.

But there’s one claim I don’t quite buy (yet) about Johnson: This perceived feud with Curt Schilling. I’ve never seen it written about with any comments from either one to that effect, and we know Schilling’s not against talking about players on other teams with whom he doesn’t think he’d get along. But Kevin Kernan of the New York Post wrote about it in December:

One of the big reasons the Big Unit wants to be a Yankee, according to several sources, is to take on Schilling head to head in the AL East after Schilling was traded away from Arizona last offseason.

[…]

Remember, at the root of every great player is a great competitor and Johnson wants to get back to the World Series and nothing would please him more than beating Schilling, according to insiders, which would make for some classic Yankee-Red Sox battles in 2005. Every year you wonder how the Yankees and Red Sox will turn it up a notch and Johnson taking on Schilling would grow this rivalry again in a big way.

It’s one thing if Johnson and Schilling have a friendly, competitive rivalry to see which one can lead his team to a world championship without the other — oh, wait, Schilling just did that. I can certainly understand Johnson wanting to outdo Schilling, but I don’t think it runs as deep as a personal feud.

The most telling thing to me came at last year’s All-Star Game. During the workout day, when all the players had their kids on the field with them, Schilling sat along the sideline with his four kids. Next to him was Johnson’s son, clearly there to see Schilling’s kids, who I imagine were his friends when their fathers were teammates. If there were a feud, I doubt Johnson would want his son hanging out with Schilling. In the event that Johnson put his feelings for Schilling aside so that his son could see his friends who now live in Massachusetts, it still wouldn’t explain why he took the time to walk over, get down on one knee and talk with Schilling for 10 minutes while they watched BP.

We all know, though, how the New York media loves controversy and it doesn’t take much to get the story into the tabloids. So if the Post and the Daily News want a Schilling-Johnson rivalry, they’re going to print one.

Leave a Reply