February 02, 2008

The Day After: What's The Buzz

I thought it might be nice to sample what's being said about the Mets, Johan Santana, and the trade itself on the day after it's been finalized, while we await final confirmation that Santana has passed his physical. We'll make this column an ode to ESPN's Buster Olney, who apparently is way out there in upstate New York with a dial-up connection! Buster, we feel your pain, and without further ado:

Bob Klapisch, Bergen Record:
...the Mets are now a 93-95 win team, automatic favorites in the East. Santana is that good, that much of a big-game presence...Was there any chance the deal could've collapsed? None. Zero.

Gee, I wish he would have told that to us earlier- we'd all have saved a TON of angst!!!

His blessing is that change-up, the most devastating pitch in the big leagues today. Santana doesn't just retire hitters with that change, he demoralizes them. Given that he'll be pitching in a fly ball stadium with the gifted Carlos Beltran in center, Santana could well finish the season with an ERA in the low to mid-2's.

Amen to that, Bob...amen to that!

Our column mentor, Buster Olney (ESPN), came out and stated that "the Mets will be the clear NL favorites on paper once they finish the Santana deal" in his Saturday column. In that same column, he asks 3 questions about each of 3 NL East teams (guess which 3?!):

1.) What is Pedro Martinez now? Is he a good pitcher, or merely mediocre?

2.) Will the Mets' bullpen be suitably reconstructed?

3.) Will Carlos Delgado be a more significant factor, on and off the field?

1.) How will Brad Lidge respond to Philadelphia?

2.) How much will the Phillies miss Aaron Rowand?

3.) Will the starting pitching hold up?

1.) When will John Smoltz and Tom Glavine hit the wall?

2.) Rafael Soriano is slated to be the closer, but he's had recurring arm trouble; can he stay healthy?

3.) Will Yunel Escobar thrive as the Braves' shortstop, now that he's taken over for Edgar Renteria?

4.) Can Chipper Jones stay in the lineup?

All great questions, Buster, and the answers will, of course, determine not only who wins the division, but, quite probably, who heads to the World Series.

Mike Vaccaro, N.Y. Post:
It took only 11,188 days for the Mets to finally get their soul back. It doesn't matter that the Mets have won a World Series and appeared in another in the 11,188 days that connected yesterday with June 15, 1977. The fact is, the Mets have been wandering into the wilderness these past 30 years, searching for ways to scrub away one horrific and irredeemable lapse of judgement.

It was a hard reckoning and a steep price, the punishment absorbed for having handed Tom Seaver away in the prime of his career...Well, the planets are realigned properly now. Consider Johan Santana the ultimate player to be named later in the ultimate celestial trade...Maybe the ever-falling skies above Flushing can be ruled safe again. M. Donald Grant is long dead. Now so, too, is his legacy. At long last.

Mike, you took the words right out of our mouths! The New Jersey Nets never got over trading away Doctor J; it took the Red Sox nearly a century to get out from under trading away Babe Ruth; and don't count out the Cubs' curse of the Goat ending any time soon. True, we did win a World Series after trading Seaver, but it's also true that we should have won so many more, as Mets' fans grew tired of always being bridesmaids! NOW, we are the brides!!! Feels good- now step off of my dress! And yes, Grant is long gone- ding dong, the wicked witch is dead!! (NOT gloating over his passing, just the fact that he's long removed from this organization.)

Nate Silver, SI.com:
Expectations about what Johan Santana is going to do in Shea Stadium couldn't be higher. But those anticipating Santana to put up a Bob Gibson 1968 type of season are probably in for a disappointment.

Yes, there is no designated hitter in the National League, and Santana will get to face off against a less talented group of offenses in the AL. And Shea Stadium is a favorable environment for any pitcher. But Santana also had some advantages working for him in Minnesota...Moreover, Santana may have declined slightly off his 2004-2006 peak. While he has always given up a fair number of fly balls, last year that tendency began to catch up with him, as he gave up a career-high 33 home runs.

All told, Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection system forecasts that Santana will get his ERA back below the 3.oo mark. He also stands to pick up an extra win or two in front of the Mets' strong offense.

These type of articles always remind me that there are so many ways to look at this game that we love- statistical, analytical, historical, and visual - and while I understand and enjoy statistical analysis, the human elements of this deal, the intangibles that Santana's addition brings to the team, makes me believe that he'll post a 20-game-winning season, an ERA sub-3.00 and well over 200 strike-outs. That's just my opinion, though...

Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus/SI.Com:
...this is the first deal in the NL where you could argue that a team is not just gunning for the division and not just establishing an easy favorite to win the pennant, as the Mets now have a shot at having a team that can go toe-to-toe with the AL's titans. It is exactly the sort of move that Minaya needed to make after last year's fold-up...Minaya had an opening, and in their last-minute desperation the Twins proved too willing to agree to anything.

Kahrl also takes the Twins to task for centering the deal around, no pun intended, a center-fielder (Gomez) who she believes is a more marginal prospect than has been bandied about, and 3 pitchers with low upside (in her opinion) going to an organization pretty rich in high-level pitching prospects. She is refreshingly blunt in her dismissal to past Twins' deals, such as the ones for Frank Viola and Chuch Knoblach, and even goes so far as to rate Lastings Milledge a better CF prospect then Gomez. Ouch!

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus/SI.com:
Well, two sources from the same companies, two differing opinions on Gomez:

Gomez is the top prospect here, but most of his ability is still bottled up in projection...Gomez is not the best all-around athlete in the Twins system...but what fans saw in New York was more potential than production. Gomez's ceiling is tremendous, based solely on his athleticism. He's a plus-plus runner and an outstanding center fielder with a cannon arm. At the plate he should be a good hitter with gap power, but he needs to make significant changes in his approach in order to take advantage of his raw skills.

On Guerra:
Guerra is the pitching version of Gomez, only his age, level, and the fact that he's a pitcher create even more risk. Obviously, it takes a highly impressive talent to hold your own at high-A ball as an 18-year old, but at the same time, Guerra was simply decent, not dominant. His low-90's fastball touches 95 mph and his body offers a ton of projection, but that's all Guerra really is- projection.

On the trade:
I don't like the trade in the least from the Twins' standpoint, but at the same time, I'm also pretty certain that General Manager Bill Smith is not an idiot- in fact, I'm quite sure of it. I'm far more sure that the rumored offers from the Yankees and/or Red Sox were not as good as we think they were.

We've been alluding to that point all along, as people were quoting deals that were allegedly on the table from the Yanks and Sox as if they were written in stone. Rumors abound under normal circumstances; when the best pitcher is on the trade market, rumors become more outlandish and harder to discern truth from exaggeration. The fact is, the deal is done, Santana is property of the Mets, and we no longer have to worry whether or not Phil Hughes will be put back into a deal or not- thank goodness!!!!

...and finally, from one of the new "deans" of baseball writing:

Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports:
On the Twins:
One general manager, envisioning a Twins outfield of Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Michael Cuddyer, says the team might be stronger than people think.

Another concern: Gomez will not hit, according to one scout, because he is "afraid of the ball." "Throw the ball anywhere near the inner third, and this guy jumps," one scout said.

Man, Gomez is like a mercurial stock, going up and down in value daily, almost hourly, depending upon who is evaluating him at the moment. This could also be a factor in Gomez's development, if he (hopefully not) starts reading what his critics have to say.

It's been a wild week, especially for me, and I am just grateful that all I have to worry about now is the Giants in the Super Bowl - oh- IS THAT ALL????

(Back on Monday- GO GIANTS!!)

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