Mets Spring Training: All Eyes on Johan Santana

Johnny SheaCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2008

The wounds of last season seem to be wearing off as the offseason is coming to an end.

It wasn't the New York Giants' improbable Super Bowl run or the performance of the New York Knicks (because they are dismal anyway) that led to the healing. It was the blockbuster deal made by Omar Minaya and Peter Greenberg to sign pitching ace Johan Santana.

Kevin James is not the King of Queens. Santana is.

At the moment, however, he is the King of Florida, with Spring Training officially beginning Thursday. Santana warmed the hearts of every Met fan on Valentine's Day.

The press will haunt the Mets for years to come. The Santana deal will ease the pain. Rather than fretting over what could have been, the organization and the media will look ahead to what is to come with baseball's number one ace on the mound for New York.

The Mets anticipate Santana will ease the press and provide pitching excellence come April. Pitching in the National League, where hitters are less dangerous than in the American, Santana may be prepared for his best season yet.

Just imagine the Cy Young Race in the NL this season: Santana vs. Peavy.

Spring training camps always begin happily for all teams, even though most of them won't be feeling that emotion at the season's end. But the arrival of Johan Santana in Port St. Lucie was even better than all of the rest, specifically because of the agony remaining from last year's breakdown.

The camp belongs to Santana—somewhat like Pedro's arrival in '05 and Carter's in '85. This is the Mets' 47th spring training and it will all be about No. 57.

The Mets camp will have it's other story lines of course: Pedro's shoulder, toe, and calf; El Duque's health issues; Brian Schneider's importance; the first steps of Carlos Delgado's run at redemption; the maturity of Jose Reyes; Moises Alou's age; Luis Castillo's durability. Of course the press will find some way to get David Wright in the news too.

But Santana is the guy who will attract the most attention. He will develop a relationship with Schneider and Castro, wave to fans, and most of all, find himself in the middle of a snapshot every time he turns his head. He carries the same aroma of excellency as Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, and Tom Brady—every move being carefully studied.

Fans will fight for his signature, he will show us his wicked curveball, and he will do something that no one else can: turn last year into a memory and make this year something to look forward to.