As a lifelong Mets fan, I really wanted to be happy about the deal that brought Johan Santana to the Mets. I really did. I mean, we only gave up Carlos Gomez and several other assorted Cratchits. There was no loss here. No Jose Reyes in the mix, so I should be happy, but sadly I am not.
I guess there is the thing that worries me the most: long-term deals with pitchers are usually a bust. Santana is 28 (will be 29 next month) and technically in the prime of his career. He seems to be a healthy pitcher, which is more than can be said for Pedro Martinez. When the Mets got Pedro, everyone knew he was fragile. He should have been dubbed The Man with the China Arm. That didn’t stop that transaction from taking place, but no matter how much I personally like Martinez, that deal was a poor one. The Mets haven’t gotten their money’s worth out of him, and I doubt they ever will.
Now the question remains this: will the Mets ever collect on this Santana deal? By collect I mean Santana wins 20+ games, the Cy Young Award, and gets us into the World Series. Forgive me for being skeptical, but it’s been a long 22 years since Mookie Wilson’s ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs. We Mets fans know better than to get our hopes up, so quite frankly I am thinking that this deal is not as good as it seems (or should seem).
There have been some great Mets pitchers over the years, but none can compare to the two best: Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden. These were the best arms that the team ever had and, like Nolan Ryan, the team chose to eventually let them go. We can argue that both were past their prime years when they were let go, but the key thing is the symbolism involved with giving up players that were dubbed “The Franchise.” No one can really know how Pat Zachary must have felt coming here for Seaver, but we can imagine Carlos Gomez is not going to be too upset if he becomes the next Willie McGee in Minnesota, but maybe we Mets fans should be.
The truth is that baseball has taken us on a rough ride. Besides the steroid debacle that is still playing out (and that will likely become worse before it gets better), the biggest problem is feeling like these players are getting paid well beyond what any mere mortal is worth (even if he can win 20 games or sock 50 home runs every season). We can label it as the player’s greed or we can cite the owner’s stupidity, but the fans are the reason why it costs well over $100 for two people to go to a game these days (if one wants semi-good seats and something to eat). If we all stopped going to the games, stopped buying merchandise, and stopped watching telecasts of the games, the money wouldn’t be there to throw around like this. Of course, this is never going to happen. I, like most everyone else, am salivating at the prospect of Opening Day and the first pitch. See, we are our own worst enemies.
Since we are not going to change the business of baseball, I guess we must accept that things are going to remain skewed as they are for now. Maybe I’m wrong about this and Santana will be all he is supposed to be (and not the second coming of Anthony Young). I want and need Santana to be as good as everyone says he is. I want him to win those 20+ games. I’d even like to see him pitch the elusive no-hitter the Mets have been waiting 46 years to see, and I’d especially like to see him starting Game 1 of the World Series this October, but I am a realist because Met fans have to be. We cannot be anything else because the Mo Vaughns and Vince Colemans of the world have taught us hard lessons.
Is Johan Santana really good for the Mets? I’m holding out until I see him starting the All-Star Game for the National League. Until then, this Mets fan is not getting his hopes up too much. Bret Saberhagen, Kenny Rogers, and all of the rest of the guys who came to the Mets and hit the self-destruct button deserve thanks for making me the way I am.
This year I’m hoping Santana proves me wrong. Please, Johan, prove me wrong.