Johnson trade: good baseball but bad politics?


April 16, 1995|By BUSTER OLNEY

If one were to weigh all the actual and potential bids for Seattle Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson, the list of front-runners for retaining the services of the left-hander would go something like this:

5. Blue Jays.

4. Orioles.

3. Red Sox.

2. Yankees.

1. Washington state legislature.

State Rep. Greg Fisher told the Seattle Times this week that if the Mariners trade Johnson, they will pay.

"If they trade Big Unit," Fisher said, referring to the 6-foot-10 Johnson, "I'm not voting for a new stadium. I mean it."

He means it. Anyone who's ever had a playground showdown knows those are words to take seriously.

Fisher is a member of Washington's special task force looking for ways to finance a new stadium for the Mariners.

"Normally, I'd be of the opinion that know-nothing politicians should not be armchair managers of baseball," Fisher said. "But this is the most critical year for the Mariners.

"If they can't come up with the $4 million to pay Randy Johnson, then many of us question whether they are serious about keeping the Mariners in Seattle."

As the Times' David Postman wrote, Rep. Bill Reams, another member of the committee, disagreed with Fisher. But it's not the politics he disputes; it's the baseball. What the Mariners need, Reams said, is a catcher.

A source within the Seattle organization said that the Mariners have no intention of trading Johnson -- for now. If the team struggles early in the year, Seattle will start taking bids, politicians be damned.

Around the horn

Is that the Oakland pitching staff, or a group of aging replacement players? Bob Welch? Dave Stewart? Rick Honeycutt? Think Tony La Russa would rather be managing the Orioles? . . . . White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas wants to hit third, even with Chicago planning to rely on Chris Sabo for that spot. "The three-hole is where I've been and where I'll be," Thomas said. "Babe Ruth hit third. Hank Aaron hit third, too." Thomas was asked if he was comparing himself to The Bambino and The Hammer. "I didn't mean it that way. I really didn't. I am just the same kind of hitter as they were." OK, that clears that up. . . . Before signing Sabo, the White Sox took a run at former Phillies first baseman John Kruk. . . .

Los Angeles third baseman Tim Wallach, 37, has back problems. Might be time for the Dodgers to start searching for a Plan B; when's the last time you heard of a thirtysomething athlete recovering from back trouble? . . . With the acquisition of Scott Cooper from the Red Sox, St. Louis third baseman Todd Zeile moves to first. . . . Former Orioles slugger Eddie Murray, closing in on 3,000 hits, credits his longevity to "good old stubbornness. But I'm also a big believer in taking care of my body. That's why I do this stretching every day. My legs are what carry me."

The latest Atlanta closer is Brad Clontz, following Steve Bedrosian, Mike Stanton, Mark Wohlers, Greg McMichael and a dozen others. If the Braves could settle their bullpen trouble, they would be awesome. . . . First it was Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn, saying he's sure he would have hit .400 had the strike not wiped out the last seven weeks of the season. Now San Francisco coach Bobby Bonds says Giants third baseman Matt Williams would have surpassed Roger Maris' single-season record for homers. No question. "I wouldn't ever admit it publicly last year because I didn't want to put pressure on him, but now that that's over -- oh, yeah, he would have broken it." . . . .

Is this a weird year for baseball, or what? The NL West favorite is the Padres, with the Rockies running a close second, the Dodgers and Giants far behind. . . . Complete concurrence here with the opinion of Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal on the Orioles' quest for left-hander Randy Johnson. If he can be had, then get him. Give up Alex Ochoa, Jimmy Haynes, whatever it takes. Winning a championship means a financial boon that would help fill in any farm-system holes the deal would create, and landing Johnson would make the Orioles solid favorites to win the World Series. . . .

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