NEW YORK -- Unable even to throw the ball over the plate as a wild young pitcher, Arizona's Randy Johnson has joined elite company toward the end of his career.
Johnson was the overwhelming winner of the National League Cy Young Award on Tuesday, his second straight award and third of his career.
"If you said that 10 or 12 years ago, when I was walking 100 guys a year, you would have been laughed at," the 37-year-old Johnson said. "I was extremely inconsistent."
Johnson, who won the AL award in 1995 with Seattle, has been the opposite of late. He became the eighth pitcher to win three Cy Youngs in his career, joining Boston's Pedro Martinez, who won his third on Monday.
Roger Clemens has five, followed by Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux with four each. Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer also have three.
"Any times you're mentioned in the same sentence as those pitchers, you get a great deal of satisfaction," Johnson said. "I'm very proud of where I came from. In the minor leagues, I never imagined I would be in that category with those type of players. It's been a long road to get to where I am."
Johnson received 22 of 32 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Johnson also got seven seconds and two thirds for 133 points.
Atlanta's Tom Glavine finished second with 64 points, getting four firsts, 12 seconds and eight thirds. Maddux was third with 59 points, followed by Robb Nen of San Francisco (20), Darryl Kile of St. Louis (8) and Kevin Brown of Los Angeles (4).
"There was a lot of competition this year," Johnson said. "Every year as I get older, it is harder to put the numbers up. The biggest gratification I get is doing it at an age when a lot of people thought I might be over the hill."
Johnson joined Maddux and Koufax as the only back-to-back winners in the NL. Maddux won four straight from 1992-95 and Koufax won in 1965-66.
The Big Unit has come a long way from his wild youth with the Mariners. After leading the league in walks from 1990-92, it appeared that Johnson would never be able to harness his overpowering stuff.
After going 49-48 in his first six seasons, Johnson has gone 130-47 since to become to become a dominating pitcher.
"When I was younger, I failed a lot," Johnson said. "Nobody likes to fail, but I learned a great deal from failing. Now I know what it takes to be successful."
After going 14-2 with a 1.80 ERA before the All-Star break, Johnson faltered down the stretch as Arizona fell out of the pennant race. He won only five times in his final 16 starts, going 5-5 with a 3.81 ERA after the break.
"I wish I had finished stronger, but I still feel that from start to finish it was a pretty good year," Johnson said. "I was extremely blessed in the first half and things didn't go as well in the second half."
Nevertheless, Johnson finished the year with a 2.64 ERA -- second in the league to Brown (2.58) -- while leading the league in strikeouts (347) and winning percentage (.731), and was tied for first in complete games (8) and shutouts (3).
Johnson joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitcher to record 300 strikeouts in three straight seasons and became the 12th player to reach the 3,000-strikeout plateau.
"Watching him over the last couple of years has been a treat, it really has, to watch a guy at the top of his game," said new Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, the team's TV analyst during Johnson's two years in Arizona. "It's been a joy to watch and I'm sure it's going to be a joy to pencil his name in at the bottom of the lineup every fifth day."
Glavine (21-9, 3.40 ERA), a two-time Cy Young winner, led the league in wins and was a key component on the Braves' NL East-winning team. Maddux, who has four Cy Youngs, went 19-9 with a 3.00 ERA to earn three first-place votes.
Nen, who got two first-place votes, was the most dominant reliever in the league, going 4-3 with 41 saves and a 1.50 ERA.
Kile, who was the only other 20-game winner, got the final first-place vote.
Johnson got a $500,000 bonus for winning on top of his $12.35 million salary. Nen received $40,000, and Kile gets $50,000.
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