D-Backs' Big Unit extends Cy Young streak to 4 years

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson won yet another Cy Young Award and then he teed off.

No, not on baseball. The Big Unit was getting ready to play Pebble Beach Golf Links when his latest honor was announced Tuesday, and rather than delay his round, Johnson grabbed a cell phone and talked about his fastballs and sliders while deciding among woods and wedges.

"I'm trying to make a putt on No. 2 right now," he said, the California coast off to his side.

No doubt, his score Tuesday was far lower than his perenially high strikeout total.

Johnson was a unanimous pick over Arizona teammate Curt Schilling, winning a record-tying fourth straight National League Cy Young and fifth overall -- one short of Roger Clemens' record.

The Big Unit, who will earn an additional $4 million because of the award, received all 32 first-place votes and 160 points from a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"The big picture, obviously, is to get to the World Series. If you remain consistent and have a good year, it's kind of a bonus," Johnson said, referring to the award. "This has come from maintaining consistency, hard work and dedication, and my teammates being very supportive offensively, defensively and in the bullpen."

Schilling was runner-up for the second straight season, getting 29 second-place votes and three thirds for 90 points. Atlanta closer John Smoltz was third with 21 points.

Johnson matches Maddox

Johnson matched Greg Maddux (1992-95) as the only pitchers to win four straight Cy Youngs and became the NL's 11th unanimous winner, the first since Maddux in 1995. Johnson and Schilling became the first pitchers to finish 1-2 in Cy Young voting in consecutive years.

Johnson, who has won the award in all four seasons since signing with the Diamondbacks as a free agent, earned his first Cy Young with Seattle in 1995.

"I've got them in my office, and they're displayed nice," he said. "I'm a very simple person, and I work hard, and I push myself, and this is the reward."

The Big Unit went 24-5 with a 2.37 ERA and 334 strikeouts, becoming the first major leaguer since Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999 and the first NL player since the Mets' Dwight Gooden in 1985 to win pitching's triple crown.

The 39-year-old Johnson set a career high for wins, led the major leagues in strikeouts for the ninth time and became the first pitcher to reach 300 in five straight seasons. He also led the majors in innings (260) and complete games (eight), and led the NL in opponents' batting average (.208).

Schilling went 23-7 with a 3.23 ERA, 316 strikeouts and just 33 walks in 259 1-3 innings. Schilling, who has never won a Cy Young, was 21-5 with a 2.77 ERA though Aug. 31, while Johnson was 19-5 with a 2.63 ERA.

Johnson sealed the award by going 5-0 with an 0.66 ERA in September as Schilling was 2-2 with a 6.19 ERA. On Sept. 20, Schilling allowed eight earned runs for only the third time and a career-high 14 hits in 9-4 loss to Colorado at Coors Field.

Arizona, the NL West champion, was 55-15 when Johnson or Schilling started, 43-49 the rest of the time. The defending World Series champions were swept by St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs.

Last year, Johnson and Schilling were co-MVPs of the seven-game World Series win over the New York Yankees. Johnson called that the "top of the mountain" and recalled the thrill of having his family at the Diamondbacks' parade.

Injuries to Luis Gonzalez and others crippled Arizona.

"It was more of an uphill battle," Johnson said. "We weren't on all cylinders."

This didn't match getting a World Series ring, but by winning the award Johnson earned a $1 million bonus on top of his $12.35 million salary. In addition, his 2003 salary automatically increased from $12 million to $15 million.

Schilling, who had a $10 million salary, earned a $250,000 bonus for finishing second.

In addition to leading the league in the major categories, Johnson moved up from 10th to fourth on the career strikeout list at 3,746, trailing Nolan Ryan (5,714), Steve Carlton (4,136) and Clemens (3,909). Among the pitchers he passed last season were Tom Seaver, Perry and Walter Johnson.

"I obviously have a great deal of respect for the people I'm amongst and have a great appreciation for what they've done," Johnson said, "because I realize how hard it is to do."

Johnson, Carlton and Maddux are the only four-time winners in the NL. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, Carlton's former Philadelphia teammate, compared the two Tuesday.

"If there is a link between them, it's in their focus, in their ability to focus on that pitch, that batter, that out," he said.

At 39 years, 2 months, Johnson became the fourth-oldest pitcher to win a Cy Young, trailing Gaylord Perry (40), Early Wynn (39, 10 months) and Clemens (39, 6 months). Johnson doesn't know how much time he has left in the major leagues.

"That really is a question no one has the answer for," he said.

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