On Monday Morning, I went into a Modell's near Grand Central. There was a line out the door with people waiting to buy Giants Super Bowl items. I was there for a different reason. Much of the merchandise on the main floor had been moved out of the way, replaced by a large, well-staffed table piled high with T-Shirts, Hats and whatnot depicting the Giants logo. Tucked away on a pillar, I found what I was looking for. I approached the register.
"I guess I'm the only one in here not buying Giants stuff, huh?" I said to the cashier.
The cashier looked at the shirt I was buying. "No," she said. "People are buying a lot of these too. Who is Santana? What's the big deal with him?"
"Well," I replied, "The Mets just traded for him. He's a pretty big deal."
Another cashier told her to get with the program. A couple of other Modell's workers chuckled at her. Not a Baseball fan, I suppose, but you'd have to be lost under a rock to avoid the talk now.
My exchange was rung up and I was on my merry way, my requisite pre-season Mets merchandise purchasing done for the moment.
And with today's Press Conference at Shea, and the ensuing media crush, I guess you can say that, at least in New York, the 2008 Baseball season has officially begun. The Giants have had their moment, but it is time for Football to step aside and make way for the true King of New York: Baseball.
Yes, we're still 7 days away from seeing Pitchers and Catchers in Florida, and more than a month from tangible competition, but today sets everything in motion, everything that this season will hold and everything that will play out will draw from today.
Today, the Mets served notice to the rest of the National League that last year's miserable conclusion will not be forgotten, and will not be taken lightly. This team has made major changes to ensure that it will not be repeated.
With their introduction today of Johan Santana, the Mets showcased a player that will hopefully be the solution to so many of the pitching troubles that plagued the team last season. No longer will Pedro Martinez be counted on to perform as the Pedro of old. No longer will El Duque be forced to shoulder the load of a 30+ start season. No longer will the bullpen, still a question mark, have to bridge game after game, inning after inning for repeated stretches. For today, the Mets introduced a pitcher that will not only win games, but solve problems in the process. For each time Santana can take a game into the 7th or 8th inning, he saves valuable innings for guys like Feliciano, Sanchez, Heilman and Schoeneweis for those days when Pedro, Perez or El Duque can only go 5 or 6 innings. The more he can bridge these gaps in games, the greater effect he will have on the entire team. A Great pitcher, a Game-changing pitcher, signed, sealed and delivered to our doorstep this great afternoon. It is truly the signal of the dawn of a new season, and the dawn of a new era for the Mets. An era we hope will lead us to the Promised Land.
That's who Santana is.