Monday, February 14, 2005

A Winning Message

I have never been big on Valentines Day. It always seems like my relationships come and go around it leaving me without any obligations. I’m not much of a romantic and I wouldn’t know the difference between an expensive wine and the $2 berry stuff. This year the holiday has taken on a different meaning. A day the Twins lock up Johan Santana for 4 years is better than any box of chocolates, pretty flowers or even a hot date.

It is not about the money or even the great pitcher in the American League last season. This deal is about the Twins showing a commitment to winning in the years to come. Many people point to Brad Radke’s deal as the turning point turning this team from a perennial loser into 3-time division champs. This deal is what is going to take this team from playoff pretender to contender.

Not signing Santana would have meant any bump in the road could have been the end. The distraction of contract negotiations would have carried into this season and the next, leaving the team one long losing streak away from rampant trade speculation and thoughts of rebuilding. Starting this summer teams would be calling everyday, at first just to gauge Santana’s availability. Next winter he would have been a hotter commodity than both Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder this past off-season.

The Twins did take a risk in signing Santana to a multi-year deal. Everyone remembers what happened with Joe Mays. Santana is a special talent who has never had a serious injury. His career numbers have improved every year and he is entering the prime of his career. In two years Santana could have easily become the highest paid pitcher in history. If Pedro Martinez, past his prime, is worth $13 million and Kevin Brown is making 17, some team would certainly be willing to break the bank for Cytana.

The way Santana pitched last year it is unimaginable that he would grow comfortable now that he is locked up. He is a fierce competitor that will continue to toy with hitters while giving the Twins a great chance to win every 5th day. There are only a handful of pitchers of his caliber in baseball and for the Twins to have one goes a long way towards fulfilling their championship aspirations.

Valentines has always been a prelude to spring training. Its ties to baseball appear to be hard to see but this year “Be Mine” had a special meaning.

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