On September 30th 2007 general manager Omar Minaya was left to sort out the pieces of the New York Mets catastrophe. The Mets missed the playoffs by losing 12 of their last 17 games and blowing a seven-game lead in just over two weeks, thus highlighting the greatest collapse in teahistory.
On Friday February 1st 2008. The Mets general manager pulled of a historic deal by signing Johan Santana to a six year $137 million dollar contract, the richest ever for a pitcher.
Santana is 93-44 in eight major league seasons, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2004and 2006 with the Minnesota Twin. The left-hander slipped last year, finishing with a 15-13 record. He lost seven of his final 11 decisions. Furthermore, he also allowed a career-high 33 homeruns, most in the AL.
Whether Santana redeems himself remains to be seen. One thing is certain, if the New York Yankees wanted Santana they could have had him which would have left the Mets still licking their wounds from the stinging lashing they received in September 2007. What stopped the Yankees from pulling the trigger? Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s pitching prospects.
Cashman quietly spent time retooling the Yankees farm system by developing young pitching prospects such as Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlin. This proved to be the influential factor in early December 2007 when Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner gave the Twins a deadline to make a decision on Santana.
Steinbrenner could have been more patient because he had the upper hand in the Santana sweepstakes. The Twins general manager Bill Smith was between a rock and hard place: Santana desparately wanted to leave town (he turned down a four year $80 million extension from the Twins) In addition to this, Santana had a no-trade clause and demanded an expensive $100 million contract extension. In the end Smith’s only two other options were the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets.
The Red Sox and Mets were vying for Smith’s attention, but neither was as aggressive as the Yankees front man Steinbrenner. The Red Sox were in the Santana derby only to keep him away from the Yankees and Minaya was waiting patiently for Steinbrenner’s decision
In the end Steinbrenner pulled out of the sweepstakes taking the Red Sox along with him, thus putting pressure on Cashman’s prospects to deliver. Winning pitching match-ups is what is going to determine the Yankees success this season and ultimately the fate of Cashman.
With regards to the Mets, Minaya had the bargaining chips over Smith to sign Santana. Minaya refused to give up his all star Jose Reyes. Instead he traded his prospects outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra for Santana. It remains to be seen how these four prospects fair in Minnesota and if Bill Smith gets any consolation prize for being bullied by Santana and Minaya.
If Santana has a big year and the Yankees do not win a World series, the New York papers and talk radio will be all over Cashman giving him no place to escape to.
If Santana has a bad year and the Mets don’t win a World Series, Minaya will have to take the hit for being too reliant on Santana to remove the stain of last years collapse.
Minaya has won the Johan Santana battle but the war for baseball supremacy is far from over.