For at least one night, there's a reason to visit NatsTown: the pursuit of history.
The Big Old Gangly Unit will lope out to the mound tonight with 299 career wins under his size-30 belt. If he wins, it's No. 300, the 24th pitcher in history to hit the mark. (That he's already the 24th pitcher to win 299 is beside the point.)
Johnson began his career with this franchise. The Expos drafted him in the second round of the 1985 draft. They traded him away to the Mariners a few years later, where his career took off.
If you're a Nats fan, what do you root for tonight? Do you root to see history -- something about as rare as a perfect game? Or do you root for the hometown nine, even in a game that's essentially meaningless for them? History or loyalty?
Many will say that this will be the last 300-game winner you'll see. Many said that before Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens won 300, too. It was wrong then. It's probably wrong now.
Although there's nobody on the immediate horizon, 300-game winners are made in their thirties, not their twenties. In a long and detailed post on the history of 300 gamers, Joe Posnanski notes:
"[I]t’s really impossible to predict. Randy Johnson only had 99 victories at age 31. Phil Niekro only had 97 victories at age 33. Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan, Early Wynn … these guys did not look like great bets for 300 when they reached their mid-30s. But they won a lot of games late in their careers. Niekro, as a knuckleballer, just kept going and going and going. Perry had a late career renaissance — he won 21 games as a 39-year-old and 47 more after that. Warren Spahn won 20-games or more seven times after he turned 35. Randy Johnson was probably at his very best from age 35 to 40. And so on."
Somebody else will likely do it -- just not anytime soon.
So that leaves Nats fans with a choice tonight. Root for the history? Or root for loyalty?
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. He's rooting for history.