Friday, March 29, 2013

Contemplating Johan Santana

Johan Santana's season is over
before it started.
Practically from the day the Twins traded him away, I've quietly harbored the fantasy that Johan Santana had not thrown his last pitch in a Minnesota uniform — that, like Bert Blyleven before him, he might once again find his pitching home in the place his big league career started.

That notion was probably always fanciful. Today — with the news Thursday that Santana's surgically-repaired shoulder has given way again — the odds are far better that he'll never throw another pitch in the majors.

We Twins fans should treasure the memory of Santana's brilliance with the Twins. From the time he broke into the rotation in 2003 through his first season with the Mets after the ill-fated trade (2008), Santana finished seventh, first, third, first, fifth and third in the Cy Young voting — and I do believe that the voters soon regretted not giving him the honor in 2005, which would have made three in a row for him.

Three times he led his league in ERA, three times in strikeouts, twice in innings pitched, three times in strikeouts per nine innings. It was a truly impressive six-year run.

What comes next for the Venezuelan southpaw is uncertain.  He's 34. His return from his 2010 surgery to repair his capsule took 19 months, and no pitcher has had the surgery twice. The Mets owe him more than $25 million for 2013, and there is no chance that they will pick up his option for 2014.

Will Santana want to endure the grueling rehab when he can expect only a limited payoff at the end of it? Surely there won't be big-ticket offers waiting for him at age 36 after a second major shoulder operation.

Still, this is a proud pitcher — with a record to be proud of — with a competitive streak worthy of admiration. He might decide to try it just because he can try it.

1 comment:

  1. I have so many great memories of Santana pitching for the Twins. Once, in the Dome, where there were no slide-in K signs, I sat behind the guy who put out his own home-made signs. He used all of his (were there 10 or 12?), then we all helped him find paper plates or other things to make more signs.

    I know many people wonder if he wrecked his arm throwing his no-hitter. I'll prefer to wonder if that wasn't meant to be Santana's last moment of glory.

    See you at the Twins Hall of Fame ceremony, Johan!