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Johan Santana Does Not Make the Mets a World Series Winner

Sorry to deflate the balloon of all you Mets fans out there — and I know there are many of you — but I don’t think this trade (if it goes through) will mean a ring for your team. By acquiring the top pitcher in the game, you have become even more of a contender than you were before. But even with Johan Santana, do you still give the edge to the Mets over the Diamondbacks in the playoffs? That would be hard for me to do. Furthermore, the seminal Johan Santana moment for me — and this coming from one of his top fans going back many years — is when he got out-pitched by Barry Zito Game 1 of the ALDS at home, getting bombed on by the Big Hurt. I know Johan’s beaten the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the playoffs, but I haven’t seen him rise his game in the post-season the way Josh Beckett has. And the Red Sox have Beckett, making them my favorite to win it all almost every year.

I’m not saying Johan Santana isn’t a great pitcher, and I don’t want to knock him down. I just have a really bad feeling about him leaving Minnesota. The four-year $80 million offer the Twins made seemed pretty good to me. I know Johan will probably bag $150-160 million guaranteed and be set for life (not to mention be on a well-funded, more competitive team), but I have a really bad feeling about him playing somewhere else. I don’t think he’ll be the same; I can see the extra media attention, pressure, or even injuries plaguing him. I really think staying in Minnesota for the four years and $80 million, plus another 3-4 year deal after that for an additional $75 million or so was probably the way to go rather than what he’ll likely get from the Mets. It’s not often that stars from small-market teams work out well when they sign monster deals with New York teams. I just hope Johan does well enough to the point where he’s going to Cooperstown wearing a Mets jersey.

And as far as the trade on the Twins’ side goes, it’s far too early to tell how this will pan out (if it goes down). You need at least five years to see what becomes of the four prospects they’re receiving. I’m being told Minnesota didn’t even get the Mets’ top prospects, but nobody can really comment until we see how they all pan out. What I do believe is that the Twins could have received a few major-league ready players from either the Red Sox or Yankees, but they didn’t pull the trigger. If you believe those reports (which nobody outside the actual negotiations really knows), then I think Aaron Gleeman summed it up best saying Smith slow-played a monster hand and didn’t get paid off. That seems about right to me. Oh yeah, and check out Johan’s Baseball-Reference page while you’re at it to see his post-season stats. Gleeman also sponsors the page and his comment there is hilarious.

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Baseball Preview: New York Mets

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

New York Mets (97-65, 1st in NL East) -7 games

Get Crunked: How’s this to start — it’s an American League lineup in the NL. That work? No? OK, it’s an AL East lineup in the NL. There you go. Their lineup and power is so ridiculous it’s not fair. Start things off with Jose Reyes who has tremendous power for a leadoff man, astounding speed, and has learned to lay off bad pitches, making him an MVP candidate. Carlos Beltran hits as well as he plays defense and runs the bases, which is to say awesome. Carlos Delgado is a slugger at first base. David Wright is a good all-around hitter and defender at third base. Moises Alou can still crush the ball in left field. And Billy Wagner is one of the better closers in baseball.

Party Foul: The rotation is garbage — for a first place team. I guess it’s befitting of a New York team and seems to be the common trend in the Big Apple. The big reason is because Pedro’s hurt, and they unexpectedly lost out on free agent Barry Zito. Losing Guillermo Mota to the suspension and Duaner Sanchez to injury severely hamper the bullpen as well. If you look at the pitching staff as a whole, it’s safe to say that it’s only average.

Jose Reyes, an elegant combination of power and speed

What’d my GM do: He failed to bring in a front line starter which will hurt the team come playoff time. He traded Brian Bannister to the Royals for Ambiorix Burgos, which will probably benefit the Mets more than KC. Acquiring Burgos was especially key now that Sanchez has gone down with the broken shoulder. Minaya also brought in Moises Alou on a one-year deal. I don’t care how old Moises is, even if he’s 50, just roll him into the batters box and he’ll crush a double. In all, it was a quiet off-season in Flushing.

Lay it on me Straight: The hitting is so head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the NL, it will automatically win the Mets 90 games. The pitching staff, both starters and bullpen, leave a lot to be desired. But the hitting is so good, the Mets are guaranteed to make the playoffs.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: They’ll be in first place, and it’s a credit to Minaya for spending his money wisely on Delgado, Beltran, and Alou, and the development of Wright and Reyes. Just don’t expect the division to be wrapped up in August like it was last year.

Can we be better than that: I think 93-94 wins is the ceiling for this year’s team since they don’t have Pedro, and the pen’s a little worse off. It’ll be another successful year for the Mets, just not a repeat of ’06.