We're almost through the 2008 season and it finally hit me. The numb feeling finally faded away. As a huge Minnesota Twins fan, I just realized things just aren't the same without Johan Santana.
At the time of the trade, it was easy to just give in and accept the fact that Johan would no longer be a Twin. I knew the contract situation, I knew the Twins couldn't afford his price tag and I knew he wouldn't be playing his home games at the Metrodome in 2008.
Instead of focusing on the loss of Santana, I did what all fans of small-market teams do, I was forced to focus on the positives. I said things like "at least we got something for him, unlike Torii Hunter" and "well, at least it looks like we got some good young talent for the future."
It's been quite some time since the trade, and I can finally face the truth. The Twins traded away the best pitcher in baseball for four players who will probably never pan out. Expecting the Twins to sign Johan would've been delusional, but they would've been better off keeping him for this season, and letting him go for a first-round sandwich pick in the 2009 draft.
Think about it: Would you rather have Carlos Gomez and the rest of the trade package for the future, or have a legit shot at the World Series with Johan as the ace this season? I'll take the latter.
Sure, Carlos Gomez is an exciting ballplayer with more speed than most, no one's going to deny that. The problem is he's also one of the least productive hitters in the American League. He may develop into a great player, but I wouldn't bet on it. As for the pitchers, it's far too early to evaluate Deolis Guerra, who's not even old enough to drink, but both Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber have been underwhelming.
And yes, the young Twins pitching staff has been incredible. Entering tonight's game, the Twins were just a half-game back of Chicago, so I guess they technically are World Series contenders. But Johan Santana just shutout the Houston Astros over seven innings to drop his ERA to 2.64. Sure, his 12-7 record isn't too special, but that's not his fault. He's received horrible run production and poor support from the bullpen all year.
The Twins haven't been very successful in the postseason this decade, winning just one series in four appearances, but I can't take the small-market fan stance anymore. I can't sit back and say "well, we didn't win it with him, so was he really all that great?"
With Johan Santana, I always knew the Twins had a shot. I can't feel confident saying that about the Twins in the post-Johan era.