Mets

Coleman: Warrior, Fiercest Of Competitors — That’s How I’ll Remember Santana

Fan holds a sign thanking Johan Santana one day after the Mets' penultimate game of the 2008 season. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Fan holds a sign thanking Johan Santana one day after the Mets’ penultimate game of the 2008 season. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Ed Coleman
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So this is how the Johan Santana era ends for the Mets. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with yet another injury announcement, the worst news possible for his career: a probable re-tear of the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder.

When it occurred is anybody’s guess. Was it a singular event? A gradual wearing down of the shoulder? Nobody seems to know or is saying at the moment.

It really doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that Santana has thrown his last pitch for the Mets, and possibly the last of his baseball career. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said that there is a “strong possibility” that Santana will undergo the same surgery again. But the original operation took place in September 2010, and it was 19 months before Santana threw his next pitch in the major leagues.

Does someone who just turned 34 have that and the arduous rehab entailed with it in him? Only Santana knows, and he will apparently mull over the decision for the next few days.

The man who pitched the first and only no-hitter in Mets history last year is owed $31 million, including a 2014 buyout — the final installment on a 6-year, $137.5 million deal. The contract is not insured. Long-term contracts for players — especially pitchers — are obviously risky deals. How do you think the Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) or Dodgers (Zack Greinke) felt after hearing the Santana news Thursday night?

Again, the bottom line is that a man whom manager Terry Collins hoped would make between 25 and 30 starts and lead his rotation will make exactly none for his team this season.

Mets team doctor David Altchek, who performed the original surgery back in 2010, examined Santana on Wednesday in New York, and the MRI taken revealed the probable re-tear. Altchek then conferred with both Dr. James Andrews in Atlanta and Dr. Lewis Yocum in California, and both men confirmed the diagnosis. Alderson stated that “if this diagnosis proves to be correct, I think in all likelihood Johan will be lost to the Mets for the entire season.”

After Santana threw his no-hitter on June 1 of last year, his next 10 starts were shaky, and his ERA over that span was 8.27. There were many factors cited for the downturn — he was worn out from the long, difficult rehab the previous winter, an ankle injury he sustained while covering first base, lower back stiffness that cropped up — and Santana was eventually shut down for the season.

Did the shoulder start to fray at this time? Was an excessive pitch count (134) to achieve the no-hitter a factor at all? Did Santana re-injure the shoulder this spring when he climbed onto a mound in anger, throwing an impromptu bullpen session to refute claims from Mets’ management that he came to camp out of shape or was lacking in his winter rehab?

Who knows. It’s all speculation, and it doesn’t change what is reality now. And it also doesn’t change this simple fact — that since the first year (2008) of his contract, Santana has made one — exactly one — September start for the Mets.

Mets fans seem to want to remember Santana for the franchise’s first no-hitter last June, finally getting that milestone for a team that seemingly had longed forever for one. I don’t. Yes, it was officially a no-hitter, but ask Carlos Beltran about his line drive that kicked up chalk down the left field line. Hey, it doesn’t diminish the feat, nor take away from Santana’s legacy in the least. But it’s not what I choose to remember for No. 57.

I prefer to remember September 27, 2008. The next-to-last day of the season. The Mets once again in total disarray, at the end of another blown division lead down the stretch. Santana took the ball on short rest with a torn meniscus in his knee, which eventually required surgery. He went out and fired a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts against Florida to give his teammates a chance the next day — the final game of the season.

The warrior. The fiercest of competitors. That’s the Santana that I want to remember — and will.

I only wish I could have seen more.

But I won’t.

C U soon
Eddie C.

Will the warrior let this beat him? Be heard in the comments…