This is exactly what Omar Minaya was thinking about when he made the blockbuster trade to get two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana back in the winter before the 2008 season. The pitching staff needed a clear cut ace, someone that could lead the staff and be the one to go out on the mound and halt losing streaks when they needed him to most. After missing all of 2011, Terry Collins and the Mets were missing the presence of Santana on the roster and in the dugout, but now he’s back, and ready to be the rock at the top of the rotation that the organization needs him to be.
New York has lost four straight, and their season record has now dropped back down to .500 for the first time this season. The Mets are at a crossroads in their season; yes, I know it’s only May 5th (Happy Cinco de Mayo by the way), but it’s times like these that define
who a team really is, whether they are a pretender or contender. There were no expectations for this team coming into 2012, and when they shocked everyone last month with a strong April, analysts were wondering how long it would last before they returned to the under-performing team that they are, not convinced of their solid record.
Now, it looks like they’re on the cusp of everyone getting ready to laugh at them again. Was that strong month of April just a mirage? Those on the outside looking in are starting to think so; I’m already getting texts and calls from my friends about how the Mets are going to start plummet, making their 50th season in existence, just another one to forget. But, there is one thing that is different this year; we have Johan on the mound. This is the one pitcher that takes the mound every fifth day that gives me hope this team can still be for real.
In all reality, I know this team is in a rebuilding process (yes, that dreaded word that no one thought existed in New York) and if they continue to trend slightly over .500 by the end of the season, I’ll be a very happy man, because that’s progress. There just hasn’t been much fight from this team over the last 10 days, and I can’t come up with a reason for it. That’s why I’m excited to have Johan take the mound this afternoon; no matter what the situation, he brings the intensity, and his demeanor is unchanged with whatever the situation is.
When watching Howie Rose talk about the 2006 Mets, he was speaking to the chemistry of the team, and what certain guys brought to the table. Rose said that some players are the sizzle, and other players are the steak. In the case of the 2006 team, Paul LoDuca was a little bit of both. For this team, Santana is a little bit of both. Purely his presence in Port St. Lucie and in the Majors has given this team a lift. Now is the time where they need him the most to be the sizzle and the steak, once again.
This start isn’t about statistics; it’s about giving this young, mostly homegrown lineup a boost when they need it the most. New York has lost four straight, and each loss has had its own problems. So, let me give you some stats anyways; despite his 0-2 start, Santana has been a rock for the Mets in 2012. His fastball velocity has been steady at 88 mph, and his change up speed has been coming in at around 78 mph, devastating hitters and giving him his best K/9 ratio (10.88) since 2002 with the Twins. He has walked more than he has liked so far (11 BBs in 24 IP), but his sparkling 2.25 ERA is proof that he’s been able to keep those runners on base (70.4% LOB).
So, we all turn to you, Johan, to be the pitcher that we have needed you to be for the last four years. It is a lot to ask for and put on your shoulders, but this is why you came to New York. Please stop this losing streak, and give us Mets fans hope for one more day that this team can put it all together and make some heads turn by the time the dog days of August are over.