Johan Santana: A Reason to Believe for the New York Mets

Jeremy NgCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2008

Some people find tops of mountains to be beautiful; others identify sunsets with beauty.

To a New York sports fan, nothing could be more beautiful than seeing Isiah Thomas getting the pink slip.

But to scholars and philosophers, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Thus, to every New York Mets fan, beauty can be defined in two words: Johan Santana.

Johan, as he will be called by the Amazin’ fanatics, is everything the Mets have dreamed for as he represents the ace that they have desperately been searching for. Johan is unquestionably the best pitcher in the game, with the best fastball-changeup combination as well as being an inning eater, strikeout master, certifiable winner and having the intangible winning attitude.

These are all the qualities they saw in Pedro Martinez when they signed him just three winters ago, yet when Omar Minaya made that offer, it was to an older, aged and worn down Pedro instead of a relatively young, in his prime ace, that is Johan.

Unlike Pedro, Johan is not past his prime and has not gone through the rigors of postseason battle as often, but he has been there before and knows what it takes to make it that far.

After the most notorious collapse in regular season baseball history last fall, the Mets needed to change the mindset that had captured most of Queens and bringing in Johan was the best way to do that.

Just a week before the trade was announced, the Mets were considered to be the second best team in the National League East, and to some others, the third best, behind both Philadelphia and Atlanta.

However, adding Johan to the Mets rotation has now boosted them past both teams and has left them sitting atop the entire NL as the team to beat. There are few players that can affect the face of a team so strongly, but Johan is able to with his masterful control on the mound.

What most Mets fans do not even know about Johan is that he is a tremendous athlete and is a superb hitter as well; so great that even Peter Gammons, an esteemed baseball analyst, can claim that Johan will be the best hitting pitcher in the NL next year, no questions asked.

Now granted that is not one of the reasons the Mets pursued him but it is an added bonus considering the Wilpon family decided to pony up and spend the dough on him.

The Mets did pay a price to get Johan, dishing out nearly $150 million over the next seven years but his value to the organization is worth far more than that. Not only will he help sales, he is also the rock upon which the organization can build upon and centerpieces like him are, as the MasterCard commercial says, priceless.

Before Johan, the Mets were a beautiful 1965 Camero, all shined up and ready to win the car show but did not have the engine, and now they have their turbo high horsepower machine, that will be running for a long time, and are ready to drive away with the prize.

Over the last four years in Minnesota, Johan has started a minimum of 33 games, pitched 200+ innings, had more strikeouts than innings pitched and has had a WHIP of .99. However, transitioning to the NL should bolster all his statistics as it known to be a weaker hitting league due to the lack of the designated hitter.

In a few years, analysts might need to use a microscope to see Johan’s stats. But what is most impressive about Johan’s career is that in an age clouded by steroids and astronomical hitting statistics, Johan has found a way to master America’s Pastime from the mound.

That is what the Mets faithful hope for him to continue to do as he puts on the orange and blue and toes the rubber, every five days.

Other than just Johan’s pitching prowess, he has added depth to the Mets’ pitching rotation as now everyone can slide down a slot.

Instead of forcing Pedro to be the ace, there can be less pressure put upon him as the No. 2 and consequently less on John Maine and Oliver Perez who will be occupying the third and fourth slots in the rotation.

In fact, Maine and Perez were the only combination of two pitchers under the age of 26 to each have 15 wins last season, which bodes well for the Mets Organization as the sky is the limit for those two, especially under the tutelage of pitching guru Rick Peterson.

So after all the offseason questions about the Mets’ pitching rotation, Johan has taken a page out of Allen Iverson’s playbook, and answered them all.

However, Johan does find it necessary to practice.

So for now, Johan will head to spring training, the first step in the ultimate goal of the franchise, as the monumental savior of the team. He will be asked to carry a significant amount of the burden the Mets placed upon their fans after last fall but he will shrug it all off with his cool demeanor.

There are some players whose mentality can be questioned in the New York environment but Johan will be loved from day one, and the amore will only grow after each start.

But after winter, spring, summer and fall, when it is all said and done, beautiful or not, will the Mets and their fans see Johan standing on the hill, in late October, with the sun setting behind him, as he pitches his team to the glorious title of World Champions?

Ya gotta believe!