Aug 12, 2011

Missed Opportunities: The Big Unit on Macho Row

Randy Johnson
Mariners Magazine: Volume 4, Issue 2 (1993)
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News, Phillies legend John Kruk reminded fans that the Phillies almost acquired the best left handed pitcher of his generation at the 1993 trade deadline.

I remember the buzz about this very well.  I had just turned 13, and the rumors circulating in late July were centered around Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners.  The newspapers at the time had narrowed down the Mariners most likely trade partners to be the Yankees and the Phillies.  The Yankees were reported to have offered pitcher Bob Wickman and a prospect, and the Mariners were said to have been asking for Curt Schilling from the Phillies.

If the Mariners really were demanding Curt Schilling, I can understand the Phillies not making the trade.  The Phillies ace was 26 years old (three years younger than Randy Johnson) and in the middle of a dominant season that would lead the Phillies to the World Series.  Meanwhile, Randy Johnson was getting roughed up before the trade deadline with a record of 0-3 and a 7.36 ERA in five starts in July 1993.  In hindsight, Johnson is unquestionably the better pitcher and had a better 1993 season than Schilling, but in the context of the moment, it's understandable that the Phillies would pass on the opportunity to trade one ace for another.

Source: Philadelphia Daily News - August 11, 2011
If John Kruk's recollection is correct, the Phillies could have had The Big Unit for Mike Lieberthal and/or Tyler Green, but Phillies GM Lee Thomas wouldn't part with them to make the deal.  If this is true, it's heartbreaking news.  A Phillies rotation of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Terry Mulholland would have mowed down the Blue Jays in the '93 World Series to give the Phillies their second World Championship season.  However, the Associated Press reported a different side to the story in August 1993.  According to Mariners manager Lou Piniella, the team had trade offers on the table from both the Yankees and the Phillies, but the Mariners chose not to make the deal.  Piniella didn't mention names, so it's possible that the Phillies were unwilling to offer up their young pitching and catching prospect, or it's possible that they were offered, but the Mariners didn't bite.  The fact that Seattle didn't come to an arrangement with either club, and that they didn't end up trading him until five years later, leads me to believe that it was the Mariners, not the Phillies, who decided not to pull the trigger on a trade and chose to hang on to their ace.

Source: The Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) - August 2, 1993
We'll probably never know for sure what offer the Phillies made for Randy Johnson in the summer of '93, or what it would have taken for the trade to happen, but the dream of having Johnson and Schilling hoisting up the World Series trophy for the '93 Phillies will be talked about in Philadelphia for generations to come.