Brian Holman 1992 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for August 1, 2017


Sometimes a trade works out because everything you planned for worked out perfectly. Other times a trade can work out because of something unexpected.

When the Mariners traded Mark Langston during the 1989 season, they thought they were getting an ace pitcher from the Expos organization. They did, but it wasn’t the one they were expecting to be an ace. Brian Holman was the highly touted prospect that had Seattle drooling.

It worked out better for Seattle than for Holman.

A high school phenom from Kansas, Holman was drafted in the first round by the Expos in 1983 with the 16th pick. He struggled in his first few years but in 1987, he made a turn for the better. He put up ace numbers at AA in 1987 and AAA in 1988, looking to fit into a talented Montreal squad.

In his second big league game, he pitched a complete game 5 hit shutout of the Braves and threw 8 strong for the win in his next start. He was effective if not spectacular during his first big league stint, posting 3.23 ERA over 100 1/3 innings pitched.

The next year he began the season on Montreal’s roster but stumbled, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation.

Then on May 25th, 1989, he was traded from one obscure franchise playing in cold weather under a dome to another. Mark Langston was sent packing to the Expos. Reliever Gene Harris and Brian Holman were Mariners bound. So was enigmatic left hander Randy Johnson, who was freakishly tall, threw the ball outrageously hard and had no control.

Langston pitched well for Montreal but their pennant hopes faded.

Gene Harris did not fare well in Seattle but wound up having a few good years with the Padres.

Randy Johnson kinda sorta went to the Hall of Fame.

But it was Holman who was the big get for Seattle. He did well enough over 22 starts in 1989, pitching to a 3.44 ERA. In 1990, he got the opening day assignment for Seattle. Later that April he took a perfect game into the 9th with 2 outs before giving up a home run to Ken Phelps.

In 1990 and 1991, he pitched well enough. He got double digit wins each year, had a decent if not great ERA and threw 189 2/3 innings one year and 195 1/3 innings the next. He might not have become an ace, but he was developing into a good innings eater. And with Randy Johnson developing into an All Star, he was exactly the kind of number 4 starter that a solid team could use.

But he never pitched again professionally after 1991. Arm issues wiped out his 1992 and he never returned. When the Mariners came within 2 wins of the World Series in 1995, Randy Johnson was a huge factor and he beat Mark Langston in a one game playoff for the west.

Holman was long gone from baseball.

Well, at least gone from playing baseball. He holds clinics for baseball, is an active part of the Players Alumni Association and works as a motivational speaker.

The Mariners got the best of a memorable trade. It would have been even more memorable if Holman’s arm had held up.

Mark Langston 1989 Topps Traded- Sully Baseball Card of the Day for January 21, 2017


An unfortunate label some players get is being on the wrong end of a classic trade. Often times their names are brought up as if the other team was stupid for giving ANYTHING up for them. The problem with using 20/20 hindsight on trades is at the time, many of the so called disastrous trades looked good.

A case in point is the deal involving Mark Langston. At the time, when the Expos dealt for the Seattle fireballer, it was a bold move that looked to put Montreal over the top in the NL East.

It is now criticized because it cost the Expos a future Hall of Famer.

A native of California and drafted out of San Jose State University in 1981, Langston exploded onto the scene with the 1984 Seattle Mariners. He won 17 games for a sub .500 team and led the American League with 204 strikeouts.

He led the AL in strikeouts in 3 of his first 4 seasons in Seattle. By 1987 he was a Cy Young candidate, logging 19 wins for another losing Seattle team and logging a career high 262 strikeouts.

At that time, Seattle was a squad that had spent more than a decade of existence and had no winning records nor big fan bases to show for it. And Langston, looking at free agency after the 1989 season, was pricing himself out of the Pacific Northwest after another solid 1988 campaign.

The Mariners had to move him. They had a massive trade chip, a legit ace starter, who could blossom out of obscurity in Seattle.

There were rumors that a Wade Boggs for Mark Langston deal was possible. The most prominent potential deal seemed to involve the Mets, who were dangling a combination of Rick Aguilera or Sid Fernandez and Howard Johnson or Dave Magadan.

Meanwhile the Montreal Expos were teetering on the verge of contention. They had an interesting collection of talented hitters, like Tim Raines, Tim Wallach, Andres Galarraga and Hubie Brooks. They had a deep rotation, featuring El Presidente Dennis Martinez as well as Pascual Perez, Kevin Gross and Bryn Smith. Tim Burke was the closer for the bullpen.

Despite all that talent, they were at even .500on May 25, 1989. Instead of looking to trade off their talent, including several potential free agents, the Expos front office decided to go for it.

They pulled off the stunning trade for Mark Langston, giving the Expos a legit ace that suddenly made Montreal look like a contender. And not one player they surrendered looked to contribute much on the 1989 squad.

He struck out 12 Padres in his first game with the Expos and pitched as advertised.The Expos won 12 of the next 17 games and were in first place by 1/2 a game by June 16. Montreal won 17 games in June and another 17 in July, with Langston dominating along the way.

By August 2, the Expos were 19 games over .500 and alone in first place by 3 games over the Cubs. The next day the Expos lost an extra inning game to the Pirates, beginning a startling slide.

From August 2 onward, the Expos post an 18-36 record, the worst in the major leagues. They faded badly from the top spot, finishing the season at a break even 81-81, identical from the year before.

Langston continued to pitch well down the stretch but his record did not reflect it. By the end, the Expos attempt to go for it failed, several key free agents left, including Langston.

He would sign with the Angels and continue to be a solid pitcher and a Gold Glove defender. Meanwhile the package sent to Seattle for Langston began to develop.

Gene Harris struggled in the big leagues as a reliever while Brian Holman had a few decent seasons and came within an out of throwing a perfect game in 1990 before arm issues ended his career.

And oh yeah, the third pitcher included on the deal was Randy Johnson.

The Big Unit would out pitch Mark Langston for the 1995 AL West title in a one game playoff. He would go on to become one of the most dominant pitching forces the game has ever seen.

When his trade from Montreal to Seattle is evaluated, it is looked upon as a steal from a boneheaded Expos front office. But give Langston his due credit. At the time HE was prized chip and the Montreal squad was trying to give their fans a legit pennant title.

If they were merely mediocre during the month of August and September, then Langston might have been the key for Montreal getting over the top.

Instead, he is remembered for being on the wrong end of a big trade. So Langston was not as good as Randy Johnson (few have been.) But he was a solid and reliable pitcher and Montreal felt like their fans deserved a pennant for their troubles.

It did not happen and Randy Johnson made his way into the Hall of Fame. Langston WAS pretty good though, I must say.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – March 25, 2015

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We all saw that video of Randy Johnson exploding the bird.

Is it strange, unforgettable and darkly funny?


It may also hold the key to explaining the universe.

That and telling Mike Schmidt and Rich Gossage to shut up on this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast

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