Johan Santana and the New York Mets' 6 Early Surprises
As esteemed social critic and self-proclaimed baseball enthusiast Pamela Anderson once said, "it is great to be a blonde, with low expectations it is very easy to surprise people." While this quote could be taken in a few different directions, we'll suffice it to say that in the first season of the week, the New York Mets have surprised us in an assortment of ways.
It is not so much that the expectations make the Mets the blondes of the NL East, or even that their prospects are so low. It's that other teams' expectations, such as the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals, are so much higher coming into 2012.
Despite this, along with an undeniably questionable usage of a quote from Pamela Anderson, the Mets have, at this infantile stage of the season, provided some positive pundit banter. Here are several examples.
Opening Weekend Funny Mirror (Role Reversal) with Yanks
Only in New York is it possible to be immersed in such extensive coverage of the dissimilar and unexpected seasons of the teams which inhabit Flushing and the Bronx, after a mere three games.
Nevertheless, in the context of the equally dissimilar expectations attributed to both teams; specifically, the disparate low levels for the Mets to the...yawn...perpetual high levels for the Yankees, the fact that the former began a perfect 3-0 to the Bombers' funny-mirror 0-3, is cause for intrigue.
The intrigue is accentuated by the historical context which it incites, in that the last time the Mets opened with three straight wins, in 2007, they succumbed to the Philadelphia Phillies, in what some shortsighted historians have come to label as a “historic collapse.”
The Yankees' last 0-3 opening act in 1998 saw them overcome those season-opening results by going on to win 114 games and the World Series.
However, positive press is at a premium for the Mets over the Yanks—and regardless of context, it's always savory.
First 4-0 Start Since 2007
Those playing the prediction game on how many games it would take the Mets to win a game in a celebratory pie-in-the-face manner, probably thought better than to prematurely say four games, but Daniel Murphy proved he was a man clamoring for that pie-in-the-face moment.
With his ninth-inning walk-off single against the Washington Nationals in a 4-3 win, Murphy helped the Mets equal their best start since that previously cited 2007 season, despite since having lost their perfect status in this still ridiculously young season. The only start that was more surprising in 2012 than 3-0 for the Mets, was 4-0.
Home Grown Players' Historical Significance
For the first time in 22 years, the Mets trotted eight players who were products of the their system onto the field, in their 4-3 pie-faced-Murphy win over the Nationals. The lone exception was the carpetbagging Jason Bay, who spent time in the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations.
This is noteworthy, when viewed in the context of the consensus that the Mets tend not to be able to cultivate many prospects from within the farm system.
Mets skipper Terry Collins, who served as minor-league field coordinator in 2010, acknowledged by stating, "A lot of these guys came up together that are in this lineup today, and I think there's more to come. This organization has been ridiculed for not having a very good Minor League system. Well, we're running a pretty good lineup out there tonight, and they're all Mets."
Ruben Tejada Filling the Shoes
There are many Mets die-hards who are not surprised by the early season emergence of Tejada, but taking into consideration the shoes he is attempting to fill, the young man is off to a noteworthy start.To date, he is hitting at a .333 clip, as well as posting a .440 OBP in the early goings, which represents the exact level of production universally sought from the top of the order.
In the final game of the opening season sweep of NL East rival Atlanta, Tejada made the most out of his five plate appearances by slapping out four hits, including two doubles and two RBI.
If he continues at a level even close to this pace through the duration of the season, Mets fans will be formulating new crowd inspiring chants to replace those affiliated with their former shortstop Jose Reyes.
Frank Francisco's Proficiency
The Mets bullpen was of significant concern after this past Spring Training, in which three of their go-to pitchers, Ramon Ramirez (5.25), John Rauch (8.00) and Frank Francisco (5.54), posted wearisome stat lines, including their distended ERAs.
However, Francisco, who logged time as the Toronto Blue Jays closer last year, especially quelled the early season nerves of the fan base with his stellar stats. He earned all three saves in the three-game sweep of the Braves, extending his perfection at the end of last season, in which he finished his time with the Jays with seven straight saves. In addition, his opening weekend performance made him the first closer in Mets history to earn three saves in the first three games of a season.
If he can maintain anything close to his current stat line of a 0.00 ERA, three saves, four strikeouts and a 0.67 WHIP through the duration, fans, Frank and front office alike, will feel vindication in his signing with the team.
Johan Santana: So Far so Good
There was a point in Johan Santana's career where unsure speculation as to the quality of his starts and results was a preposterous undertaking, as dominance was his trademark. Those days are no more. And one of the most significant question marks coming into the 2012 season, was how the formerly unquestionable pitcher would fare after more than a year away, following surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule.
While he put together a respectable spring, it is hard to imagine that anyone expected the kind of starts he has put together in his first two outings so far in the regular season.
He managed to throw five innings of scoreless, two-hit, five-strikeout, two-walks-ball, in a 1-0 win over the Braves in his first start of the season. And, despite being out-dueled by young phenom Stephen Strasberg in a 4-0 loss to the Washington Nationals on April 11th, he still pitched five innings, giving up only one run with eight strikeouts against three walks.
Although the 33-year-old may not possess the mid-nineties fastball of his prime years, if he continues to put together these kind of quality starts—and more importantly, stays healthy—he will at least reclaim that unquestionable status, in so far as his role on the team as a true No. 1 starter.