By Dave Mills
Now that The Deal has been consummated, it seems a good time to reflect on what has transpired from several angles.
Before Mets fans rejoice too much, there are some sobering realities to digest.
Both the Mets and the Twins gained and lost, but the Mets took on tremendous risk.
Both teams are heavily invested in the events of last week, but the Mets will be shouldering a massive financial burden that will effect all aspects of New York Mets Baseball for the next 10 years.
Certainly, both teams can realistically assert to their fan bases that they did something proactive and in the best interest of the respective ballclub.
The big winner was clearly the southpaw from Venezuela--Johann Santana.
Very few commentators are talking about what I have suspected are the real facts behind this deal. In fact, the pundits were hardly following the scent, no less ferreting out the truth.
The Highlanders and the BoSox were never really players in the charade in spite of everything I read and heard.
My guess, based on circumstantial evidence, is that Santana made it clear that he wanted to go to the National League and the Mets, in particular.
He and the Greenbergs, his agents, who also happen to represent Jose Reyes and Pedro Feliciano, gave the Twins every opportunity to extract the best deal from the Mets. No other National League team seemed to be a player.
The circumstantial evidence is actually overwhelming.
Johann Santana is in his prime, yet there were some very disturbing signs during the last two months of the 2007 season. Santana was not the same pitcher he had been for the previous four and a half years.
A move into the National League means one less real hitter to face at least three times per-game; A move to the National League might mean a devastating change-up may be even more devastating; And a move to the National League means a guy who loves to hit can find real romance.
More circumstantial evidence reveals a very close relationship between Luis Castillo (now, it's easier to see why the Mets gave him four years) and the Latin tenor of team and its management. The Mets now have 24 players of color and Hispanic background on their active roster plus manager, coaches, GM and Asst. GM.
Another strong incentive for Santana is the nature of Shea and what appears to be appears to be another pitcher's park at Citi Field. Combine the ample dimensions with the generally fine fielding Mets roster and the catching combo of Schneider and Castro and it is no wonder Johann demanded the Mets.
I, for one, think Santana had told the Twins he wanted the Mets. Bill Smith did the best he could to play the AL East powerhouses against each other, simply so the Mets would sweeten their offer. The media did everything they could do to help Smith. But Santana held all the cards with complete veto power over any trade.
Omar Minaya played his hand expertly, refusing to part with his all-star shortstop, his four best pitchers under 30 and his best outfield prospect.
From reading dozens of reports, I have crafted a list of the Mets best pitchers and pitching prospects prior to The Deal. In order to be included on this list the hurler must be under 30 through the 2008 season. Here's the rundown:
I can also mention Collazo, Cullen, Bostick, Maldonado and Vineyard to make 20.
In my rankings, the Mets lost numbers 5, 6 and 8. More importantly, they held on to those top four pitchers and 7 of their top 10. They also have bullpen talent in the injured or coming-off injured ranks that is quite good--Sanchez, Padilla and Burgos. Likely, at least one will contribute sometime this year and perhaps two in the future.
With Santana, Maine and Perez (if they can re-sign him) as well as Martinez, whose rebuilt arm may well deliver 3-4 more years of quality starts (assuming they can sign him), the Mets are in an enviable position of giving Pelfrey another season of mostly AAA and a few spot starts at Shea before replacing El Duque next season. Tons of bullpen arms to boot as Minaya continues to stockpile while looking for a diamond in the rough.
The Twins clearly overplayed and then tipped their hand. Smith had to deal before spring training. He only had one team to deal to and he made the best deal he could. It will be a decade before we can truly analyze The Deal from the proper perspective.
Minnesota received three very intriguing pitching prospects and a highly skilled outfielder with tremendous speed. History tells us that if two make it in The Show, it will exceed the probabilities. I think the order of success will be Mulvey, Gomez, Guerra, Humber.
In the meantime, the Mets have their ace, although I hope Pedro pitches from the No. 1 spot followed by Santana, Maine, Perez and El Duque. Sosa and Pelfrey can step up.
Overall, the Mets made a deal they can live with and prosper by.
But make no mistake about it, an injury to Santana, or a continuation of his last two months of 2007 would be devastating for NY. Let's hope August and September were an anomaly.
No matter what, Mets fans will be paying dearly for The Deal for years to come via ticket prices and other stadium fees. Count your blessings that the Mets have their own TV network and the costs are mitigated to some degree.
A good team has gotten better, or so it seems (for now)!
SOMETHING SPECIAL FROM THE AIR
Greg from Faith and Fear in Flushing has a simple, yet stunning transcript of Lindsay Nelson's call from the top of the eighth of Tom Seaver's one-hitter against the Cubbies on July 9, 1969. It brings back some incredibly vivid and delightful memories. Here it is.