Rare is the candidate who makes good on the vast majority of his promises, but when you find one who does, you owe him your vote. Thus, this Election Day, it’s a landslide.
Johan Santana is Faith and Fear in Flushing’s Most Valuable Met for 2008.
As we continue to pick the debris from the wreckage of the second consecutive massively disappointing finish out of our hair and our souls, we are left comforted by the image of Johan Santana living up to every shred of hype and hope invested in him by the citizens of Metsopotamia, no more so than when they needed him most.
I’ll confess I was a bit of a cynic from time to time, wondering what the big deal about this big-ticket item of ours was. He was great to have around, but would he be worth when it all really mattered?
He was worth everything. Everything.
Although Scott Boras did an exquisite job of it, you couldn’t put a dollar value on Johan Santana if you were a Mets fan breathing in precarious sync with your club down the stretch in 2008. When everything was crumbling before him, around him and after him, Johan Santana was the rock that stood strong and stayed steady. Once every five — or four — days in September, Johan Santana transformed what it meant to root for his team. He was the sure and decidedly not shaky thing.
The memory the final Sunday of 2008 still clings uneasily to the Met psyche, but I’m willing to place the final Saturday a fraction of a scintilla above it on the vine of critical perception. We know what was lost on Sunday. But think about what was won on Saturday. In witnessing, perhaps, the most spellbinding clutch pitching performance of the Met age, we were reassured not just for 24 hours, but for next year and for the five years of his contract beyond that (to the extent that anybody can be sure about anything beyond the moment in which we live). Our team went out and paid a Manny’s ransom for one pitcher and that pitcher pitched like a bargain. By September 27, demanding the ball on short rest and then knowing exactly what to do with it and then doing it…it was as if he were pitching for free. It didn’t feel like he was merely doing his job. It felt like missionary work.
We dream of Mets coming through in our name. So few do in circumstances like those hovering over the final Saturday. Even fewer do it as a matter of course. Johan Santana did it. Johan Santana did it every which way in September. And August. And most every time he started in 2008. The Mets were 22-12 in his starts, and that’s taking into account outings that gave way to appearances by the vaunted Mets bullpen (whose participation in games he learned to turn superfluous as the season wound down). Johan Santana’s Mets were a joy and a delight. Everybody else’s Mets were a crapshoot. Every five — or four — days we really needed a sure thing. With Johan, we got it.
Among position players, FAFIF MVM honorable mention is due Carlos Delgado, touted here for National League Most Valuable Player honors when Met things were looking their best. The first half of his season swirled in repercussions and recriminations but his second half lifted our second half in a way I’ve rarely seen any individual Met position player’s performance lift a season. One candidate for the presidency in 2008 said that a previous White House occupant “changed the trajectory of America” and “put us on a fundamentally different path”. That is how Carlos Delgado’s turnaround impacted this team from late June well into September. If Delgado’s first half was midnight with a bad moon rising, his second truly felt like morning in the middle of the Met batting order.
You can rightly pick apart how Carlos Delgado began 2008. I will always remember how he completed it.
FAITH AND FEAR’S MOST VALUABLE METS
Pitcher: Pedro Martinez
Position Player: Cliff Floyd
Position Player: Carlos Beltran
Pitcher: T#m Gl@v!ne
Position Player: David Wright
Pitcher: John Maine
Pitcher: Johan Santana
Position Player: Carlos Delgado
Still to come: The Nikon Camera Player of the Year for 2008.