Full congratulations are due to Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya and the entire Mets organization. It took 6 months, but they’ve finally identified a starting pitcher who can get out of the first inning against the Florida Marlins. That said hurler came with a heavy price tag is of little consequence to this reader — I figure attending games at Citi Field is going to be one of those once-a-year occasions anyway, like the restaurant with cloth napkins (or that bar where all the guys look like Todd Jones). True, future generations of Mets fans might be stuck with payroll inflexibility, but if I’m not troubled by the ecological or economic disasters your kids are gonna be stuck with, I’m not crying too hard about Johan Santana’s viability in 7 years. On the face of yesterday’s 7 innning, 3 hit, 8 K performance, he’s already proven himself more valuable than a pair of Surfin’ Barry’s. At the very least, we can conclude Santana will bring greater strength to the Mets rotation than Jason Vargas —- just barely. And hey, these folks watched the game, too!
Johan Santana is good — we knew that, but this was the day of really discovering it, of appraising his arsenal and how coolly he commanded it, rising above brief trouble like that was just the final thing to check off in his preparations for the long haul of 2008. As important was seeing the Mets poke at Mark Hendrickson the first time through the order, then fall on him like wolves the second time. (When Angel Pagan and Ryan Church announced themselves with a double and single, I scrawled “Angel + Church = Heaven!”, which isn’t particularly clever but made me happy because, hey, it’s Opening Day.) After that the only sour note was the random strike zone (random for both sides, at least) and the briefly worrisome sight of David Wright flopping like a gaffed fish around third base. – Jason, Faith & Fear In Flushing
Perhaps Willie Randolph has learned a thing or two about bullpen management from the mistakes made last year. Today, Randolph used Scott Schoeneweis in the role he is best suited for – being brought in to face a left-handed batter and exiting the game before a righty has the chance to do damage against him. He also resisted the temptation to use Billy Wagner in a non-save situation. – Jessica Bader, Take The 7 Train
Outside of the fourth inning, which came after a long Met rally which surely made him rusty, Johan Santana was every bit as advertised. It wasn’t one of those “Nervous jitters/five runs and five walks in five innings” debuts, but it was a game that showed you what you should be able to expect from Santana on an every fifth day in, every fifth day out basis. Sure, it was the Marlins. But he blew eight Marlins away in seven innings to go along with three hits, two walks, and lots of good feelings to make a difference and start to wash away what happened in 2007. – Metsradamus
I think we got some previews here of why the bullpen is going to be better this season: Matt Wise — This is a guy who was great two years ago, struggled somewhat in 2006, and then was very, very good last season until hitting a batter in late July. Look at his splits month-by-month last season. The league was hitting .213/.252/.346 in the first half. I think he has a chance to bounce back nicely. Keep in mind that he’ll be pitching the innings Guillermo Mota was pitching last year, and I think we have quite an upgrade here.
Next, Scott Schoeneweis. Willie used him the right way today — one LH batter and then out. Good bullpen management is using your pitchers in ways that maximize their effectiveness rather than expose their weaknesses. Finally, I think Sosa is a major upgrade over Aaron Sele in the long role precisely because you can use him in other spots, like facing Willingham today. Sosa’s slider gives them a different look in a short role, and he can pitch long innings, too. They’re much more versatile with Sosa. – Mike Steffanos, Mike’s Mets
Yesterday, Santana came as advertised, but there were other signs that this club is not completely over the bugaboos that brought it down last year, notably a first-inning brain freeze by Luis Castillo, who somehow stopped running on a wind-blown, two-out pop fly by Carlos Beltran that dropped in. Castillo should have easily scored the first run of the game but was forced to hold at third.
It turned out to be inconsequential in the rout, but as we saw last season, things that appear inconsequential in March sometimes become monumentally important in September. And so far, the biggest boost the acquisition of Santana has given the Mets is the luxury of looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past. – Wallace Matthews, Newsday