Wednesday, December 26, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 2009

Part 48 of our 50-year Ace...
What is it: 2009 Topps #310, Johan Santana

What makes it interesting: The design is a marked improvement of the kiddie crap that Topps rolled out in '07 and '08. It's not a vast improvement, but for a contemporary baseball card design, I suppose it's OK. But this set is also full of errors and variations, which left me with the impression that Topps sort of half-assed this one.

Johan Santana arrived with the Mets as a savior. He'll leave an Immortal.

In between, though the Mets as a team never achieved the greatness we'd hoped, Santana continually took the mound, often hurting, often in hopeless situations and pitched his heart out each and every time.

From the first time he took the mound in Florida on Opening Day of 2008, we knew we had something special with Johan. His resume, which featured a pair of Cy Young Awards with the Minnesota Twins, was impressive, which is why the Mets gave up a boatload of prospects and a boatload of money in order to get him. Though it took him a few games to hit his stride, once he got going, Johan proved himself worth every penny. Santana didn't lose a game after July 1st that season, going 9-0 and missing out on several other wins because the bullpen kept blowing his leads. So, he started pitching deeper into games. In that 2008 season, Santana was not just the Mets Ace, he was a horse. He led the league in Games Started, Innings Pitched and ERA, throwing 3 complete games and 2 shutouts, the latter of which came on the second to last day of the season, on three days' rest and a torn meniscus, in a game where he demanded the ball. That game right there showed everyone what kind of person Santana was. He put it all on the line in order to help the team.

Though injuries marred every other season he's been with the Mets, including wiping out his entire 2011 season, Santana  still provided several other moments of glory, including wins on Opening Day in 2009 and 2010, a big victory over the Yankees on a Sunday Night in 2010, and the night he not only shut out the Cincinnati Reds, but he also hit his first, and to this point only Major League Home Run.

But no game will ever stand out for him, for the Mets or for their fans more than the game he pitched on the night of June 1, 2012. That night, Johan Santana did the one thing no Mets pitcher could do for, to that point, 8,019 games in the 50 year History of the Mets. Only a handful of starts removed from major shoulder surgery that had cost him all of the 2011 season, Johan Santana went out and threw the first No Hitter in Mets History against the St. Louis Cardinals. He did it on a stamina-testing 134 pitches, something his manager would agonize over, but there was no way Santana was ever giving up the ball that night. Not when he worked through inning after inning without allowing a hit. Not with history so close. It was the same kind of determination we saw out of him on that final Saturday at Shea Stadium. Nothing was getting Johan Santana to give up the ball until he finished the job he started. And he did, with a flourish, striking out David Freese and pumping his fist before his teammates and a bizarre interloper in a Gary Carter jersey stormed him at the mound.

There couldn't possibly have been a better pitcher or a better person to hold the honor.

Card back:

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