I feel the need to amend. I'd say clarify instead, but to do something like that means to omit a wrong.
And man was I wrong.
Not too long ago - January 30, 2008, to be precise - I wrote a little essay entitled, "2008 Phillies: Playing for 2nd place" and, man, was I ever off on that one.
The basic premise of the story was that Johan Santana was so good that the Mets would not be able to help themselves in winning the NL East. To be sure, Santana is good. Actually, he's very good and probably better than any pitcher the Phillies have. In fact, Santana might very well win 20 games for the Mets this season and in his 11 starts so far, the Mets are 8-3.
In that regard the Santana deal is working out very well for the Mets.
The trouble is that while the Mets have a .727 winning percentage in games started by Santana, they are 18-24 in games started by pitchers not named Johan Santana. Those aren't exactly Steve Carlton in '72 numbers, but who would have guessed that the Mets would have been this bad?
The idea was that Santana would lift up the entire ballclub rather than be the guy doing all the heavy lifting.
So here we are on the last day of May on the cusp of June with July and the All-Star Break not too far away. Behind that, the dog days lurk, but by then will the Mets (or Mutts) have rolled over on their backs to reveal their soft, pink rounded bellies.
That certainly seems where we're headed.
Really, come on... who would have guessed that there would have been such a big carry-over from the most epic collapse in baseball history? Apparently, not me.
So that's the reason for the amendment. Because the Mets, well... stink, and because the Braves might not have all of the pitching or health needed, and because the Marlins aren't quite ready yet, the NL East in 2008 is the Phillies' to lose.
Actually, make that to win.
Yes, it's all rainbows and unicorns here with the Phillies these days. After all, they score runs like a beer league softball team and pitch well enough not to mess up anything. No, that last part isn't the most inspiring type of pitching staff to have, but whatever.
Unless something really wacky occurs, don't expect to see the Phillies give up first place any time this year.
It could go down that Johan Santana was involved in two of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. In addition to landing with the Mets from the Twins for a pile of potential prospects, the two-time Cy Young Award winner was once traded from the Marlins for a dude named Jared Camp.
That was after the Marlins plucked him away from the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft.
So yeah, there are a lot of smart baseball folks that missed the boat on Johan Santana. The Mets, however, are not one of those "smart" teams. Instead of feeling the knee-jerk blather from fans, pundits and Billy Wagner regarding the dearth of wintertime moves, the Mets now have the best pitcher in baseball at the top of the rotation.
We'd get into the analysis of how good Santana is with his statistics and all of that stuff, but what's the point? He's a lefty, he's nasty and he's better than everyone else in the game. Go look up the stats yourself, though I will give one warning before you click on the link - they should make Phillies fans a little sick in the stomach.
Out here in the hinterlands I really don't get the full affect of the Philly sporting press's deconstruction of the Santana deal, but then again who needs it. After all, it's not the balance of power in the NL East that shifted with Santana's arrival in Queens - it's the balance of power in the entire National League that shifted.
Playoff baseball at Shea one last time, anyone?
The big question, of course, is what does it all mean for the Phillies. Well, for starters the Phillies will have to root for an even bigger and more epic collapse from the Mets down the stretch. They also have to root for an injury to Santana, though the guy hasn't missed a start since 2004. In that regard the Phillies might be better served with a voodoo doll.
More concisely, facing Santana a handful of times in 2008 will have a profound effect on the Phillies' lineup. That's especially the case when one notes that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Geoff Jenkins are all lefty swingers.
It is worth noting that switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins hit .321 against lefties in 2007 and Shane Victorino went at a .291 clip. But then again, Santana has been just as tough on righties (.220) as lefties (.223) during his career.
Here's what else Santana-to-the-Mets means for the Phillies:
It means they should go out and make an offer to a pitcher like Kyle Lohse or Livan Hernandez and hope they sign on...
Before the Mets get both of them.