June 1st, 2012 will forever be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of the New York Mets. With the count full, Johan Santana went into his windup and delivered his 134th pitch of the night. It turned out to be the most meaningful pitch of his stellar career. Reigning World Series MVP David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals swung and missed at the changeup. The crowd at Citi Field broke into delirious celebration as the jubilant Mets surrounded Santana on the field. Santana had accomplished what no Met before him ever had. He had thrown a no-hitter.
Belief is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing”. Recently, New York Mets fans have been given little reason to believe in their baseball team. The Mets last playoff appearance ended in heartbreak in 2006. It was a called strike three to Carlos Beltran in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series that brought an abrupt halt to New York’s playoff run that year. Since then, late-season collapses and mediocre play have left the Mets faithful disappointed, or worse, apathetic. A massive payroll cut and the departure of longtime fan favorite Jose Reyes this past offseason only worsened the mood. Expectations for the Mets were understandably low headed into the 2012 season.
There have been bright spots over the years for the New York Mets. Of course no one would confuse the Mets with the team from across town, the New York Yankees, who boast of 27 world titles and eleven no-hitters. No, the Mets have a much more modest resume. That resume though, includes some truly amazing moments. Take the “Miracle” Mets of 1969. The ultimate underdog team stunned the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, earning the first title in the history of the young franchise. Key acquisitions over the years have included the likes of Willie Mays, Mike Piazza, and Pedro Martinez. Who could forget the 1986 Mets? On the brink of defeat, they took advantage of the infamous error by Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner on their way to a dramatic World Series victory. They have not won since. In 2000, the Mets claimed the National League Pennant, only to lose four of five to the boys from the Bronx in the World Series. Mets fans have long awaited the team’s next great moment. Little did they know it would come on an otherwise normal first day of June in 2012.
The no-hitter is a remarkable feat. While no-hitters are thrown almost every season in the majors, only a tiny percentage of pitchers ever achieve such dominance in a single game. It remains one of the most highly respected accomplishments in baseball in an era marred by the use of steroids. That being said, it’s astonishing that no one in a Mets uniform tossed a no-no in the first 8,019 games played by the franchise. Over fifty years brought 35 one-hitters, but what a difference there is between one and none. Nolan Ryan and Doc Gooden are among the former Mets pitchers who threw no-hitters during stints with other teams, but not with the Mets. The San Diego Padres were the only other team without a no-hitter. Thanks to Johan Santana, the Padres are now on their own.
Perhaps what makes Santana’s accomplishment so special is its timing. The Mets continue to deal with a rash of injuries that has plagued them over the past few seasons. In fact, Santana was on the mound for just the eleventh time since missing more than a year with a shoulder injury. During rehab, there was even speculation that the left-hander’s career may be over. New York has been overachieving so far this year, but hardly anyone views them as a serious title contender. Mets fans have been patiently waiting and hoping for something to get excited about, something to bring back the belief they once had in their team. Finally, that moment arrived when Santana retired Freese with the final strike. It wasn’t a championship, but it was a turning point. Hope has been restored. Mets fans are believers again.
Andrew Marchand, “Johan Santana Tosses No-Hitter”, ESPNNewYork.com
Ben Shpigel, “Mets Are Called Out; Cards Head to World Series”, The New York Times
“Mets Timeline”, mlb.com
“Yankees Timeline”, mlb.com