Sunday, September 19, 2004

Consider Johnson for Cy Young

Baseball insider

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As many as a dozen National League pitchers remain worthy of Cy Young Award consideration with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Enter Randy Johnson.

The Diamondbacks left-hander is already causing a statistical migraine in his bid for a sixth Cy Young trophy.

Stuck pitching for a team that lost its 100th game a week ago, Johnson led the majors in ERA (2.74), strikeouts (268), batting average against (.190) and had an 0.87 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) through Friday. His 23 quality starts were tied for the major-league lead, yet he is 11-8 with four no-decisions in those games.

"Playing behind him just leaves you speechless," Diamondbacks first baseman Shea Hillenbrand said. "I think I've seen him throw maybe two bad games this year."

Two more bad starts for Johnson, who is 14-13 this season and scheduled to start three more games, could dent his chances. No starter has won a Cy Young with a losing record.

Nonetheless, it's been a magical year for the 41-year-old.

He struck out 11 on Wednesday to pass Steve Carlton as the best left-handed strikeout artist ever and raise his career total to 4,139 in 3,346 innings. That's in addition to tossing a perfect game and becoming the fourth member of the 4,000-strikeout club.

"There have been a lot of personal accomplishments that I've been able to achieve this year, and they'll come and go," Johnson said. "I'm excited about them at the time. But the bottom line is when I go out and pitch, I want to win.

"That's what I train for, and that's my mentality when I go out to the mound."

GET A LITTLE CLOSER: The Pirates have decided to move their Triple-A team from Nashville to Indianapolis of the International League for the next two seasons.

The decision, based in part on travel costs and stadium condition, ends a seven-year relationship with the Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League.

"The Indianapolis organization and facilities (Victory Field) are among the best in baseball," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "The front office and ownership group are first rate, and the league works well within our minor-league system as far as being East Coast-oriented."

SEEING THE LIGHT: Last week, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch declared this was his most enjoyable season since buying the team in 1992.

Considering the Tigers haven't had a winning season since 1993, that's not much of a stretch. But coming off a 119-loss season, a much-improved Detroit team entered Saturday on pace to finish 74-88 and draw 2.1-million fans to Comerica Park this season.

"We were slated to draw 1.3 million and to lose $30-35 million," he said. "That's not a very nice picture to paint. That the fans responded, and players responded, that's heartwarming."

JUST FOR KICKS: Four special tickets went unclaimed for the Marlins-Cubs doubleheader Sept. 10. Florida pitcher Carl Pavano left the tickets for Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan that interfered with a foul ball in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field.

"I had a lot of great memories here and they came back when I walked into the clubhouse," said Pavano, who started Game 6. "I left the tickets because my teammates got a kick out of it."

THE LAST WORDS: "It always goes back to common sense. Throwing a chair is not going to help your situation at all, even if it hits the intended person. That's going to make things worse." - A's third baseman Eric Chavez.


Information from other news organizations and submitted by other baseball writers was used in this report.

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