Since becoming a Met in 2008, Johan Santana has been the team’s Opening Day starting pitcher when he’s been healthy enough to do so. Despite missing the last month of the 2010 season and all of the 2011 season, Santana was given the ball on Opening Day 2012, albeit with a strict pitch count. Santana pitched five scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves, helping the Mets to a 1-0 Opening Day victory.
But after a strong start, capped by his historic no-hitter against the Cardinals, Santana struggled mightily. After pitching his gem on June 1, Santana made ten starts. In those ten starts, the southpaw had an 8.27 ERA and 1.76 WHIP, with opponents hitting .327 against him. Compare that to his first 11 starts, which culminated with the no-hitter. In those games, Santana was superb (2.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .200 batting average against).
R.A. Dickey, on the other hand, was consistently good all year, and at times was absolutely phenomenal.
The Mets’ resident knuckleballer and first-time All-Star became the team’s first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990. Dickey finished at or near the top of the league in wins (20), ERA (2.73), WHIP (1.05), strikeouts (230), innings pitched (233⅔), games started (33), complete games (5) and shutouts (3). You name it, Dickey led it. Or he came close to leading it. But does that get him an Opening Day start from Terry Collins in 2013?
In the past, teams have given the ball to the pitcher with the reputation, and in some cases, the big-dollar contract. When healthy, Johan Santana has been one of the top pitchers in the game for the better part of the last decade. Meanwhile, Dickey had his first dominant season in 2012, although his previous two seasons in New York were quite good.
Given that bit of information, it would seem as if Johan Santana should get the ball on April 1, with Dickey taking the hill on Opening Day II. However, if the Mets want to truly reward Dickey, who was denied the honor of starting the All-Star Game in 2012, then Terry Collins should write his name on the lineup card on Opening Day.
Let’s face it. Santana gave us one of the biggest thrills in 2012 by pitching the franchise’s first no-hitter. No Mets fan will ever forget where he or she was when David Freese swung through Santana’s 134th pitch that night. But considering how “un-Santana-like” he was after that game and the fact that he was shut down in the middle of August, the Mets shouldn’t take a chance on starting Santana on Opening Day. Santana has already gotten the ball four times on the season’s first day. He’s gotten his respect. Now it’s time for him and team management to respect the team’s new ace and give R.A. Dickey the ball on Opening Day.
Dickey’s story has been a tremendous one to follow. He’s literally been through hell and back to make it to where he is today. Although he is only due to make $5 million in 2013, which is less than 20% of Santana’s $25.5 million salary for the year, Dickey has earned the right to be the Mets’ Opening Day starting pitcher.
By giving the ball to Dickey on April 1, it allows Santana to face opponents’ non-aces, giving the Mets a better opportunity to win, especially if Santana cannot go deep into games or pitches as ineffectively as he did after his no-hitter. Dickey fared extremely well against the best of the best in the National League, defeating the likes of Cliff Lee, Mark Buehrle, Lance Lynn, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright, to name a few. He also defeated Tampa Bay’s David Price by tossing a one-hitter against the Rays, the first of his two consecutive one-hitters in 2012.
When healthy, Johan Santana has been an incredible pitcher, one who is more than deserving of an Opening Day start. But the torch has now been passed.
R.A. Dickey is the new ace of the squad, and deserves to get the ball on Opening Day. Dickey set a franchise record by earning 27.0% of the team’s wins in 2012. Without question, he’ll give the Mets their best chance to start the 2013 campaign with a 1-0 record.
Dickey has climbed over many hills to get to where he is today. He should be allowed to climb one more hill on Opening Day.