Well Jimmy, with the alleged pursuit of Michael Bourn finally over (this was always Vlad II), we can focus on players who are actually going to be on the Mets in 2013. And I can’t think of a better one to discuss than Johan Santana.
We have touched upon Johan Santana a lot this off season but never with any depth. With spring training upon us, it is a good time to remember that there is still a great player left from when Omar Minaya was the General Manager. Johan Santana, when healthy, is a true ace of a pitching staff. Lately when we think of Johan Santana the first thing that comes to mind is his salary. It sure is large, but when you see what it will take to keep Felix Hernandez in Seattle, it is a reminder of why we are paying Johan so much money. It is because true number-one, shutdown pitchers are such a rarity. As we head into 2013 fans are uneasy since this Mets team seems to have more questions than answers. Outfielders or not, the biggest one has been this one: can Johan Santana pitch like he did for half of 2012 for all of 2013?
I think Johan Santana is one of the greatest competitors to ever wear the Mets uniform — seriously, he could have taken Koosman’s spot on our “2 Guys” team. The guy is a lion. When he was in Minnesota, I used to read Aaron Gleeman’s blog all the time (still do, in fact). It’s mind-boggling to recall that Santana used to hit 97 MPH on the gun. He was the best pitcher on the planet. By the time Omar snagged him, in a great and ambitious trade, Santana had lost some velocity; he was no longer operating on another astral plane. We knew that going in. But even so, he adjusted and pitched well for the Mets, a fact that’s been obscured by some of the crappy support he received. Now he’s coming off a more serious injury. I wish him well; he deserves better. I love the idea of Johan Santana in good health, and for guys like Matt Harvey and Jonathan Niese to simply be around him, watch Johan work, and learn. Santana at 90% is better than just about any pitcher in baseball. A big game, you want to give him the ball.
That is a great point and one that is so easy for Mets fans to forget about Johan. The timing has not been right with Santana, since he became a Met in 2008 there haven’t been nearly enough big games played. But in the one pennant race he did participate in as a Met, all he did was try to pick up a wobbly, faltering team and lift it to the finish line on his back. Two dates come straight to mind, June 28th and September 27th.
June 28th was notable because Santana lost that day. He didn’t lose again, winning his last nine decisions. And September 27th sticks out because with his entire team collapsing around him, he pitched nine full shutout innings on the next to the last day of the season, keeping hope alive for the last day at Shea. On three days rest. I was lucky enough to be there that day, the last electric day at Shea Stadium. After the game it was so loud for Santana the place shook a little, as only rickety Shea could. The no-no in 2012 has properly overtaken that as Johan’s signature Met moment, but it will always be worth remembering that when we had great players among him Santana stood taller than any of them.
In 2013, it is simple, he just needs to be healthy. I have great confidence that if his shoulder holds up he will be excellent, Santana has proven he does not need great stuff to be great. The greatest skills he has on the mound are between his ears and inside his ribcage. They remain untouched. And make no mistake, if Johan Santana can pitch like he did for two months last year we will be much more interesting. The correlation between our second-half collapse and the loss of an effective Santana was anything but a coincidence.
As for the money, I really don’t care. If Santana can pitch it will be worth it. Again, look at the market. If not, it’s not Fred’s wallet I’m concerned with. Beltran, K-Rod, Perez, Reyes, and Castillo have all rolled off the books and the cheapest Opening Day ticket is $63. The least the Wilpons can give us for that price is a starting pitcher worthy of Opening Day.
We’re agreed. The money is spent, sunk, shot. I don’t hold it against anybody; it was a worthwhile gamble. Say what you will about Omar, he was trying to win the World Series. As for Johan in 2013, hey, in the best world, maybe we trade him in July — that would be a near miracle, everything would have to break right. But even better for me, as a fan?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I just want to see the guy pitch. Healthy and free. The real Johan Santana. Even if he’ll never again be that pitcher from another planet. I still wouldn’t bet against him.