Johan Santana officially introduced

Santana says he's thrilled to be a member of the New York Mets
February 6, 2008 11:01:51 AM PST
Johan Santana arrived at Shea Stadium on Wednesday, put on his No. 57 New York Mets jersey for the first time and said he anticipated little difficulty in adjusting to pitching before some of baseball's most demanding fans."I think the game is the same," he said. "I'm not going to let that affect what I do on the field."

The Mets introduced Santana with a choreographed news conference, one that began with video highlights and Latin music. After an extended period for still and video cameras, and a brief statement by Santana, the Mets turned up the house lights of Shea Stadium's Diamond Club for questions.

Santana answered many with cliches, speaking how he would take things one day at a time, that success was a team effort and that he will have to make adjustments to pitching in the National League. He understands that Mets' fans demand a World Series championship - or at least an NL pennant - immediately following last year's September collapse.

"Of course, it has to be this year and beyond," he said.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya introduced Santana, who agreed last Friday to a $137.5 million, six-year contract that allowed his trade from the Minnesota Twins to be finalized the following day. Minaya pronounced it was the start of "a great era of Mets baseball."

"Welcome to the city of baseball," Minaya said.

Manager Willie Randolph, having acquired an ace for his staff, looked on from his front-row seat.

"You should be happy, Willie," Minaya said.

Ten days before the first spring training workout for pitchers and catchers in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Santana's teammates were excited.

"Somewhat it allows us to officially, kind of completely shut the book on '07," Mets third baseman David Wright said Tuesday. "It kind of takes away from, I guess, kind of the aura of what happened at the end of last year. We can kind of put that behind us. And when your superstars have a fresh attitude, looking ahead rather than behind, I think that that rubs off on the rest of the team."

Santana, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner, was just 15-13 last year and lost seven of his last 11 decisions as his ERA rose from 2.60 to 3.33 ERA, his highest since 2001. He allowed a career-high 33 homers - the most in the AL.

"I don't know, man. It's part of the game. You're going to have slumps, I guess," he said. "I don't really have an answer for it."

New York was not the only team to add an ace this offseason.

The NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Dan Haren from Oakland, giving them a nasty 1-2 punch of right-handers in their prime. Haren and Brandon Webb, the 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner, should win enough games all by themselves to at least make the young Diamondbacks contenders again.

Just imagine if 44-year-old Randy Johnson and his creaky back are healthy, too.

There's Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux in San Diego, plus All-Star closer Trevor Hoffman. Philadelphia boasts blossoming lefty Cole Hamels, and the Chicago Cubs have two bulldogs in Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly.

Atlanta's projected rotation includes four former 20-game winners: John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton - if he can finally stay off the disabled list.

And that doesn't even include the Colorado Rockies.

By the way, they surged all the way to the World Series last season behind 17-game winner Jeff Francis and several electric young arms that only figure to get better.

Even with Santana, the Mets don't have a monopoly on pitching in the National League.

"I've said it all along, the team to beat in my eyes is the team that won last year," Wright said at the 28th annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner. "Philadelphia took care of us last year, they took care of business within the division and I think that going into this year we have to fight to take control again of the National League East.

"It's not about making bold predictions. It's not about verbally saying who's the team to beat. It's about going out there and showing it," he added. "Philadelphia did both last year. They made the predictions and they went out and backed it up."