Saturday, February 23, 2013

N.Y. Mets: Johan Santana and Mets at the Crossroad

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS - Johan Santana Places The Team In A Classic Quandary.

.....and Johan wanted to pitch in the World Baseball Classic.  He pitched in the 2006 inaugural Classic, but has missed the last two tournaments due to injuries.  The Classic shouldn't really concern Mets fans.  Johan Santana's health should, and for numerous reasons.

As a precaution, the Mets delayed Johan's first Spring Training climb up the mound.  The club is stressing this move was not precipitated by injury.  Sandy characterized this as the club merely wanting Johan to keep improving his arm strength.  Now here goes my problem with semantics again.  Didn't the Mets shut Johan Santana down last season as a precaution, and so that he may rest, and recover strength, and enjoy the benefits of a regular off-season routine?  So the question begs asking then - how much arm strength has Johan Santana recovered since September 2012, to the present day?  Obviously, not nearly enough.  The GM even offered Johan is not as far along as the club anticipated.  Naturally, the next question is - Is Johan feeling anything other than freedom of motion; i.e.; pain, discomfort, stiffness, or unease?

Last year at this time, many wildly speculated the club was trying to hasten Johan's return so as to have him pitch Opening Day, and thereby increase Fred Wilpon's gate; for that was the owner's condition, and the fans' emotional state.  I myself thought it very strange the Mets made an announcement so early in camp that Johan would indeed pitch Opening Day.  Why the rush I thought?  Why not let Spring Training play itself out first?  But one thing is true and verifiable in this blog.  Last year I thought the Mets were making a huge mistake rushing Johan Santana back so soon.

As it pertains to Johan Santana's 2012 season, it is debatable whether I was wrong about rushing him.  Other than being somewhat hittable, and issuing a high rate of walks and home runs, Johan demonstrated the "old Johan" wasn't that far away.  His innings and strikeouts were right where the Mets wanted them to be.  Then of course, came the no-hitter.  Terry Collins was visibly upset, and conflicted after the game for fear he over-extended Santana, by allowing him to pursue the Mets first ever no-hit game.  I believe Johan threw 134 pitches that evening.  Many point to that night as the moment Johan's season started to tail-off.  There is another faction who believe Johan's season started to tank after he rolled his ankle.  Which ever the case or cause, the official basis for shutting Johan Santana's 2012 season was fatigue, and for the sake of getting rest.  The club insisted then, the end of Johan's campaign was not brought on by a recurrence, or an additional injury to his surgically repaired shoulder.

At least this year, the Mets are taking a more cautious approach with Johan Santana.  If his workouts need to be altered, so be it.  If his season needs to be delayed, so be it.  That is a very cut and dry situation for me.  That is the attitude I wished the Mets had employed last season regarding Johan.  This is why my pessimism and skepticism are kicking in.  All of a sudden, Jon Niese represents the caliber of pitcher worthy to make the ceremonial Opening Day start.  Whereas last season, outside of Johan Santana, the Mets (the owners in my opinion) weren't overwhelmed with their other options.  In fairness, and in a different context, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese were still a campaign away from break-through seasons.  However, I still think naming Johan the Opening Day starter so early in camp last season was a contrived display of confidence, and an attempt to dupe the fans collective perceptions.

Johan Santana's 2013 salary consumes an obscene portion of this season's payroll.  If you include Johan's buyout, he is due up to $31 million dollars this season.  Johan will clearly become an ex-Met.  The question is how soon?  There is much to keep in mind as it pertains to his 2013 regular season and future.  His injury/health is clearly an ongoing issue.  He will be thirty-four years old in March.  His 2013 salary is extremely prohibitive.  And in short time, he stands to become a free agent.  How can the Mets move a guy like that?  The answer is - easily.  Just eat the contract and pay him to play for another team.  The money is already earmarked and effectively spent.  I still believe Sandy Alderson can entice a contending team to surrender one or two prospects for a good; not great; Johan Santana.  Truth is, any return realized in a trade involving Johan Santana is a good return.  One good, respected prospect; will suffice.  Two would be great, but unlikely.  That said, Johan Santana should be viewed as a movable asset, and nothing more.  So it would behoove the club to take very good care of him, and ensure Johan gets back on the mound in working order, even if that takes Johan and the team beyond April, and into May.


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