"I learned one thing -- I don't show my emotions. But believe me, when I'm there, I let everybody know I'm there by throwing the ball. Not by making faces." -Johan SantanaAnd by telling Kevin Youkilis to get his ass to first base.
Santana took all of the intangible arguments about grit that everyone has been grasping at yet coming up with nothing but air, and helped us put it in a capsule ... allowing you, me, the baseball viewing public, and even Steve Phillips, to reach out and grab it. To touch it, taste it, and hang it on the wall like a Fathead.
Johan went up against the player who has been brought up a lot lately as a shining example of grit and intangibles, Kevin Youkilis. He hit Youk's elbow (which was pretty much directly over the plate at that point), and then barked at him as he took his time getting to first base and making a show about it (maybe Johan was just telling him to cowboy up.) Santana, after giving us a just a hint of a crazy look in his eye, then used his anger in the best way he knows how: striking out Jason Bay to end the inning.
And it was then that I think we all figured it out. Not only do we wish that Santana could pitch every day, but we wish that his presence and leadership and that crazy look could be on display more than once every fifth day. We wish that attitude in our everyday stars. It's not necessary all the time, but at certain points when it's needed, you wish it could creep out of David Wright, Carlos Beltran, or Jose Reyes. And there's nothing wrong with that ... there's just something wrong with wanting them traded for the sole reason that they don't have it.
Keith put it eloquently during the next inning (only slightly more eloquently than Dennis Eckersley described the action on NESN): You wish Santana was an everyday player. My first thought was "boy that's so true." My second thought was "put him at shortstop, Ramon Martinez is awful." Immediately after that, Martinez threw the ball into right field putting runners on first and third. On this, what I consider to be somewhat of a family blog, I will not type my third thought.
But again, Johan found another notch (he's got more notches than Wilt Chamberlain had on his headboard ... oh, sorry ... family blog) and got out of that jam too. Considering the opponent, and considering the state of the Mets coming into this game, tonight's win against the Red Sox was done on the back of Santana's best start of the season. Yes, there was some important contribution from the bottom of a lineup which, when it was released, had me wondering whether Santana would be the first pitcher in the history of the major leagues to pitch a perfect game and lose. But Santana didn't have to be perfect. In many ways, he was better than that.
Now if he could only play the field. Anywhere. Center for Carlos Beltran and his sore knee ... Right for Ryan Church and his sore hamstring ... Shortstop for Martinez and his sore glove ... it doesn't matter at this point.