Santana: The Heart Of a Franchise

Matt StaneckContributor ISeptember 27, 2008

This is why he was brought here.  If ever in the 47 year history of the New York Mets there was a pitcher who emulated what it meant to be a big game pitcher and "The Franchise" it was Tom Seaver.  But for those Met fans to whom Seaver's dominance is now but a memory, and for those whom never saw it firsthand, there is the "Great Santana."

What Johan did today was, as Met Manager Jerry Manuel has frequently said, "Absolutely filthy."   He demanded the ball from Jerry Manuel and even joked to a teammate he could go Sunday if need be as well.  That is what an ace will do.  An ace will take the ball, no, demand the ball and deliver.  For this young Met fan who never saw Seaver, or Koosman, or Doc, this was the best pitching performance I have ever seen.  When it was all over, tears were welling in the eyes.  

For Met fans, and even some baseball fans, there was a recognition of the absolute greatness of a guy who after throwing a career high 125 pitches just 3 days before went out there and willed himself to throw a complete game.  

The Mets needed such a start.  They needed their man to deliver.  On the eve of their final regular season home game at their decaying, yet historic stadium, Santana evoked the memories of games past at Shea when a Seaver, or a Koosman, or a Matlack, or a Darling, or a Gooden delivered some magic.  If Yankee Stadium is the most impressive place in sports where history happens and is expected to happen, then Shea Stadium is the place where miracles happen.  

Down the turnpike the Phillies won their second consecutive division championship.  Good for them.  Last year it was given to them, this year they won it.  And how did they win it?  By getting lucky.  The Mets endured injury after injury, and the Phillies have barely had to deal with any adversity this season.  One time Charlie Manuel, the most attractive man in a baseball uniform, tried telling us losing Tom "Flash" Gordon made them be without a closer for months.  He said that in response to a reporter asking him about the Mets misfortune with losing Billy Wagner.  

It is laughable to suggest the Phillies would be better off with "Flash" Gordon then Brad Lidge.  Met fans near, far, and wide would welcome the Phillies "fortune" of having their closer Tom Gordon over the guy who has made the difference in this NL East race.  

But the one thing the Mets can take away is that, had their bullpen been a quarter better then they are, they would have won the division.  And even more importantly as good as he is, Cole Hamels is no Johan Santana.  There is no one out there today quite like Johan Santana.  If Oliver Perez can dig down and pitch a big game like he's done before, and the Met bats can come alive like they've shown before, they will be in October baseball.  I have a strange feeling Mr. Sabathia is going to show tomorrow why he does not deserve several years and big dollars.  Mr. Sabathia will show he is no Johan Santana.

There is only one best pitcher in baseball, and he wears number 57 in the familiar orange and blue.  

See you at Wrigley Wednesday Night.