Gardenhire: Johan 'the best'

Gardenhire: Johan 'the best'

NEW YORK -- The start was so good, so instantly legendary, that it sent shockwaves throughout baseball's close-knit fraternity. And so it didn't take long for word of Johan Santana's work to reach Ron Gardenhire, his former manager in Minnesota.

"Believe me, they have the best pitcher in baseball," said Gardenhire, a former Mets infielder for five seasons. "A stud, an athlete, the heart, the whole package."

Santana did nothing to disprove his old manager on Saturday, firing a three-hit shutout to almost single-handedly boost the Mets back into postseason contention. And Gardenhire, in the midst of his own pennant race with the Twins, was not the least bit surprised.

"You're going to get the performance almost every time," he said.

The Mets have received impressive performances from Santana more often than not this season, but his win total hasn't quite aligned with those other statistics. Sixteen wins is impressive, sure, but Santana might have won well over 20 games had his offense been able to provide some better support.

Saturday, despite the outcome, was more evidence to that end. The Mets scratched only two runs off the Marlins -- and had Santana been anything shy of sensational, they might not have won.

Santana was indeed sensational, and even something more. But so many times earlier in the year, he wasn't able to overcome the problems of a sparse offense, prompting concerns that he may not have been worth the Mets' $137.5 million investment. His other stats were more than impressive, but when Santana produced an 8-7 first-half record, not all of his new fans seemed entirely pleased.

"They're nuts," Gardenhire said. "I played there. That's a crazy place. A 2.70 ERA is not good enough? Come on.

"Johan wasn't going to let that affect him -- he was going to go out and do his thing. You can't control what the offense does, or the team. All he controls is his day."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.