Johan Santana doesn’t buy into that whole spring training doesn’t mean anything mantra, and you won’t see him shrug off a loss with the typical, “It’s only April” or “we have plenty of season left.”
One of the things that always concerned me during the Willie Randolph era, was how unaffected some of the players seemed after a loss. That is except for David Wright, Paul LoDuca and Billy Wagner who seemed to take all of them to heart. That’s not to say that all of the players took a nonchalant attitude toward wins and losses because I’m certain that guys like Beltran, Reyes and many of the others felt just as bad but were not as expressive about it.
I recall how last season, Carlos Delgado said that they were bored during a losing streak in June and that everyone knows that the Mets will be there in the end. Of course they weren’t there at the end, and Willie Randolph didn’t last long enough to see the disappointing finish.
So here comes Johan Santana, with all of his greatness and all of his swagger that carried over from his final start at Shea last season. He comes to camp and everyone immediately can tell that this Johan Santana is going to be more vocal and take on more of a leadership role. Great I thought, but I’ve seen and heard all of that before with different players and in different spring camps.
Somehow though, Santana strikes me as one who can really pull it off. We already knew he was a warrior, but warriors are necessarily leaders as Mike Piazza proved. But Santana is different, he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
I especially love what Santana had to say today while speaking to reporters.
“I was part of what happened to us last year, and definitely there are a lot of guys committed to changing that around. I see everybody being more relaxed, having fun, but at the same time very serious. We can’t wait for the season to start and change everything around.”
“Every game for me is important, especially with what happened last year,” he said. “We could be out by just one game, so you cannot feel sorry in September for not winning a game in April or not giving the best you have in April. That’s why every game for us, and that’s the way I approach this game, every game is important.”
Before one can fix a problem, they first have to identify it and understand that a problem exists. Johan Santana knows this and that’s why I believe his presence on this team means more than just being an ace. He senses a void and isn’t afraid to fill that void. I believe that others have already followed suit and have fallen into line.
Santana is now the team’s unofficial leader. He already had everyones respect, and now he has their ears.