Hope you enjoyed watching Randy Johnson celebrate his 300th victory Thursday evening at Nationals Park, because you probably aren't going to see a major league pitcher do that again.
I know, I know, you should never say never, especially if you're a fan of the Sean Connery James Bond movies. But there has been such a dramatic - and seemingly irreversible - generational change in the way pitchers are both developed and managed that nobody is likely to stick around long enough to become the 25th pitcher to reach that venerated milestone.
That's certainly true of the remaining crop of aging pitchers. Next on the active list is former Oriole Jamie Moyer, who is 50 wins away and 46 years old. The next guy after that is Andy Pettitte, who is at 220 and is 37. The premier pitcher with the best chance would appear to be Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, who is 32 and has 140 career victories, so you see where I'm going here.
It's possible that Halladay could stick around 10 more years and average 16-plus victories per season. He's an outstanding pitcher who has averaged better than 18 wins in the five full seasons he has stayed completely healthy. It's also possible that Roy Oswalt, with 130 victories at age 31, could get there, but the fact that there are so few solid candidates anywhere within range extends the odds against any current major leaguer stamping his ticket to the Hall of Fame with win No. 300.
Despite plenty of criticism about the way major league baseball babies its pitching prospects and tries to limit the innings they eventually throw at the big league level, the game continues to trend in a direction that is making it increasingly difficult for pitchers to consistently post high win totals.
The switch to five-man rotations in the 1970s and 1980s brought an end to an era that once featured an Orioles rotation that boasted four 20-game winners in the same season. The Orioles, in fact, have not had a 20-game winner since Mike Boddicker in 1984.
The expanded rotations lowered the bar on what was considered an outstanding season, but it didn't stop there. That change was followed by the age of bullpen specialization and, perhaps more importantly, an economic boom that encouraged teams to treat their best pitching prospects like china dolls.
If you need an example of that, all you have to do is look at what the Orioles are doing right now with their best young pitching prospects. Chris Tillman, Troy Patton, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz have been dominating minor league hitters, but the Orioles are slow-playing all of them. By the time some of them likely land in the major league rotation, they'll be in their mid-20s, which will effectively take them out of consideration for a 300-win career.
When they get here, they will become part of an era in which 15 victories is considered a great season because the opportunity to record decisions has been severely diminished by a baseball-wide obsession with pitch counts. Nobody wants to overwork their most prized pitchers - especially those who have signed huge, guaranteed contracts - so they tend to come out of games in the sixth and seventh innings.
Want to know how Cy Young won 511 games? He started 815 and completed 749 of them. That's an extreme example, so let's fast-forward to the modern era.
The 300-game winners who began their careers in the 1960s and 1970s generally completed about a third of their starts. The most recent members of the 300-win club - Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Johnson - completed less than 20 percent of their starts, and that rate is heavily front-loaded in their career statistics.
The guys who will try to join them will have to do so while completing only a handful of games each year. Halladay is as close to old-school as you're going to get, and he's averaging a complete game every seven starts. CC Sabathia, who is the highest-paid pitcher in the game, has completed just one of every nine starts during his nine-year career.
Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, president of the Texas Rangers, is trying to change that by de-emphasizing pitch counts and stressing endurance in the Rangers' minor league system. But his philosophy does not appear to be catching on in other organizations.
Teams can't afford to risk burning out $20 million arms, and they also have to justify the millions they're paying their relievers. The closer era has given way to the setup/closer era, which has given way to the seventh-inning- and eighth-inning-setup/closer era.
That's why you'll see Hall of Fame voters paying more attention in the future to the guys who won 250 or more games and had decent career ERAs during the steroid era.
If they're going to wait around for any more 300-game winners after the Big Unit, they're going to be waiting a long, long time.
Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM) and check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.