Teams are supposed to be built on the theory that the sum of the parts is such that you can survive a bad performance by one individual on any given night. It's a sound theory, but one look at the glum faces of Mets and Rangers fans on Monday will let you know that it isn't a theory practiced by every organization.
Johan Santana pitched for the Mets on Sunday, a situation that's supposed to be the one day of five where the Mets can feel confident that they will come out on the right side of the scoreboard. This Sunday was looking particularly positive on that front. The Nationals were in town and they were throwing Livan Hernandez on the mound, the same Livan Hernandez who wasn't competent enough to hang in the Mets rotation last season even though they had a harder time finding starting pitching than Bret Michaels has finding a soulmate among America's strippers.
Good times, right? For about five minutes. Santana gave up a grand slam to Josh Willingham in the top of the first, the not-so-mighty guns of the Mets offense fell silent against Hernandez's mediocre slop and the Mets lost for the fourth time in their last six games. Now they've got to head off to face a good Colorado team on the road with pitchers other than Santana in charge of their fortunes. That's scary business right now and a brutal reminder that a bad day from Santana hurts a lot more than a bad day from anyone else.
Of course, the Rangers proved Sunday that a good day by your team's shining star isn't always enough. Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head for 65 minutes against the Flyers and did everything humanly possible to extend a Rangers season into the postseason. He got no help from his teammates, though, and gave up a pair of goals in the shootout, a cruel end because it appears as if Henrik failed in the clutch when nothing could be further from the truth.
Good performance or bad, though, both these teams have chosen to put a hefty amount of eggs in one man's basket and you've seen how well that's worked out for them. Santana came out flat in the first and dug a hole that his team was all too happy to climb into until the game was over. He could have pitched as well as Lundqvist protected his net and still lost, but the way he started convinced the Mets they were finished.
Lundqvist is used to being a man alone against the world and the Rangers are used to watching him play splendid hockey and skate off a loser. They're strangely content with that arrangement, just as the Mets were strangely content this offseason with having a stronger chance to win only once in every five games based on the starting pitchers. Sunday offered a pretty strong rebuke to both those approaches.