Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A most fitting end

On the night the Yankees were officially eliminated from Postseason play for the first time in 13 years, the man that could have gotten them there might have just pitched the crosstown rival Mets back into it.
It was only a few short months ago that Brian Cashman, Yankees GM, decided the future lied with Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Jose Tabata and not with whom was known around the league as the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana.
Not to be a Monday Morning Quarterback, the People's Champ officially liked this aproach back in the winter because of a few reasons:
  • The Yankees needed to develop their own pitchers and Hughes and Kennedy showed exceptional poise and promise in their brief 2007 debuts.
  • Santana for all his greatness had a declining strkieout rate, WHIP and ERA were increasing ever so slightly over the last few seasons and he had a very uncharactaristically bad 2nd half in 2007 (5-7 4.04 ERA). Plus..........
  • He would command a new contract that the Mets eventually paid $137.5M for 6 years, a lot of money and a lot of years to tie up in a pitcher. Pitchers, much more than hitters tend to not live up to their big and longterm contracts (some notables, Mike Hampton, Zito, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and even the Mets own Pedro Martinex who did well his first year and not so well since). With that being said, usually the greats do live up to the signings, such as Maddox with the Braves and to a large extent Mussina with the Yanks). With the hope of Andy Pettitte and his 1 year deal and figuring Andy would maybe get 2 less wins than Johan, it wasn't worth the gamble.
  • The Yanks had a good core of young pitchers (at least we thought) in Wang, Joba, Hughes and Kennedy, with Pettitte to round out the core (notice Mussina and his current 19 wins and counting were an afterthought?).
Well, we now know Hughes has spent most of the season on the DL and when healthy has been less than impressive (although he has shown some return to his promise form recently). Kennedy was putrid at the Major League level, Joba was brilliant but also fell to injury and Wang missed most of the year with an injury.
Santana? All he's done is pitch 16 STRAIGHT GAMES WITHOUT A LOSS in a pennant race. He leads the NL with a 2.64 ERA. He broke a 3 games losing streak for the reeling Mets last night in convincing fashion going 8 strong ininng and a career high 125 pitches. That's what an ace is. He gives his team a chance to win every game he goes. While Brandon Webb has 6 more w's and Todd Lincecum has equal if not better overall stats, you can make a very good case for Santana to be this years NL CY Young winner.
Where this eventually will lead is a postseason birth for the Mets, an eyebrow raising extension for Omar Minaya and a free agent spending spree on pitchers not in Santana's class for the Yankees (Sabathia and Burnett are the two most mentioned names).

The lesson: when you can lock up the best pitcher in baseball in his prime, a left hander no less, for 3 propects you must do it. Now, if the rumors were true and the Yanks would have had to have given up Hughes, Wang or Cano and Melky, plus Tabata, that would have been too much for the Yanks to pull the trigger. Either way, if Santana would have been in the Bronx this season, the Yanks would be getting ready for the White Sox and the Mets would have had their second straight most disappointing September and offseason. Amazing how one great pitcher reverses that.


Anonymous said...

I like the Yankee future.

Wang Joba Sabathia is a solid young core of pitchers.

I still think some of the young guns will develop. I don't know why the Yankees did not go after Tori Hunter. I liked that guy. I think Melky is better then what he showed. A .275 - .285 hitter.

The Yanks would not go to far in the playoffs w/o Wang & Joba anyway. Santana deal needs to be looked at over 6 years not 1. Obviously in year 1 the pendulum swings towards Santana.

ThePeoplesChamp said...

I like the Yankees future as well, although not as much as I did a year ago.
I'm going to cover this in a separate piece.
To answer you directly, yes this is only year 1 out of 6, but right now every piece the Yanks refused to trade have been huge disappointments (Hughes, Kennedy, Tabata, Melky and Cano). Santana has exceeded the expectations if that were possible and he'd have 21-22 wins right now with a decent bullpen. He's the single biggest reason the Mets still have any chance.
Missing the postseason will also cost the Yankees somewhere around $20M give or take a few bucks.