By Mike Steffanos
Game 96: Mets 10 - Reds 8
With all due respect to Twins fans who come to this site and feel the need to defend their ex-ace, there is little doubt that Johan Santana has been a disappointment this season. He signed a contract based on being a legitimate ace and all that title entails: dominating numbers, pitch deep into games, stop losing streaks and hold onto leads.
While he has certainly been pretty good, and has fallen victim at times to lack of run support, he hasn't really pitched like an ace all season. You could blame changing leagues, you could blame Billy Joel (I guess there are no other mounds in the tri-state area), or you could blame Rick Peterson. At some point Johan has to strap one on, figure things out, and embrace the pressure that comes with the contract he chose to sign and the market that makes that contract possible.
Even Johan's meltdown combined with three days off couldn't kill the Mets' momentum. Look, we all know that there will be stretches of good and bad in a long season. This joy ride we've been on over the past two weeks won't last forever. Still, if they can hold on to the toughness and resiliency they've recently rediscovered, this team has a chance. A month ago I wouldn't have given you a nickel for them being anything more than a fringe player in the races this season.
Fernando Tatis seems to be this season's Jose Valentin (circa 2006). The feel-good story that just keeps going and going. At 33 years old, he's still young enough to keep his career going as a bench player for a few years. Considering all of the time he was gone from the game, that's amazing.
Speaking of 2006, Carlos Delgado looks a lot more like the still-productive hitter he was in his inaugural season with the Mets. I'm buying into his recent success, unlike some previous hot streaks, because of the quality of the at bats. If he could keep this up through the rest of the season, the Mets might actually consider bringing him back next year.
He has a $16 million option with a $4 million buyout, but his option might drop to $12 million if he doesn't place at a certain level in the MVP voting. While there is no way the Mets would bring him back at $16 million, they might consider $12 million if he proves he could still mash for the rest of this season. If they believe in one of their young first baseman in the system, that might make sense as a short-term solution.
They could always try to buy out the contract and negotiate at a lower number, but I'd hate to see them commit to anything longer than next year with Delgado, who will be 37 next June. In all likelihood they buy out his option and he goes somewhere else, probably in the American League, but just the fact that you could even make an intelligent argument for another year of Carlos seemed ridiculous earlier in the season.
While Johan struggles to figure it out, it would be nice if John Maine can overcome his recent woes to get back on track tonight. As good as it's been going, requiring double-digit run support for wins is not a prescription for continued success.
Ten in a row... Who'd have thunk it?