From the desk of: HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET
NEW YORK METS: Don't Be Too Hasty Presuming Johan Santana is Healthy. And is Starting Him on Opening Day Really That Important?
Whether you believe the Mets can contend for the division title, or have comfortably resigned yourself to a long season ahead; - Whether you have high expectations for Johan Santana and are looking for him to be the ace of this staff again in the two seasons remaining on his contract, or are just hoping he can be healthy again and become effective enough so as to pursue a trade for him, I say simply, the rush to have Johan Santana start Opening Day could result in folly.
Really.., what is the rush? If we want a full return to health, and the Johan Santana of old back on the mound, I say tempering ourselves at all levels; organizationally, team wise, and fan anticipation included; and not hastening expectations, will get him there.
Which ever of the above classifications you fall in to, can we all agree there is absolutely no reason at all to have him start Opening Day beyond being something symbolic? In the hard cold reality of this upcoming season, there are only two people who stand to benefit rushing Johan Santana. Those two are Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz. Even those two should be smart enough to know Opening Day stands on it's own and is virtually recession, and more specific to them, apathy proof. Opening Day is a quasi-holiday for any and all teams. Fred Wilpon's and Saul Katz' attendance concerns should focus on "the second home series of the season" and late April, and May. Then once school lets out, they should be worried about the Summer.
To date, Johan Santana has given absolutely no indication he is behind schedule. He is now exactly eighteen months away (+/-) from shoulder surgery. And his performance this Spring has given no reason to believe his comeback can't be a complete and successful endeavour. And if by the last days of Spring Training Johan provides more than compelling evidence why he should start Opening Day, so be it.
But we are not there yet. As we are still negotiating through March 18, 2012, I am merely against predicting a hard forecast on Santana's start and having the pitcher fix his mind on rising-up to to meet an unnecessary challenge. Then again, everything can just as easily turn out just fine for all concerned parties as well. But this kind of thinking is arguably born in part because it's no secret the Mets have been hemorrhaging money in Citi Field and game related revenue. And secondly, you can thank the Mets' recent medical history of missteps and mistaken diagnosis, for skepticism and lack of blind faith in their ability to even administer a band-aid. It was they who planted the seed, and so with Santana coming off major surgery, who doesn't have reservations about a hasty return?
Such self imposed dilemmas open the door for speculation, cynicism, and conspiracy theorists alike. Granted, financially the Mets are already a mess and Johan's contract is part of that. But the Mets absolutely can not afford make a mistake in attempting to get Johan Santana back in prime form for the wrong reasons.
Even less sarcastically and more importantly to the point, history tells us players are worse people to turn to for self-diagnosis and the truth. But Johan Santana has always been a straight shooter. I'm not going there. I'm merely suggesting organizational caution when pushing to get their prized ace back on the mound. Their efforts can easily backfire. Should Johan Santana have an in-season, or worse yet, an early season relapse, or an occurrence, or an episode, or whatever you choose to call it, the team will then most assuredly have looked desperate by hastening his return in an effort to sell tickets. If that's not the reality, there's an excellent chance that will be the perception should such a scenario befall the Mets. The end, would still be the same.
If a jury of his piers arrives to the conclusion Fred Wilpon and company were crooks just like the jailed Bernie Madoff was, the owner will be a mute point, and his regime will be left open to even the most derisive criticisms of our time together. But if a jury of their piers decides the Wilpons are the good guys, then Fred, Jeff, and Saul, will gain a great measure of vindication, and can then set about exorcising the ruinous thoughts and opinions that permeate his team's fan base; me included; if in fact, that can be done at this point.
It's unfortunate the Wilpons have set themselves up for such kind of speculative finger pointing, especially if it comes from the misguided; or worse, the ignorant. It's just that there has been one too many cortisone shots administered to this owner/fan relationship trying to keep it together. And whether warranted or not; misguided or not; making a connection between Johan starting Opening Day, and trying to sell tickets in the short-term thereafter, will be made. For in the Wilpon's present situation, anything they do can be construed as being directly related to their off-field plight. So I present this case, perhaps unfairly, and maybe even undeservedly. But the case needed to be made to point out that the vultures are circling at all times.
Sure it would be nice to have Johan Santana start Opening Day. We just do not need him to. And if he's not at 100%, I don't want him to. Being ninety-something percent ready is not enough for me to warrant pitching Johan in the inconsequential yet annually prestigious start. That small remaining percentage of uncertainly will be a test of intelligence and discipline; not a matter of winning. Except for Johan Santana, failing on the strength of a 10% (+/-) risk factor is only ruinous to Mr. Wilpon.
I hope both Johan, and more specifically Mr. Wilpon, are being truthful with themselves. Because taking the risk of receiving another swift kick in the.......gate, far outweigh the rewards of one singular Opening Day.