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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Recent outings seem to foreshadow decline of Big Unit
By Times Staff
Published May 28, 2006
Is Randy Johnson washed up?
His record (6-4) leads one to believe he isn't. But a closer look at the numbers suggests Johnson's best days are quickly sinking into the rearview mirror.
The Yankees lefty, who turns 43 in September, hasn't had what you'd consider a Johnson-like performance in more than a month. And that has the team's higher-ups concerned, fans disturbed and the New York media, which never liked him to begin with, in a feeding frenzy.
On April23, Johnson allowed three hits and one run over eight innings while striking out five in a 7-1 win over Baltimore. Since then, his ERA has ballooned from 3.73 to 5.89, he hasn't lasted more than 62/3 innings and has allowed 28 earned runs and seven home runs in 311/3 innings.
At his current rate, Johnson, who has 269 victories, would finish with career worsts in ERA, strikeouts per nine innings and opponent batting average.
"He came in like a wise guy, bullying a cameraman on the street, warning reporters not to get in his face, mocking questions, scowling and pointing fingers, another big-ticket free agent come to lead the Yankees to further glory," wrote Newsday columnist Wallace Matthews . "At the time, he seemed pretty intimidating. Now he just seems, well, rather pitiful."
Pitiful, no. That's too strong of a word.
But because he's making more than $15-million this year, it's safe to say Johnson has been a major disappointment.
"No one's more frustrated than I am," he recently said.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner might disagree.
LONG ROAD BACK: One-third of an inning. Four hits. Two runs, both earned. An ERA of 54.00.
For seven years, that was Joe Winkelsas ' line.
On April10, 1999, Winkelsas, a right-hander, made his major-league debut with Atlanta. He wouldn't make another appearance until Tuesday.
Pitching in relief for the Brewers, Winkelsas, 32, threw a scoreless third of an inning (which lowered his ERA to 27.00). How he got from point A to point B is a remarkable story.
After his lone outing with the Braves, Winkelsas was sent back to Double A, bounced around the minors, had three stints in independent baseball, visited drug rehabilitation, worked in waste management and then became the pitching coach at Niagara University.
While throwing batting practice, another coach noticed Winkelsas had improved his velocity (which the player credits to his time as a garbage collector) and put him in touch with a Brewers scout.
The team signed him after a tryout, and after posting a 1.74 ERA in 14 minor-league appearances, Winkelsas got the call-up ... and several congratulatory phone calls.
"The only messages I got last year were when I forgot to pick up somebody's garbage," Winkelsas said.
TAKING NO CHANCES: As impressive as Jake Peavy 's 16 strikeouts were in a 3-1 loss to the Braves on Monday, it could have been better. He pitched only seven innings.
The reason? The right-handed Padres star, who threw 114 pitches, complained of shoulder soreness. Not during the game, but in the days leading up to it.
"In all honesty, if it had been a little different circumstances, I might have let Jake go," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "No way I was going to risk it."
Peavy (3-5, 3.64) has slight tendinitis but is scheduled to pitch again today against the Cardinals.
NO REGRETS: Last fall, Frank Thomas , the White Sox's all-time homers leader, was given a $3.5-million buyout, and the Sox opted against offering him a contract after they acquired Jim Thome and re-signed Paul Konerko . Thomas landed on his feet in Oakland but railed against his previous team, which resulted in Sox general manager Ken Williams calling Thomas an "idiot."
Thomas, who spent 16 seasons with the Sox, returned to Chicago for a series last week and seemed to be over it.
"What's done is done," he said.
Williams wasn't as quick to take the high road, telling the media: "I thought I was pretty clear about my feelings."
Thomas had two homers and was 4-for-9 in the series (a Sox sweep) but was hitting .209 entering Saturday.
ODDS AND ENDS: Of the nearly two dozen active players with 2,000 hits, Yankee Derek Jeter , who turns 32 next month, is the youngest by two years. ... Astros reliever Brad Lidge entered the season with a 2.71 ERA. This year, entering Saturday, it's 6.23. ... Jose Mesa turned 40 last week and joined Jeff Fassero as the only 40-year-olds to pitch for the Rockies.