This Date in Mets History: February 1 - Johan Signs on the Dotted Line

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The Mets agreed to give Johan Santana a lot of money on this date five years ago. Was it worth it?

Johan Santana became a very rich man on this date in 2008. After four long days of negotiation, the ace left-hander signed a six year, $137.5 million contract with the New York Mets, a deal that was, at the time, the largest in team history and the most money ever promised to a starting pitcher. Here's what Eric had to say in the moments before everything became official:

Santana at 35 probably won't be much like Santana at 29 (or Santana at 26, for that matter), but the Mets are going to pony up big time to get the lefty ace and his good stuff for the next three years or so. Assuming good health (always a dangerous assumption), and the current rate of inflation (economic recession notwithstanding), even solid numbers at the downturn of Santana's career won't be a terrible investment.

You can read the whole thing here. How depressing you find it likely depends on what your expectations for the Johan Santana era were. While Johan didn't deliver Cy Young Awards or division titles like he did in Minnesota, he's still been, when healthy, one of the best hurlers ever to toe the rubber for the Mets. Even with all the time lost to injury, Johan is still in the team's top ten when it comes to career WAR for pitchers. With any sort of positive WAR contribution this season, he'll leap frog Rick Reed for eight place and compare favorably to the man in the seven slot David Cone, albeit in about two-thirds as many innings.

Also, he did this. Pretty sure if you'd asked any of us on that night whether Johan had been worth it, those who weren't too giddy to speak would have answered with a resounding yes.

Birthdays

  • Outfielder Rich Becker is 41. The Mets acquired Becker from the Twins prior to the 1998 season, sending Alex Ochoa to Minnesota in return. Neither player acclimated well to his new environment, though of the two, Becker struggled more. The highlight of his year came on April 4 when he went 3-for-5 with a homer and the walk-off single in the Mets' 7-6, 13-inning comeback victory against the Pirates. From that point on, Becker hit just .174/.324/.303 and found himself on the waiver wire by mid-June.
  • Joe Vitko, the ninth tallest Met in team history, is 43. The 6' 8" pitcher appeared in three games during the 1992 season, joining a staff that included fellow behemoths Lee Guetterman (6' 8") and Eric Hillman (6' 10"). That trio stood as the loftiest front court the Mets have employed until this year, when the were surpassed by Jon Rauch (6' 11"), Chris Young (6' 10"), and Mike Pelfrey (a runty 6' 7").

Transactions
The Mets claimed Endy Chavez off waivers from the Detroit Tigers on this date in 2002, the second of three reunions the outfielder has made with his original organization. For the record, the Mets first signed Chavez as an amateur free agent in 1996. Four years later, they lost him to the Royals in the rule 5 draft. Chavez became a Met on paper in March 2001, when Kansas City returned him, but was just a formality as they immediately reacquired him in a trade for minor leaguer Michael Curry. The reunion that happened on this date 11 years ago would prove short-lived, too. Three weeks after the Mets brought home their prodigal outfielder, they'd wind up losing him on waivers to the Montreal Expos.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection
David Letterman celebrates 31 years on the air today, as it was on this date in 1982 that his eponymous late night show first appeared on NBC's airwaves. Though Letterman has changed networks, sets, and rugs multiple times in the last three decades, the Mets have remained a steady punchline for the TV legend. The examples are too numerous to name, so instead enjoy this clip of R.A. Dickey showing Dave how to throw (and catch) a knuckler during his Late Show appearance last year.

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