Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Top 50 On Cardboard-#31 Randy Johnson

My Baseball Card Top 50
Randy Johnson 

1989 Fleer Randy Johnson RC Blackout Variation 

One of my favorite baseball card rookies from the 80s.  The Randy Johnson Fleer rookie might fall short of his Upper Deck card in some regards, but it's a really cool card in so many ways.  First, I love the powder blue Expos uniforms.  One of the best 80s uniforms by far.  Throw in the fact that Fleer did a terrible job of editing their set and you've got yourself a winner.  This card originally looked something like this:

1989 Fleer Randy Johnson Marlboro Variation 

The original version of Johnson's card featured a Marlboro cigarettes ad over his right shoulder which prompted Fleer to put out a second version of this card with the sign black out.  Similar to the Billy Ripken card from the same set, but having DickFace written on your bat knob has gotten that card more attention than the rookie card of a Hall of Famer.  Go figure.

Hobby Impact-
Johnson has not had the hobby impact you would think given his level of performance on the field.  Then again, I think sometimes fans and collectors do not always given the Big Unit his proper due there either.  Johnson's career started in the late eighties with the Montreal Expos and the wax was of the junk variety.  There are only a few Johnson rookie cards on the market, but there are plenty of copies of all of them to go around.  The 1989 Fleer card is probably my favorite, but you cannot go wrong by picking up a copy of his 1989 Upper Deck or Topps Traded cards either.  The Upper Deck card features him as an Expo, but the Topps Traded card was one of his first as a Mariner after being traded for Mark Langston.

His card prices reflect the fact that he was an elite player and a Hall of Fame talent some of the time.  His autographs are definitely on the price side, but other Johnson chase cards, inserts, and parallels are not necessarily always really expensive.  Don't get me wrong, find a copy of a parallel from a really popular set and you are going to pay, but there are plenty that I feel go for much less than they should.

Johnson has a really nice autograph and has always been a really good signer.  Autographs of the tall left-hander are fairly easy to come across, but you should expect to pay a good price from a copy of one of his John Hancock's.  Usually collectors should expect to spend at least $50 to find a nice copy of this Hall of Famer's signature.

1998 Donruss Signature Randy Johnson Autograph 

Johnson's later cards as a Diamondback, the second time around, Yankee, and Giants are often outright bargains.  You can find some really nice cards of him for next to nothing.  Worth checking out once in awhile on Ebay.

On The Field Impact-
I saw Johnson a few times in person.  I also saw Maddux and Clemens.  I would rate Johnson ahead of both pitchers and probably rank him as the best pitcher that I've seen in person.  During his late 90s run with the Astros and Diamondbacks he was dominate.  Dominate and intimidating.  I remember going to a Cardinals game late in 1998 while he was pitching for the Astros.  Honestly, I went to the game hoping for some Big Mac magic, but saw some incredible pitching from Randy Johnson instead.  He threw hard the entire game and the Cardinals, who had a good offensive team that season with Ron Gant hitting seventh, never had a chance.

Beyond personal observations, Randy Johnson has the overall career numbers to back up the fact that he was among the greatest starting pitchers to ever play the game.  JAWS, rates him as the ninth best starting pitcher just ahead of Maddux, but behind Clemens and Seaver in terms of modern pitchers.  His career WAR is slightly lower than Maddux, but his ERA+ is slightly higher.  Overall, Maddux has more wins, but Johnson did not play for a dominate Braves team like Maddux.  Johnson easily has more strikeouts than Maddux and also has more than Roger Clemens.

Honestly, if Roger Clemens had not gone through the hoop-la of throwing his trainer and wife under the bus after his career I would probably rate him ahead of Randy Johnson, but Clemens is an idiot.

Johnson also did a lot winning award wise during his career picking up a World Series co-MVP in 2001, five Cy Young Awards, and will likely be hanging out in Cooperstown for his induction ceremony shortly.  Here's a quick look at his 19 strikeout effort against the A's in 1997.

Favorite Card-
Randy Johnson is one of my favorite follows on Twitter.  Kind of cool to follow Johnson's second career as a photographer.  He does some cool work and has lots of good pics.  I think this card fits him very well.

1996 Upper Deck Randy Johnson VJ Lovero Collection


  1. Love seeing him in his Expos uniform. I just learned about the Marlboro sign last year when I picked up the error version of the 1989 set. Oh... and that Lovero card is awesome! One of these days I'm going to get around to building it. It's one of the coolest, yet totally affordable insert sets around.

    1. Lovero set is awesome. Looks great all put together and definitely inexpensive