Santana's Arrival in Flushing Should Make Collapse Disappear
The best way to make your fans forget about the forgettable is to do the improbable. Mets' general Manager Omar Minaya did just that by acquiring ace starter Johan Santana, which can be better classified as a 'heist' of the game's finest hurler.
Coming off last September's infamous collapse, the Mets needed a strong offseason to make a difference on the back headline and at the box office. During the Winter Meetings, it was expected that Santana would be moved to either the Red Sox or Yankees, who both made quality to offers to the Twins for their franchise player.
Possibly holding onto their biggest chip too long, the Twins had to settle for the Mets offer of four young and unproven players. They had made up their mind to not go into the season with Santana, who turned down a long-term contract extension and was entering his walk year.
The benefactors of this turn of unlikely events became the Mets, who earlier turned down the Twins' when shortstop Jose Reyes was asked to be included in any potential deal. Minaya waited out Minnesota GM Bill Smith and eventually didn't even have to include Fernando Martinez, the young outfielder that is high on the organization's charts.
So the ace southpaw is here with a new deal that will keep him in Queens for many years to come. All eyes were on Santana recently when he threw his first bullpen session in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Although it is only the first days of spring training, having number 57 wearing blue and orange is a big deal and a lot is expected out of the $150-million dollar man.
"I can't ask for more, man," Santana told reporters after his throwing session in front of the adoring fans, as well as owner Fred Wilpon, manager Willie Randolph and Minaya. "It's been great. It's a great group of guys, from the bat boys all the way to ownership."
Brian Schneider, who was acquired from the Nationals in the Lastings Milledge trade and will take over for the departed Paul Lo Duca, also sees something special in Santana. "Everything was good," the backstop said to reporters. "He'll be fun to catch."
Santana will be paired with Pedro Martinez to give the Mets a quality 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. He will be 29 next month and hopefully the answer that the Mets have been looking for as a young ace for the long haul. Martinez already had seen his best days by the time the Mets signed him, as did Tom Glavine. Mike Hampton appeared to be that type of pitcher, but left as a free agent after the 200 season and a World Series run. Brett Saberhagen did not show what he had to offer as a Met, and possibly Dwight Gooden was the last arm on this side of town that led the rotation year after year.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has the chance to be something special, and that has not gone unnoticed by the player. "They were looking for improvement," Santana said to reporters. "They got some improvement."