Randy Johnson hasn't quite come to grips with it. He forced a smile Monday and said, "I don't know if it's comical or straight out of a Stephen King book."
The Arizona Diamondback left-hander referred to a bizarre streak of four consecutive losses that have qualified him for the hard-luck pitcher of the year award and undoubtedly deprived him of the National League starting assignment in tonight's All-Star game.
"Nine and seven or 13-4, you be the judge," Johnson said, meaning that Philadelphia Phillie right-hander Curt Schilling, at 13-4, was almost certain to get the starting call over his 9-7, even though Johnson leads the league in earned-run average (2.95), innings and strikeouts and has held opponents to a major league low .209 batting average.
"I'm pretty pleased just to be selected," Johnson said of the All-Star game. "Bruce Bochy [the San Diego Padre manager who is managing the National League team] saw that I'm pitching as well as anybody in the league. What I'm going through right now is out of my control. It's just baseball."
What he is going through is this: Johnson has lost five in a row, but in the last four he has given up a total of six runs, struck out 54 and seen the Diamondbacks shut out in all four. The Diamondbacks have not scored a run behind Johnson in his last 34 innings.
"I'm a bit frustrated, but I always credit the opposing pitcher," Johnson said. "He has a job to do too. I'd be more frustrated if I was pitching poorly and not keeping my team in the game."
During the 1994 strike, when the owners attempted to implement their own economic and bargaining rules, the Boston Red Sox reached contract agreements with Sammy Sosa, John Wetteland and Kevin Appier, only to have the rules ultimately overturned and the players returned to their previous clubs.
How many home runs would Sosa have hit in a season at Fenway Park?
"Maybe 72," he said.
Boston's Nomar Garciaparra missed the last nine games of the first half because of a strained left groin but will start for the American League tonight.
"The All-Star game is a time to relax, a time to come together and have fun," he said. "I'm going to enjoy it. It's not going to hurt me or injure me. It may help me, in fact, to see where I'm at, a way for me to test it."
Besides, Garciaparra said, the condition improved significantly in the last few days. He said he could have played Saturday and Sunday in Atlanta and that he felt a responsibility to repay fans for their support at Fenway Park.
Red Sox Manager Jimy Williams, an American League coach, didn't seem overly pleased with the decision.
"The All-Star game doesn't count for the Red Sox," he said. "Look at the team, what we strive for from spring training.
"I know what is special, and what the All-Star game means for a lot of people. But there are no standings for that."
Tony Gwynn, voted into the National League's starting outfield but still on the disabled list because of a calf injury, said he had "an ulterior motive" for making the trip to Boston. "I wanted to see Fenway," he said, "and I've got my camera ready. It was a thrill to get to Yankee Stadium for the first time in the World Series last year, and just by coming the fans can appreciate that I want to be here."
Gwynn said he will be coming off the disabled list Thursday and ready to play when the Padres play at Seattle--18 hits shy of 3,000.