Last year, with a playoff berth possibly at stake for the New York Mets, Johan Santana demanded the ball for the final game of the schedule. On short rest, he threw a three-hit shutout. The Mets missed the postseason anyway — and three days later, he had knee surgery.
Santana was scheduled to pitch today for the Mets. He won't. His elbow hurts.
He's to be examined today, and the Mets are bracing for bad news.
The sidebar to this story shows why. Since he had a 120-pitch outing in his 10th start of the season — you paying attention, Mr. Blyleven? — Santana's fastball has slowed considerably. In his first 10 starts, 73 percent of his fastballs were at least 90 mph; in the 15 starts since, just 53 percent reached 90.
The strikeouts are down, the home runs and ERA up.
Santana, by the way, has had three starts of 120 or more pitches in his two season with the Mets. That doesn't sound like much, but that's two more than he had in his entire tenure with the Twins.
The Mets invested $137.5 million in that talented left arm. Of course, the Mets ownership also invested large sums with Bernie Madoff — the Wilpon family is rumored to have lost $750 million in the notorious scam — and the whispers out of Queens suggest that one reason the general manager and manager are still on the job is that the ownership can't afford to replace them.