[JOHAN SANTANA is standing in front of a river in his native Venezuela. Behind him there is a forest. Beyond the forest, there are mountains.]
My country is lovely. My country is vast.
Its natural beauty is quite unsurpassed.
There is no place of which I am fonder.
Look! Over there! An Andean Condor!
[While JOHAN SANTANA is watching the Andean Condor, an Andean bear, also known as an OSO FRONTINO, ambles out of the forest and stands next to him. Both of them look at the Andean Condor.]
It has such power and strength when it flies
Over the water and across the skies.
It’s truly majestic to gaze upon
Don’t you agree with me on that, Johan?
Oso Frontino, my brother, my friend,
This is too much to comprehend
I did not know that you could speak.
I can, and also can critique.
[OSO FRONTINO vomits up a fish. JOHAN SANTANA steps back quickly so the disgorged fish does not get on his shoes.]
Was that what you call criticism?
I can do without your cynicism.
Things are busy for me these days
I wouldn’t have come but I feel your malaise
From the things that I have seen
You seem to have a haunted mien
If you inquire deep within
Don’t you wish you had stayed a Twin?
You arrived in New York with such expectations
Truly impeccable qualifications
Everyone thought that the Mets’ sad collapse
Would fade away fully or even perhaps
Serve as a source of great motivation
And you were the savior! You were salvation!
Hailed as the messiah by Omar Minaya
You could throw the ball with perfect precision
Reaching the Series is what was envisioned
They thought you’d humble every NL bat
But things just didn’t work out like that.
[JOHAN SANTANA starts to leave. OSO FRONTINO reaches out and rakes a claw across JOHAN SANTANA’s back.]
That hurt! And how!
Certainly you were aware
That a man is no match for a bear
Now before I maul you and drag you away
Tell me what happened on Opening Day.
In April, we opened at home against Philly
They won by a run; I didn’t mind, really
My fastball and sinker were in evidence
But Ryan Howard, he powered one over the fence.
It was just one start. I couldn’t complain
The season is long. No need to feel strain.
You’d think so, right? But April led to May.
You lost in the night. You lost in the day.
By mid-June you were in fourth place, and then
Maine and Perez were sent down to the pen.
Then, one August night, Pedro’s arm just snapped.
Beltran’s knees followed. The team was trapped
In the cellar. It couldn’t be righted
It was flat, it was flaccid
It was bad, it was blighted
Your pride took a tumble and the team took a fall
From the brink of the playoffs to .300 ball.
[The bear looks at JOHAN SANTANA and then vomits up another fish. JOHAN SANTANA wakes up suddenly. It is April. He is in the Mets locker room before the home opener against the Phillies, surrounded by other Mets players.]
Look, the new guy took a nap
Hey new guy, go get your cap
We’re about to take the field
That’s where our fate will be revealed.
My friends, I had the strangest dream
A talking bear told me our team
Will flounder and flail all year long
We might think we’ll improve, but we’re wrong.
[JOHAN SANTANA’s teammates scoff.]
If you’re going to mock us
Go back to Caracas.
As low as the Nationals?
That sounds irrational!
At the end of last season
You should have seen us
Now we are stronger
There is faith between us.
[JOHAN SANTANA explains that the bear’s dream has made him doubt himself rather than the team.]
My fear and doubt
Concerns my own ability
Can play baseball
So temper your hostility.
As well as in Minnesota
I should know
I’m as old as Manny Mota.
What goes down comes up
So said Isaac Newton
Few men have won thirteen straight
Just you, Rick Sutcliffe, and Bert Hooton.
Oh, you have the pitching
Like balls have the stitching
Your fastball, your changeup, your vicious slurve
The teams we play will get what they deserve.
[JOHAN SANTANA considers this counsel.]
You could be correct
About the bear
Is probably suspect.
[JOHAN SANTANA takes the mound against the Phillies. He pitches brilliantly, and the Mets win 3-0 behind a double by David Wright and a solo home run by Jose Reyes. The next night, the Mets win 4-2. They then sweep the Brewers. The tone is set, and the team never flags. Oliver Perez is sterling in his starts. Pedro Martinez is effective in his. Delgado and Beltran remain healthy throughout the season, and Wright flirts with 40-40. But JOHAN SANTANA is the team’s anchor, entering the final week of the season with a 29-4 record, a 2.62 ERA, and 290 strikeouts.]
This feeling’s supreme
I’m walking on air
I feel deceived
By that Andean bear
[Entering the final series against the Marlins, the team is 115-44, on pace to set a new MLB record for wins. Perez drops the first game. Martinez wins the second. JOHAN SANTANA is set to pitch the final game of the season. WILLIE RANDOLPH convenes his team.]
I’m not much
For fiery speeches
I would have been calm
On Normandy’s beaches
All I will say
On this fine fall day
Is that we can do
What’s never been done
We can win more games
Than have ever been won
This moment is long overdue
Let’s start what we’ve begun.
[JOHAN SANTANA walks to the mound. He fires his first pitch in. The Marlins’ leadoff hitter smacks the ball right back at him. JOHAN SANTANA ducks. The ball whistles over his head and strikes JOSE REYES in the face. He crumples to the ground. CARLOS DELGADO and DAVID WRIGHT rush to his aid, collide, and fall in a heap, writhing. LUIS CASTILLO trips over the heap and is critically injured. The baseball rolls into the dugout and explodes, killing PEDRO MARTINEZ. JOHAN SANTANA looks around him. The stadium is populated by bears, They begin to climb out of the stands, chanting.]
Es muy famoso!
[JOHAN SANTANA wakes up. He is at home, in his bed. He gets up. He looks at the front page of the newspaper, expecting to see that it is April. It is September. JOHAN SANTANA opens to the sports page, his hands trembling. The Mets are 39-122 entering the final game of the season. Oliver Perez is scheduled to start the game. JOHAN SANTANA gets back into bed. He tries to sleep but cannot.]