Baseball has 24 members in its exclusive 300-win club. Entry to the club is closed. But not necessarily for reasons, you might be thinking.
Baseball is always in a state of change. It mutates and evolves as each generation passes through.
Three hundred wins by a pitcher are a plateau that, when reached, is an automatic ticket to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Twenty-four pitchers have achieved the lofty goal of 300 wins.
On June 4, 2009, Randy Johnson joined the 300-Club as its 24th member. And that’s it – membership is closed, and baseball will never have another 300-game winner.
We shouldn’t be surprised, though, because the game is played and pitched far differently than it was, even just eleven years ago when Johnson crossed the mark.
We know about the surge in bullpen use by teams across the board in baseball. And with that development comes the lessening of a chance a starting pitcher will be around to pick up a win.
Baseball Has Changed But So Have The Players
But there’s more to it than that, and it has to do with the unique brand of today’s starting pitchers. Consider the following example to learn why:
When Randy Johnson reached the age of 40, he had 246 wins. To get the needed fifty-four wins to reach 300, Johnson pitched another five years until he was 45 and making a cameo appearance with the San Francisco Giants.
Randy Johnson wanted it!
Now, let’s switch our attention to Mike Mussina.
In doing so, the question is changed from, “Will there ever be another 300 game-winner”, to “Will there ever be another starting pitcher who wants to be a 300-game winner enough to achieve it”?
Because, you see Mussina retired from baseball at the age of 39 with 270 wins, or twenty-four wins less than Johnson and a year younger.
Mike Mussina had just completed his best year in baseball with a twenty-win season with the New York Yankees. He was being wooed by George Steinbrenner to come back for another year because – “We’re gonna do something special here.”
Instead, Mike Mussina said no, I’m done. His reasoning was sound…
Mussina doesn’t mention it, but I will. Throughout his career, he earned just under $145 million. A family man true and true; what more does he need.
No thank you, he said, and today is happy coaching a kids basketball team – and to boot – is a member of baseball’s HOF. Win, win for the Mussina family.
Mussina Was Yesterday – How About Tomorrow?
But let’s take one step further to an example from baseball today and Gerrit Cole. For the sake of argument, can we say that Cole is the most coveted pitcher in baseball today?
As everyone on the planet knows, Cole, age 28, just signed a nine-year deal with the Yankees for $324 million. His win total in the major leagues to date is 94.
Cross out 2020 for anything significantly added, and let’s go crazy and say Gerrit Cole will average twenty wins a season, upping his total to 254 wins when his contract expires at the age of 37.
What then? He has the same number of wins as a forty-year-old Randy Johnson and is three years younger. What would you do? What would I do?
Are we Mike Mussina or Randy Johnson? Do we stay, or do we go?
Especially when the answer is neutral, meaning both pitchers are in the HOF – so what’s the point?
Commoners – Just Like You And Me
We like to think the robots we see on a baseball field are unique because they can do things we only wish we could do.
But when you drill down, they are commoners just like you and me. They have families that depend on them. They have kids graduating from high school and needing the resources and support to earn a college degree.
But always, in the back of their minds is the fear of an injury on a baseball field that will not just end a career, but a healthy and productive life in later years – if I play one or three years more…
It’s Not A Baseball Decision At All
Congrats to Randy Johnson for hanging in there to get that win, bad back and all. But I’ll never second guess anyone, Justin Verlander (225 wins), Zack Greinke (205), and way off the pace but still among the highest-ranking, Jon Lester (190), among them.
There should be no argument, except for the one that seeks to define an adjusted win total for a pitcher’s entry into the HOF.
Make it 250 and let the chips fall where they may.