Tag: Johan Santana

Johan Santana Suspends Comeback Bid for 2015 Season

Johan Santana‘s latest bid for a Major League Baseball return has hit a snag that will keep the left-hander off the mound in 2015. 

According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, Santana needs time to recover from a toe problem before he can pitch again:

Two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana has suspended his bid to pitch in the majors and will try again in 2016, a source told ESPN.com.

Santana has been dealing with a toe infection and became resigned that he would not have sufficient time to ramp up this season to pitch in the majors once that issue is resolved.

Santana hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2012 with the New York Mets, posting a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts.

The former All-Star has battled numerous injuries over the last three years as he tries to pitch for an MLB team again. He missed the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury but signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014. 

In June 2014, Santana tore his left Achilles tendon and missed the rest of the year. He caught on this year pitching in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system but was once again forced to step away from the mound with an injury. 

It’s hard to criticize Santana for continuing to do what he wants, but at some point, Father Time and injuries are too tough to overcome. He’s 36 years old now, and his last season with at least 120 innings pitched was in 2010. He is fighting an uphill battle. 

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MLB Rumors: Latest on James Shields, Yoan Moncada and More

The calendar has changed over to 2015, yet there are still several noticeable names remaining in the MLB free-agent pool.

High-profile pitchers and potentially impactful position players can be had for the right price, and it’s shocking to see names like Max Scherzer and James Shields generating relatively little interest. Jon Lester’s signing should have accelerated the free-agent pitching market, but only the mid- and low-tier arms got scooped up.

In terms of bats, the most intriguing option left is probably Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. He’s just 19 years old and has an extraordinarily high ceiling. He’ll command a large contract, one certainly out of the ballpark for most teams.

The latest MLB rumors have much to do with Shields and Moncada, as well as a big-name pitcher who hasn’t done much in the bigs over the past several years. Read on to find out more.


James Shields

Shields is the No. 2 pitcher available behind Scherzer, but there should be more of a market for a guy capable of delivering over 200 innings and a sub-4.00 ERA. There’s at least one team with an interest in his right arm, reports Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

The Miami Marlins have acquired Mat Latos, Dan Haren and David Phelps this offseason, but Rosenthal notes that there are legitimate reasons for their interest:

Miami’s rotation has the potential to be lethal with Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez and Latos headlining the rotation when all three are healthy together, but adding Shields into the mix would make this one of the deepest rotations in baseball.

Throw in the fact that offensive upgrades Martin Prado, Dee Gordon and Mike Morse will drastically change the production of the lineup, and the Marlins are poised to compete in the National League East—even without Shields.

There’s a significant financial commitment to be made, though, as there’s a strong chance the 33-year-old will earn a five-year contract in the $100 million range.

Demands like these are likely why interest hasn’t picked up, as not many teams have the resources or philosophy to give that type of money to someone Shields’ age.

One would have to think he’ll sign soon. Spring training begins in mid- to late February, and a player of his caliber likely won’t remain on the sidelines while his colleagues are beginning serious preseason workouts.


Yoan Moncada

Moncada likely won’t make an impact in the bigs right away considering his young age, but that will not stop big spenders from throwing money his way. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that one notoriously lavish organization will be in the running:

The Los Angeles Dodgers won’t be alone in their pursuit. Baseball America‘s Ben Badler expects eight teams to join them in the hunt. Interesting options include the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, all of which have already gone over the international spending bonus pool. They’re already at max penalty, so signing another player to a large deal won’t result in a more severe consequence.

For teams that have yet to incur penalties, Moncada might be out of their price range. That said, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke to a scouting director who said that it’s a small price to pay for his absurd talents: “He’s worth going way over your international spending pool, in my opinion. This game is about talent and Moncada is the kind of talent worth the investment.”

A potential five-tool talent, Moncada has good speed, power and contact skills. He has plus arm strength and decent technique in the outfield. It’s only a matter of time before he takes the minors by storm and begins his climb to the majors.

Los Angeles seems like a strange fit given its wealth of outfielders. The Red Sox are in a similar situation. This could become a rare bidding war between the Yankees and Rays, both of which will have holes in the outfield in two years or so—about when Moncada should be ready.

Of course, anything can happen when bidding on international studs. Take Yoan Lopez, for example. Not many expected him to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, yet the organization loved him enough to make a competitive offer.

Anything can happen with Moncada, but rest assured that he’ll be paid handsomely.


Johan Santana

Remember Johan Santana? He has fallen off the face of the baseball earth; he last pitched for the New York Mets in 2012.

Injuries have prevented him from reaching the majors since that point, yet he is still working on a comeback after suffering an Achilles injury with the Baltimore Orioles last season.

The two-time Cy Young winner is probably nothing more than a lefty reliever at this point in his career, but that hasn’t stopped the Yankees from showing interest, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post: “Scouts who saw him said he was relying more on guile than power. Nevertheless, the Yankees remain intrigued by the possibility of bringing in Santana and will ‘keep an eye on him,’ according to a source.”

During Santana’s last stint with the Mets, low velocity resulted in ineffectiveness. He made 21 starts but produced a 4.85 ERA (4.09 FIP) and a WHIP of 1.333—a career high for a season in which he logged at least 100 innings.

He’s an ideal buy-low candidate, however. Santana didn’t forget how to pitch, even if his velocity isn’t what it used to be. The worst-case scenario is that he either gets injured or performs poorly in the minors and gets released. The best-case scenario is that he joins a bullpen and pitches well, perhaps making a spot start here or there.

The Yankees have left-handed depth in Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, so Santana would strictly provide depth if signed.


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Johan Santana to Orioles: Latest Details, Reaction and Analysis

Johan Santana is no longer one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but the Baltimore Orioles hope that there is something left in his magical left arm.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the O’s agreed to a one-year deal with the two-time Cy Young Award winner:

Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun provided further details on the deal:

Heyman is also reporting that the contract involves incentives, which isn’t uncommon for a player with Santana’s injury history:

Signing the 34-year-old lefty is the latest in a series of high-profile moves that Baltimore has made recently, per Heyman:

Roch Kobatko of MASN reports the time frame for Johan to contribute for the Orioles:

Duquette says “reasonable time frame” for Santana helping Orioles is June 1

Joel Sherman of The New York Post added more details of the contract:

Johan Santana’s minor lge deal with #Orioles: $3M base in MLB, $5.05M available in bonuses. 5/30 opt-out date

Santana tweeted about joining Baltimore later on Tuesday:

I’d like to thank the Baltimore Orioles for giving me the opportunity to comeback to the game I love

I’ll do my best to comeback as quick as I can to help the team and get to know the fans base!!!

I’m excited about meeting my new teammates and coaches 

The Orioles weren’t particularly active early in the free-agency period this offseason, but they inked both outfielder Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in February. While Santana is the biggest name among them, he is also the biggest wild card.     

Talk regarding the Santana signing picked up steam in recent days, especially after this Instagram photo of Santana and Orioles pitcher and fellow Venezuelan lefty Eduardo Rodriguez hit the Internet:


With a career record of 139-78 along with a 3.20 ERA in 12 seasons with the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets, Santana is one of Major League Baseball’s most accomplished pitchers of the past decade.

According to Encina, he’ll get to wear his No. 57 in Baltimore as well:

The four-time All-Star has a lot to prove, though, after missing two of the past three seasons due to injury.

Santana sat out the entire 2011 season after tearing the anterior capsule in his left shoulder. He returned in 2012 and threw the first no-hitter in Mets history, but he suffered the same ailment in the spring of 2013 and sat out all of last season as well.

While the concerns regarding Santana’s health are obvious, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis seemed excited about the possibility of the team signing Santana before it came to fruition, per Encina:

There’s no doubt that in the past he was one of the best. Hopefully, he can regain his form and be a help for us. There are some things you just can’t coach and experience is one of those things and he definitely brings that to the table.

Velocity is a big question mark for Santana in the wake of his throwing session on Feb. 25. According to George A. King III of the New York Post, Santana threw in front of seven teams, and his fastball topped out at just 81 mph.

Despite that, Santana was encouraged and excited about the progress he made as evidenced by a tweet following the session:

Although Santana has never been known for having a blazing fastball, velocity is important for any pitcher. Santana’s best pitch is his devastating changeup, but it may not have as much of an impact if his fastball remains around 80 mph moving forward.

Regardless of that, this is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Orioles. A fairly reasonable financial commitment is being made, and the one-year term is ideal from Baltimore’s perspective.

It isn’t easy to come across quality lefties, and Santana can certainly be one if he finds his form.

Santana’s role has yet to be determined, but Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com suggested that he could be used as a reliever. Pitching out of the bullpen is nothing new for Santana, which he did frequently in the first four seasons of his career, and it may prove to be the best option in terms of preserving his health.     

This signing likely won’t decide the AL East like it might have had it happened five years ago, but the Orioles are essentially playing with house money, and Santana has the ability to provide amazing value.


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Is Johan Santana Capable of Being Late-Season Baltimore Orioles X-Factor?

It’s been an interesting offseason for the Baltimore Orioles, as they made mostly under-the-radar moves up until the past couple weeks, when they added a pair of the top remaining free agents on the market in slugger Nelson Cruz and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

That late-offseason push continued on Tuesday, as they signed reclamation project Johan Santana to a minor league contract, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

It’s the definition of a low-risk, high-reward move for a team that could certainly use all the pitching help it can get. Heyman put it perfectly in a subsequent article on the subject: “The signing of Santana is tantamount to spending a few bucks on a Powerball ticket. In the grand scheme of things, there really isn’t much risk, but the incredibly unlikely reward is big.”

Turning 35 years old this month, whether Santana has anything left in the tank at this point is a legitimate question, as he missed the entire 2013 season recovering from shoulder surgery following a re-tear of his anterior capsule. The original injury came down the stretch in 2010 and wound up costing him the entire 2011 season as he recovered.

Still, it looked like the two-time Cy Young Award winner had returned to form to kick off the 2012 season. He earned the Opening Day start for the Mets, and went 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA through his first 11 starts.

That solid 11-start streak was capped by a four-hit shutout of the San Diego Padres and a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. In hindsight, the no-hitter looks to have done more harm than good, though, as he was not the same pitcher after the 134-pitch outing.

He went on to go 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA over his final 10 starts before shutting it down with lower back problems in August. The back problems continued to plague him into spring training last year, before he eventually re-tore his anterior capsule and was lost for the season.

The question of whether he can make an impact in 2014 is as much about his health as it is about where his stuff is at following those two surgeries.

In his prime, Santana had a devastating fastball/changeup/slider combination, and from 2004-08 he went 86-39 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and averaged 238 strikeouts and 229 innings per season.

Even before the shoulder injuries set in, his stuff was starting to show signs of decline back in 2009 as he dealt with some elbow issues. Upon returning in 2012, his results were promising, but his stuff was clearly a tick below what it used to be, as his velocity was down across the board.

He threw for seven different teams a week ago, and his fastball was reportedly only sitting in the 77-78 mph range and topping out at 81, according to a report from George A. King III of the New York Post.

Granted he’s still recovering at this point and still has to build up some arm strength, but we’re talking about a significant drop in velocity to the point that one has to wonder if he’ll be able to get big league hitters out.

He likely won’t be a factor until the second half of the season, if at all, but is there another way the Orioles could utilize Santana?

The team’s current rotation figures to be Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, with Suk-min Yoon, Zach Britton and top prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in the mix as well.

Counting on Santana to be a starter at this point may be asking a little much, but he could be a useful pitcher out of the bullpen.

As things stand right now, Brian Matusz is the only left-handed reliever projected to make the Opening Day roster, according to MLBDepthCharts. Other names may emerge, but there is a clear need for southpaw help out of the pen.

With that in mind, the best-case scenario for Santana may be an Oliver Perez-like career renaissance as a reliever.

Perez battled injuries and posted a 6.81 ERA as a starter in 2009 and 2010 combined, before spending the 2011 season pitching at the Double-A level in the Washington Nationals organization.

He popped back up as a reliever for the Seattle Mariners in 2012, though, and over the past two seasons he’s posted a 3.16 ERA over 94 appearances with an impressive 10.7 K/9 mark.

If Santana can get his fastball velocity back into the mid-80s consistently, and his changeup/slider combination can be even half of what it once was, there is potential there for him to be a useful reliever with some upside.

Expecting him to bolster the rotation in the second half of the season may be asking too much, though.

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Under the Knife: Latest MLB Injury Updates

I made it to Opening Day.

This year, Opening Day meant more than most years, since I was the one that almost went on the DL. Instead, I stood on the field Monday in Milwaukee, looking at the steel roof above the green grass and loving that it was once again baseball season. It was an amazing feeling, talking with so many media friends and having everyone from Doug Melvin to Ryan Braun pausing to ask how I was feeling. 

Of course, there’s a lot of injuries already around the league, which should be no surprise. Almost 20 percent of injuries occur in the spring. Even once Opening Day has come and gone, injuries tend to be a bit front-loaded. The reasons are obvious and inscrutable all at once, but the pattern has held for the decade we have data on and anecdotally for much longer.

It’s a long season, but for too many, the season is already over. Opening Day isn’t a new beginning, but the starting line that is sometimes not reached. Teams will begin to make do, to patch holes and to find ways to deal with the injuries that occur. At some point, they’ll do something about it, but until then, the doctors and athletic trainers will just put in the long hours they have trying to make a difference.

Powered by the spirit of Opening Day, on to the injuries: 

Begin Slideshow

Retelling Johan Santana’s MLB Journey from Untouchable to Unfixable

Have we seen the last of Johan Santana?

It looks that way. The New York Mets revealed on Thursday that their star lefty has suffered a major shoulder injury for the second time in three years. The former ace will undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his throwing arm on Tuesday, thus ending his season before it even got started.

This surely signifies a disappointing conclusion to Santana’s career with the Mets. The 34-year-old’s contract only runs through 2013, and it’s hard to imagine the club picking up his 2014 option.

Beyond that, one doesn’t need to be Inspector Sherlock Gadget to deduce that there’s a strong likelihood Santana has thrown his last major league pitch. Coming back from his first shoulder surgery proved to be difficult enough. Coming back from this second one may prove impossible.

If so, we’re looking at the end of a remarkable career. If you’ll follow me this way to the way-back machine, we can go back and take a look at it together.


1995-2003: The Rise to Relevancy

Once upon a time, Santana was a talented young outfielder.

Yup. That’s the story according to the Johan Santana Foundation. He didn’t take to pitching until after he attended a baseball academy in Guacara, Venezuela, in 1995—the year he was signed by the Houston Astros as an amateur free agent.

Santana made his minor league debut in 1997, compiling a 7.36 ERA in 10 appearances (six starts) between rookie ball and Low-A. His numbers improved only marginally the next season, and in 1999, Santana found himself in the Florida Marlins organization by way of the Rule 5 draft. He was subsequently dealt to the Minnesota Twins.

Though he had only posted a 4.66 ERA in Single-A ball in 1999, Santana made his major league debut with the Twins in 2000. He didn’t make much of an impression, posting a 6.49 ERA in 30 appearances, five of which were starts. He then spent much of the 2001 season battling an elbow injury.

But every heroic story has a turning point: King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, Peter Parker getting bit by the spider, what have you. In the heroic tale of Johan Santana, the turning point happened in 2002 when he came upon a magic weapon: his changeup.

Santana spent a portion of the 2002 season at Triple-A, where he compiled a 3.14 ERA over 11 appearances, including nine starts. That’s not bad for a guy with mediocre career minor league and major league numbers, and Santana had his changeup to thank for the turnaround.

Jack Curry told the story for The New York Times in 2008:

Santana fiddled with a changeup before 2002, but that was when the pitch blossomed. After Minnesota sent Santana to Class AAA Edmonton to convert him from a reliever to a starter, Bobby Cuellar, the pitching coach there, preached about the significance of trusting his changeup in any situation.

During bullpen sessions, Cuellar would tell Santana to imagine the count was 2-0 or 3-0 and would instruct him to throw a changeup. During games, Cuellar sometimes had Santana toss seven straight changeups. Although Santana said it took months to be that bold, Cuellar said he saw “a little glow in Johan’s eye” as the pitch developed. 

Back up in the major leagues, Santana put together a 2.99 ERA with an 11.4 K/9 in 27 appearances. Fourteen of those were starts, and they saw Santana go 7-4 with a 3.24 ERA. Though he finished the season in the bullpen, the numbers made it clear enough that he had turned a corner.

Santana was in the Twins’ bullpen for the start of the 2003 season, but he found his way into their starting rotation by the time the stretch run rolled around. After a bumpy start, he proceeded to post a 2.51 ERA in his final 11 starts, with 70 strikeouts in 68 innings to boot. 

The Twins felt confident enough in Santana’s abilities to start him in Game 1 of their American League Division Series matchup against the New York Yankees. The following spring, they felt confident enough in him to make him their No. 2 starter behind veteran right-hander Brad Radke.

The rest, as they say, is a cool story, bro.


2004-2007: The Rise to Superstardom

We all remember the 2004 season. It was Santana’s very own Sgt. Pepper’s—his 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What we might not all remember is that Santana’s 2004 campaign actually got off to a pretty rocky start. Through his first 12 outings, he had an ERA of 5.50 and had given up 12 homers in 68.2 innings. 

After a loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on June 3, Santana was just 2-4, and the Twins were a modest 28-25.

“I’m just trying to go out there and do the best I can,” said Santana, via the AP. “I’m not frustrated. … We’re going through a tough time. This game is very tricky.”

Indeed, the tables can and will turn in baseball. The rest of Santana’s 2004 season is the proof.

In his last seven starts before the All-Star break, Santana compiled a 1.64 ERA with 75 strikeouts over 55 innings. With those starts in the books, he looked poised for a strong second half.

Nah. “Strong” is too weak a word here. A better word would be something along the lines of “absurd” or “unreal.”

In 15 starts after the break, Santana posted a 1.21 ERA and struck out 129 in 104.1 innings, walking only 23 and limiting opponents to a .443 OPS. He also continued a stretch he had started before the break in which he allowed no more than four hits and two earned runs in 10 straight starts.

How did he do it?

Improved control helped, but Santana’s primary weapon was his changeup. It had the destructive power of the “Holy Hand Grenade” and the “Falcon Punch” put together.

“He’s the only guy I know who at times has a 20-mile-per-hour differential between his fastball and his changeup,” said Seattle Mariners second baseman Bret Boone to Sports Illustrated. “Usually guys have a 10-mile-per-hour difference.”

Boone wasn’t kidding. According to FanGraphs, Santana’s changeup averaged 78.3 miles per hour, about 15 miles per hour slower than his 92.4 mph heater. He saved 4.37 runs with it for every 100 times he used it—an astonishing rate.

Santana’s changeup-fueled hot stretch in the second half of 2004 put him in rarefied air. He led the American League in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, strikeouts and hits per nine innings pitched. He was ultimately named the AL Cy Young award winner over Curt Schilling.

For an encore in 2005, Santana did it all over again. He posted a 2.87 ERA and led the American League in ERA+, WHIP, strikeouts and hits per nine innings pitched. He brought more of the same in 2006, posting a league-best 2.77 ERA and leading the AL in all the usual categories once again.

In all, the numbers Santana compiled between 2004 and 2006 are epic:

Record Innings ERA ERA+ WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB
55-19 693.1 2.75 166 0.96 9.7 1.9 5.12

Among pitchers who logged at least 600 innings between 2004 and 2006, Santana led in ERA, ERA+, strikeouts, K/BB ratio and, whether you ask Baseball-Reference.com or FanGraphs, WAR.

A three-year period is a petty sample size in the grand scheme of baseball history, but it’s not all that often that there’s one guy who’s the unquestioned ace of baseball. That’s what Santana was between 2004 and 2006. The Twins had themselves the ace of all aces.

They also had themselves the asset of all assets.


2007-2008: A Return to Earth and Howling Trade Winds

The 2006 season was a good one for both Santana and the Twins. Santana won his second Cy Young, Justin Morneau won the AL MVP, and the Twins won 96 games—their highest win total since their World Series season in 1991.

Santana picked up right where he left off in ’07, racking up a 2.60 ERA and striking out 133 in 128 innings through his first 19 starts. The Twins, though, struggled to keep pace in the AL Central. By the time the trade deadline rolled around, they were in third place.

That’s when they made the fateful decision to trade second baseman Luis Castillo to the Mets for a pair of prospects.

“No, we’re not giving up at all,” said Twins general manager Terry Ryan, via the AP. “We’re six-and-a-half games back, and we’re better than we were last week. If we didn’t think we could absorb this, we certainly wouldn’t have done it.”

Santana saw things differently. He didn’t like the club’s activity around the trade deadline, and he didn’t bother to keep quiet about it.

“I’m not surprised. That’s exactly how they are. That’s why we’re never going to go beyond where we’ve gone,” said Santana to Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune.

He went on: “It’s not just about hope. In a realistic world, you have to really make it happen and go for it.”

And on: “You always talk about future, future. … But if you only worry about the future, then I guess a lot of us won’t be part of it.”

The significance of these comments? ESPN’s Buster Olney hit the nail on the head:

There are executives in the offices of the Mets and Angels and Mariners and Yankees and Cubs and Tigers and White Sox and Dodgers, and other teams, who will today read that quote and all that it implies — discontent with the Twins’ ability to compete — and think: We have a shot to get that guy.

That set the stage for what promised to be an interesting offseason. Santana had triggered a full no-trade clause by winning the Cy Young in 2006, but it appeared he would be a goner once the season was over.

Santana ended up posting a modest 4.35 ERA over his final 14 starts, but that didn’t hurt his trade value. When the season ended, the trade winds started howling. The Santana trade sweepstakes became one of the stories of the 2007-2008 offseason.

All the Twins had to do was find a club with the right mix of young players to offer. This club also had to appeal to Santana enough to convince him to waive his no-trade clause, and it also had to have enough cash to afford an extension that would keep him from hitting free agency after 2008.

Checklist items such as these have a way of narrowing a list of potential trade partners down to a select few teams, with the biggest, baddest and richest directly at the top. That’s what happened with Santana.

Go back far enough in MLB Trade Rumors’ database, and you’ll find enough Santana trade rumors to fill a 10-foot-tall Trapper Keeper. For a while there, the most notable suitors of the bunch were the powers that be in the AL East: Boston and New York.

This was back when Hank Steinbrenner was still relevant in the land of the Yankees, and he did baseball rumormongers a kindness by keeping a running commentary on the club’s pursuit of Santana. 

“I don’t want to get into that at this point, as far as what they want, what we’re willing to give and all that,” he said when the club first started talks with the Twins in November of 2007, via the AP. “It’s preliminary right now.”

Not long after, it seemed the Yankees were out because, well, Hank had set a deadline, and the Twins hadn’t met it.

“The deadline is the deadline,” he told The New York Times. “I extended it a few hours more, and that was it. So it’s done.”

Meanwhile, there were the Red Sox. ESPN’s Jayson Stark had them pegged as the favorites to land Santana at the winter meetings in early December, with guys like left-hander Jon Lester and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury singled out as being the two most desirable trade chips for Minnesota.

But nothing happened in December, and the calendar turned to January. For much of the month, there was still nothing but talk, most of which was centered on the Yanks and the Sox (such was life in those days).

Then, somewhat suddenly, the Mets emerged.

The Mets had been listed as a strong suitor for Santana by Olney and were linked to him early in the 2007-2008 offseason, but they didn’t really pull out ahead in the chase for the lefty until late January of 2008. That’s when Olney reported that the Mets had the “best offer on the table” for Santana: center fielder Carlos Gomez, right-hander Phil Humber and two minor leaguers.

Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the deal was done: Santana would be a Met. Not long after that, Santana and the Mets agreed on how much his services were worth.

Six years and $137.5 million. Like that, baseball’s best pitcher became baseball’s richest pitcher. 

The club introduced Santana as a Met the day after the New York Giants celebrated their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. Then-Mets general manager Omar Minaya made sure that New York fans knew it was time to turn the page to baseball.

Via the New York Daily News, Minaya said:

Football season is over and now we get to the city game. Baseball is the city game. New York City and the New York Mets welcome Johan Santana and look forward to a great era of Mets baseball on this historic day.

And the man of the hour?

“It’s a new chapter in my career and I’m going to try to make my time here very special,” Santana said. “I look forward to having a good time here in New York…and I look forward to winning championships with the Mets.”

A big acquisition? The Mets? Championship hopes?

Yeah, this deal was doomed all along.


2008-2012: Big Waste One Minute, Worth Every Penny the Next

The partnership between Santana and the Mets started about as well as either side could have hoped. He fired seven innings of two-run ball in his 2008 debut against the Florida Marlins, striking out eight and allowing only three hits.

Santana’s entire first season with the Mets, for that matter, was largely positive. He had a 2.84 ERA through the first half of the season and then did his hot finish thing once again to finish with an NL-best 2.53 ERA and 234.1 innings pitched. The Mets didn’t make the playoffs, but that was hardly Santana’s fault.

Santana, however, didn’t have the strikeout pitch working like he had in his glory days with Minnesota. He struck out only 7.9 batters per nine innings and finished with only 206 strikeouts. He also had to work a lot harder in 2008 than he had ever had to before, facing a career-high 964 batters and throwing just short of 3,600 pitches. His previous career-high for a season was 3,450.

Things that make you go “Hmmm…”

After logging a heavy workload in 2008, Santana wasn’t his usual self in 2009. His strikeouts didn’t go back up, and the hits started coming at a more rapid pace. Toward the end of August, he sat on an un-Santana-like 1.21 WHIP and had given up 20 homers in 166.2 innings.

Santana also dealt with a bad arm. He made his final start of the season on August 20 and then went in for surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow. He missed the rest of the season.

“It’s not the worst,” said Santana, who had gone in for the same surgery after the 2003 season, via the AP. “Believe me, I’m going to be ready.”

Minaya said the team basically decided to be safe rather than sorry, which was the proper course of action seeing as how the Mets were stuck in fourth place in the NL East with time slipping away.

“It’s mostly soreness,” said Minaya. “We all want to see Johan Santana pitching in September. But this is a smart move because we want to see him pitching for the long haul.”

As expected, Santana was ready for the start of the 2010 season. It was still apparent, however, that he just wasn’t the same pitcher he used to be.

Throughout the 2010 season, Santana’s strikeout rate dipped to 6.5 per nine innings, and FanGraphs shows that his average fastball velocity dipped below 90 miles per hour for the first time. Where there was once a 15 mph difference between his fastball and changeup, now there was only a 10 mph difference—nothing that remarkable.

Santana pitched pretty well given the circumstances, compiling a 3.02 ERA through his first 28 starts. But the Mets, alas, were mediocre again, and Santana’s health ended up betraying him once again. He left a start in early September after throwing 65 pitches in five innings, and the bad news came out a few days later.

Shoulder surgery. Done for the year. 

According to The Sporting News, the Mets expected Santana to be ready for spring training. Santana himself made no promises.

“Whether it’s April, May, July, October, who knows? Time will tell,” he said.

If ever there was a word of warning…

When spring rolled around, the bad vibes started to build in early March. Steve Popper and Bob Klapisch of The Record reported that Santana had a hard time even with light throwing, and that the Mets figured they’d be “lucky” if their ace pitched at all in 2011.

The season began, and time passed. Then more time passed. And more.

It was around July that Santana was ready…to begin his own spring training. At the All-Star break, general manager Sandy Alderson said the team was already looking forward to 2012.

“Right now, we look at the importance of Johan pitching this season as it relates to next year. I don’t think we could expect him to play any sort of meaningful role in a pennant race,” said Alderson, via the New York Post.

He added: “We’re more concerned about him pitching this season so we get past that question going into spring training next year.”

When spring training rolled around in 2012, there was Santana in a major league uniform for the first time in a long time. He did pretty well, too, posting a 3.44 ERA in five spring starts (see MLB.com). There was some skepticism along the way, but Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger reported in late March that the Mets planned on having Santana start on Opening Day.

On April 5, there he was on the mound at Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves. He went on to pitch five scoreless innings, striking out five and giving up only two hits and two walks. The Mets won 1-0.

“Looks like the same dude to me,” said Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, via the AP. “The only difference I can see is like, he’s not throwing quite as hard. But it didn’t seem to matter.”

The comeback tour continued on a strong path. Santana had a 2.25 ERA at the end of April, and he wrapped up May with a complete-game shutout against the San Diego Padres—his first since August of 2010.

Via Newsday, Santana said:

It’s a great feeling for me, just to put my uniform on and be part of my team. It’s amazing. Now, being able to help and being able to go out there every five games, it’s definitely something that I was waiting for. I’m very happy for it. I’m just going to continue doing it.

He had no idea…

Santana’s next start was against the St. Louis Cardinals, the highest-scoring team in the league, on June 1. Before the game, all the hype centered on Carlos Beltran making his return to Citi Field for the first time since being traded to the San Francisco Giants the previous summer. That storyline quickly became a moot point.

At the start of the game, there had never been a no-hitter in the more than 8,000-game history of the Mets. Piece by piece, Santana started putting one together. You got the sense that, yeah, there was something special going on when he caught a break on a blown call by third-base umpire Adrian Johnson. Johnson, in the sixth inning, ruled what should have been a fair ball down the third-base line off the bat of Beltran to be a foul ball.

Like seemingly every other no-no effort, Santana’s also featured a clutch catch. His came courtesy of Mike Baxter in the seventh inning on a line drive to the warning track off the bat of Yadier Molina.

When he got through the eighth inning, Santana was three outs away from Mets history. He was also just three pitches shy of his career high for a single game, which weighed on an awful lot of minds. Was the no-hitter worth risking Santana’s surgically repaired shoulder?

Mets manager Terry Collins decided that the answer was yes, and Santana proceeded to get the Cardinals in order in the ninth. The final out came on his 134th pitch, and it was a swinging strikeout of 2011 World Series MVP David Freese.

Whoever ran the club’s Twitter account that night made sure to use enough exclamation marks:

Former Mets great Dwight Gooden appreciated it too:

The man himself got both the shaving cream and the champagne treatment. The fans went nuts. The scoreboard read, “No-Han.” I’m sure that, somewhere out there, there were dancing Ewoks.

For as much as every no-hitter is a big deal, Santana’s no-no was a huge deal. It wasn’t just a no-hitter. It was a Mets no-hitter.

Via the New York Daily News, Santana said:

I knew that the Mets have never had a no-hitter. I never had one. To be able to accomplish this, it’s an honor. I know how much it means to New York and the New York Mets. I’m very proud of it and very happy to be a part of it.

As for Collins’ decision to leave Santana in despite the escalating pitch count, he told The New York Times that he just couldn’t bring himself to interfere with history.

“I just couldn’t take him out, just couldn’t do it,” he said.

Maybe somebody else could have stepped in for Santana and finished the job for him, thus delivering the Mets their first no-hitter. But there are some baseball moments that simply must not be messed with, and Santana’s no-no felt like one of them from the moment the buzz in the building started to escalate.

No, the floor had to be his and his alone. He was the one who had to deliver.

And he did.


2012-2013: The End of the Line?

Can we cut the narrative off there and give this story a happy ending?

That would be nice, but you and I both know that we can’t do that. 

What happened after the no-no wasn’t pretty. Santana was torched for six earned runs in his next start and went on to compile an 8.27 ERA in his next 10 altogether. After giving up six earned runs in five innings against the Washington Nationals on August 17, Santana found his way onto the disabled list and didn’t pitch again for the rest of the year. 

As promising as it looked for a while there, thus, 2012 ended the same way 2009 and 2010 ended.

Santana looked to make his way back this spring, but there was a disagreement over how quickly he should have been progressing. According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Santana angered the Mets by throwing off a mound ahead of schedule in early March, and then came word that the anger was mutual.

Here’s John Harper of the New York Daily News:

Now, here’s Santana dealing with another shoulder injury, leaving us all to wonder whether or not that bullpen session ruined him. It’s just like when we were left wondering during the season whether or not his effort in the no-hitter had ruined him.

Not that it really matters. What matters is that it will be a miracle if Santana pitches this year and that fans from all corners should consider themselves lucky if they ever see him pitch again at all. Officially, this isn’t the end, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel like it is.

If Santana never pitches again, I doubt he’ll ever be a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. As things stand, his legacy is not that of an all-time great. He has only two claims to fame: He was the best pitcher on on the planet for a few years, and he was the guy who finally gave the Mets a no-hitter.

Not many men can claim the former, and only he can claim the latter. That’ll do just fine for a legacy.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.


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3 Reasons Why Johan Santana Pitching in the World Baseball Classic Is Unwise

After not pitching in the 2009 World Baseball Classic while recovering from a knee injury, Johan Santana has apparently expressed interest in pitching for Team Venezuela in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which will begin this March.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN, Santana will try to participate in the event once gets past a few obstacles he will have to go through, due to the time he spent on the disabled list at the end of the 2012 season.

The only way Santana will be able to participate is if a World Baseball Classic committee approves of his participation once it’s determined whether he will be healthy enough to pitch or not.

However, if Santana is actually able to participate, it could be very risky for both himself and the Mets.

Here are three reasons why Santana participating in the World Baseball Classic would not be wise.

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New York Mets: Will Mets Fans Look Differently at Johan Santana’s No-Hitter?

With the recent news from ESPN’s Adam Rubin that Johan Santana may have to miss a start, I think it’s fitting to examine Santana’s performance in 2012. Clearly his no-hitter is the hallmark of this season for the New York Mets. He made history for a team that has featured some of the top pitchers in the history of the game, none of whom were able to do what he did. 

However, since the magical night of June 1, when the course of history was changed, Johan Santana hasn’t been the same. He threw 134 pitches that night, a mark no one thought was even remotely reachable coming into this season. Terry Collins was happy just to get five innings out of Santana on Opening Day. But there was no way he could mess with the former Cy Young winner on that Friday night. 

Since the no-no, Johan has an ERA of 8.27. He’s thrown over 100 pitches once and has lasted past the sixth inning once. So the question is: Should Mets fans look at the no-hitter differently now that the bottom has basically fallen out on Santana’s season and he may need to be shut down? 

Here’s something most people probably don’t know. In the start before the no-hitter, he threw a complete game, 95-pitch shutout against San Diego. Pair that start with the no-no and here’s what you get: 

IP Pitches
18 229

Mike Rizzo would have a problem with those numbers, but Terry Collins didn’t and I can’t fault him for letting Johan go the distance. Still, Mets fans should be wondering if Santana’s health gained the trust of Terry Collins too early in the season. If Johan thew six innings and 75 pitches against the Padres and then the no-hitter, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins may not be discussing his future on August 21. 

But it’s silly to make up certain scenarios and predict the future. 

As a Met fan, I ask myself this question: Would I rather see Johan Santana pitch a full season, or the first no-hitter in franchise history? 

If this team played anywhere near their first-half selves in the second half, it would be a tough decision. However, I see no problem shelving Santana for the remainder of the season if his health doesn’t allow him to go any further. The Mets will go nowhere with him in the rotation for an extra month. 

As I type these words, I get an update on my phone saying the Mets have lost to the Colorado Rockies for the second straight night, increasing their sub-.500 mark to nine games. 

Johan Santana being limited to 100 pitches, and not throwing a no-hitter on June first, wouldn’t have made that number any lower. 

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Johan Santana: Latest on Mets Star’s Back Injury

Johan Santana‘s struggles have gotten worse as this season has progressed, and they won’t be getting better any time soon.

According to ESPN reporter Adam Rubin, Santana will miss his upcoming start against Colorado:

This news comes on the heels of Monday night’s report from New York Times reporter Hunter Atkins. Atkins reported that “he has experienced stiffness in his back that apparently worsened after he threw a bullpen session Monday.”

As Atkins also mentions, Santana was already being monitored. He hasn’t cleared the 200-inning mark since 2008 and missed the entire 2011 season.

Santana started the season by going 6-4 with a 2.76 ERA. Since then he’s lost his last five starts. His ERA currently stands at 4.85, and he hasn’t thrown more than five innings in a game since June 30.

This is a disappointing injury for a pitcher who has had his fair share of bad luck. This injury could prompt Santana being shut down for the year, adding another hurdle in New York’s attempt to salvage what was once a promising season.

Mejia has a 2.75 ERA in seven Triple-A starts. It’s unclear how long the Mets will need him, but Santana’s injury history could put him on the mend for an extended period of time.

Stay tuned as more information surfaces regarding Santana’s injury and how long you can expect him to be on the shelf.

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Johan Santana Injury: Updates on Mets Star’s Ankle Injury

The New York Mets‘ run toward the MLB playoffs has gotten much tougher with the team’s placement of All-Star starting pitcher Johan Santana on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle injury.

ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin is reporting via Twitter about Santana heading to the DL:

There were concerns from around the majors that Santana was going too hard too soon after having shoulder surgery, but the pitcher’s recent struggles don’t appear to be related to that previous injury.

Just as Rubin stated, the belief is that any other soreness in his shoulder or any missteps in his delivery can be attributed to the sore ankle.


What It Means

The New York Mets sit 4.5 games out of one of the NL wild-card spots, and losing Santana may be too big of a blow for the talented team to overcome.

While R.A. Dickey is having the greatest season of his career, the lack of depth in the starting rotation and in the bullpen will be the ultimate undoing of the Mets in 2012. Santana’s absence for three starts at least may be the team’s playoff death knell.

Santana and the team will slow-play this injury so that it doesn’t get worse and cost him even more time later in 2012 or even into 2013.

Playing it safe now is the right way to go.


What’s Next?

For the New York Mets, putting Santana on the DL was a no-brainer. With the ankle injury not being that serious, the team is playing it safe because it is obviously screwing up the star’s delivery.

After missing the 2011 season with shoulder surgery, the last thing the Mets need is Santana altering his delivery to compensate for the sore ankle and re-injuring himself. It’s better to lose him for 15 days instead of much longer.

With the Mets slowly falling out of contention in the National League, this could be the kind of loss that kills any remaining hope for the New York faithful. While that is a hard pill to swallow, it’s better for Santana’s long-term success.


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