Johan Santana’s Lost Weekend

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

You didn’t see any posts during the weekend because I spent most of it giving baseball lessons and helping my nephew move to Vernon, NJ. While helping with the move, and on the way up Route 23, we passed through West Milford, which reminded me of a fifth grade field trip to a place in that town called “Camp Hope.” I was thinking that the spring training complex in Port St. Lucie could similarly be called “Camp Hope” this year, considering the abundance of promising youth in Mets uniforms. That is, until the drama surrounding Johan Santana this past weekend — which makes me wonder if the place should instead be nicknamed “Camp Hopeless.”

In case you missed it — and I pretty much did, thankfully distracted by helping my nephew move — Sandy Alderson more or less suggested (in his kind and gentle, passive-aggressive way) that Johan Santana arrived to spring training out of shape. Santana took it more as an indictment than a suggestion, and responded in his own kind and gentle, passive-aggressive way. This back-and-forth battle of egos went on most of the weekend, and when the smoke cleared, this is what we discovered:

- Johan Santana arrived to Port St. Lucie not ready to pitch
- Alderson and other Mets officials are displeased with this unreadiness
- Santana was told by the Mets to take it easy this winter, so he threw “less than normal” during the offseason
- Alderson felt Santana should have thrown “close to normal” during the offseason
- Terry Collins “wasn’t surprised he took it easy.”
- Dan Warthen trusts Santana to know how to get himself ready

Is it me, or does this sound like a New York Yankee spring training back in the days when George Steinbrenner was “The Boss”? Better yet, wouldn’t you have expected something like this to happen during a previous Mets administration? Isn’t one of Alderson’s strengths to make the Mets appear competent and professional?

I don’t know what to make of this situation. Regardless of whether this is a case of miscommunication, frustration, or negligence, I agree with Joel Sherman: it doesn’t look good. There’s a reason people say “don’t air your dirty laundry in public.”

The Mets are paying Johan Santana $25.5M this year, as well as — presumably — another $5.5M to buy out his 2014 option. In return for that $31M they’re getting a pitcher who is unlikely to appear in more than 20 games, and equally unlikely to be much more than a back-end starter. Santana’s underwhelming performance will have nothing to do with his motivation or how he worked out in the winter, and everything to do with his damaged shoulder. Santana could have undergone a strict, world-class throwing regimen all winter, and it wouldn’t have done a thing to increase his velocity over 90 MPH. Sure, he might not be able to pitch in a regular-season game until April 15 instead of April 1, but will it really matter when there’s not much chance of him making 32 starts? Considering that his current pitching motion does not allow his shoulder to fully rotate, which in turn places undue stress on the shoulder, Santana probably is better off throwing less.

If it turns out that Santana’s timetable is set back by a few days or weeks, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. Jonathon Niese may be more deserving of the Opening Day nod, and from a financial standpoint, it doesn’t matter who starts Game One — it’s going to be a sellout regardless. In fact, pitching Santana on a day other than the opener might give the Mets an extra large crowd.

How do you feel about the Santana situation? Is Port St. Lucie closer to “Camp Hope” or “Camp Hopeless”? Sound off in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 March 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm
    ………………at this point, I couldn’t care less what goes on with Johan Santana – so long as he’s healthy, on a mound, and pitching well enough to have someone interested in trading for him by June/July-ish.

    That’s all he means to me as a Met fan, looking at the 2013 season.

    This is why guys like myself get irked over hearing that he wants to pitch in the WBC and other crap like that. Put it out of mind, and get ready to attempt to “live up to” the expectations of the guys paying you $25MM+ this year.

    • Izzy March 5, 2013 at 6:40 am
      What kind of fan can you be if the only reason you want one of your guys to do good is to trade him? There are places where that failed strategy has been going on for decades. And this sad sad tirade berating a guy for wanting to play for his country. Pride un your country is a bad thing I guess in the new world. I want you to berate Wright for not turning down playing for his country. And the rest of the guys who are doing it. I know, they might get hurt, and afterall nobody has ever gotten hurt in Spring training.
      • Walnutz15 March 5, 2013 at 9:21 am
        Easy there, hoss.

        I, like some others at the time – had very real concerns about Johan Santana’s physical ailments when he was acquired (and recall Joe’s lengthy posts documenting each and every one of ‘em, when the Twins decided to cut him loose).

        I’m a fan of the Mets because it was what I grew up on, and allegiance to the jersey only. The laundry list of head-scratchers mounts by the season, but here I am discussing just as you are.

        At this point, who cares about Johan. I couldn’t care less if he’s here through May.

        ’08: Knee surgery
        ’09: Surgery to remove the bone chips in his elbow
        ’10: Torn capsule in his shoulder (surgery)
        ’11: Rehab for aforementioned torn capsule
        ’12: Early No-Hitter, and never heard from again

        While it’s not a stretch to say he’d be ready at some point in April, I’d love nothing more than for them to keep him back in Extended ST for a month….so he can come back, produce for a month, and be dealt.

        Been done with him for years, and it has very little to do with the bulldog nature of his being…….but everything to do with him hanging onto his career by a thread for the past 5 years.

      • Walnutz15 March 5, 2013 at 9:42 am
        Just realizing you had attempted to make some sort of correlation to Wright playing in the WBC at the end of your post.

        If Wright were coming off a season where he was shutdown to ensure his health – as Johan was last year…when he was getting titted around the yard, post-no hitter?

        Sure, I’d be criticizing him and the Mets also. Fair game for all.

        Nobody’s getting let off easy, especially a guy who’s slated to make $25.5MM guaranteed dollars in 2013 (plus inevitable buyout, bumping it up to over $30MM).

        Have all the pride in your country you’d like — but have a brain in your head. I’d bet Johan would have taken a mound, provided the Mets didn’t say no.

        ……..just like he went out and threw an “I’LL SHOW YOU!!” revenge bullpen after these comments by the front office were made.

        Dopes all around.

        Newsday:

        Johan Santana’s competitiveness got the best of him.

        According to Mets manager Terry Collins, that’s what drove Santana to throw an impromptu bullpen session on Sunday morning, his way of silencing critics who questioned his readiness to pitch.

        And that’s why Collins spent about 10 minutes Monday asking Santana to keep his drive in check.

        “It was unnecessary,” Collins said, following the Mets’ 4-2 loss to the Braves.

        After completing his long toss session on Sunday, Santana took to the mound, where he threw roughly 15 pitches.

        “In retrospect, he knows he would have handled it a bit differently,” Collins said. “But he’s fine and he wanted to show everybody he was fine. I just said look, we’re going to do this the right way, we’re not going to hurt you, we’re not going to get you injured. I don’t care how upset you are about things, we’re going to do this the proper way. April 1st is only a date on the calendar. It doesn’t mean anything if you’re not ready.”

        Santana emerged from the session with no issues and resumed his long tossing program. Nevertheless, Collins didn’t want Santana tempting fate.

        “I said the last thing I need is to have you wake up tomorrow stiff,” Collins said. “We’d take a huge step backward just because you wanted to show everybody you’re OK. I understood what you’re doing, but once in awhile, you’ve got to let stuff fly away. You’ve got to just let it roll off your back and move on. And he knew that.”

  2. Joe March 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm
    I second Walnutz15′s comment except that I didn’t take the WBC stuff seriously. As some reporter noted, didn’t seem his heart was in wanting to pitch there, and he said that mostly just for form sake.

    But, dig at Alderson, check. Still, if the Mets are being compared to the Yanks under the Boss’ tenure, well, that probably gives them prestige. I realize his tenure included some down years, but like Mets fans, people these days selectively remember such things.

    • Walnutz15 March 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm
      RE: The WBC

      Do you think he would have skipped out on it, provided the Mets told him he couldn’t?

      I realize this is a minor blip on the overall Johan-Radar, but it comes up every time the tourney comes around. He can say whatever he wants in the press, sure — but I’m not convinced that he wouldn’t have gone to be with Venezuela.

      As someone who’s beyond tired of playing “The Johan Game”, stuff like that just adds fuel to the fire.

      Thanks for the no-hitter……see ya in another life, brotha. (Ahh, see what I did there with the “Lost” headline….ahhhh, AHHH!!!)

      • Joe March 5, 2013 at 4:06 pm
        It’s all a counterfactual. His pride and competitive nature might have led him to go, his arm be damned, but he isn’t just a free agent like that in the real world. Who knows? I really don’t care given reality.
    • Joe Janish March 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm
      Joe, why so defensive about Alderson in this situation? Did he do something right by causing this drama? Because it was he who started this drama.
      • Walnutz15 March 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm
        Apparently, Eddie Coleman had hinted that Jeff Wilpon was behind this whole “disappointed with Johan” leak.
        • Joe Janish March 4, 2013 at 6:43 pm
          What did I say about things changing the same?

          Even still, it was Alderson’s repartee that stirred the headlines. The quotes in the various newspapers are directly from Alderson, not Jeffy.

        • Walnutz15 March 5, 2013 at 9:24 am
          Oh, no doubt. Alderson could have handled it very differently – in terms of the quotes doled out.

          However, he has no real ties to Johan….and I’ve seen plenty of times where decision-makers don’t truly show hardcore allegiance to players that aren’t “their guys”.

          Just happens. Not saying whether it’s right or wrong.

          The Wilpons suck.

        • Joe March 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm
          So, in some fashion, even though he didn’t cause it, his comments, probably whatever he said, would have “stirred the headlines” somehow. As do you commenting about it. Repeatedly, this blog and its commenters go overboard attacking SA, sometimes it coming off as schtick, and yeah, it’s tiresome. I realize SA is sort of a symbol, even when he isn’t even the main cause of things.
        • Walnutz15 March 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm
          For the record, I’m not someone who’s looking to crucify Sandy Alderson — at the same time, I’m not worshipping at the altar of St. Sandy either.

          I think he’s what the Mets need at this point in time. I could only imagine the stammering and stupidity that Minaya would have exhibited in attempting to weather the (sheet)storm of the past 3 or 4 seasons.

          We got a great look into that when he attempted to blame all of the ill-will and misfortunes of the Mets on Adam Rubin.

          “HE HAS LOBBY!!!!” – always wanted to see if we could get a Met-related t-shirt of that.

        • Joe Janish March 5, 2013 at 11:55 pm
          At some point it would be fitting for you to change your handle here to “Bryn.” It would make things much less confusing for people who might think your comments are mine.

          As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, there are at least eight dozen Mets blogs celebrating Sandy Alderson every time he defecates. So the realistic viewpoint and occasional criticism of Alderson here is merely an attempt to balance the over-hype.

          MetsToday – Fair and Balanced coverage and opinion.

  3. Dan B March 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm
    Sounds like the Beltran/surgery argument all over again. By the way, they are paying Santana $25 million to pitch because they backloaded his contract– a move they did with Wright and they talked about backloading Bourne’s contract. It makes no sense to pay someone the most when they are worth the least. It never works out.
    • Joe Janish March 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm
      True, the contract was backloaded, but not by that much.

      Check it out:
      08:$19M, 09:$20M, 10:$21M, 11:$22.5M, 12:$24M, 13:$25.5M, 14:$25M club option ($5.5M buyout)

  4. DaveSchneck March 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm
    Joe,
    I agree with your conclusions. Regarding Walnutz question/statement about the WBC, I thought all along that Santana’s public stance was for show back in Venezuela, where he has hero status. In reality, I think even he knew it wouldn’t be a good idea and even if Alderson said yes, after his first bullpen session he would have known it wasn’t going to happen.
  5. argonbunnies March 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm
    Alderson’s job in this situation was to say this to the media:

    “All of us, management, coaches, and Johan himself, are working to find the best way to get Johan ready for not just opening day, but the full 2013 season. This is slightly uncharted territory for all of us, and we were all surprised by how his arm responded the first few times he threw this spring. But we’re working together to get him ready for the season as quickly as possible.”

    He didn’t do his job.

  6. argonbunnies March 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm
    As for Hope vs Hopeless, well, if the Mets have hope because of Wheeler and D’Arnaud, then the Marlins should have hope from Yelich and Fernandez, the Indians should have hope from Bauer and Lindor, the Mariners should have hope from Walker/Hultzen/Paxton, the Pirates should have hope from Cole and Taillon, the Twins should have hope from Sano and Buxton, etc.

    Does anyone expect that those teams will all be vastly improved in 2013 and contenders in 2014?

    I always have hope. Always. But I’m not going to credit the Mets themselves for that. A couple hot prospects might be an excuse for hope, but it’s not a reason.

    • Joe Janish March 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm
      You bring up a very good point — one that we, immersed in the blue and orange fish bowl, don’t always consider.

      Hmm … this may be worth turning into a post … thanks for the inspiration!

    • DaveSchneck March 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm
      Argon,
      Bingo. That point cannot be overstated, and is exactly why all this “2014 is the year” baloney is just that. Upgrades necessary this year have not been made. Alderson should be held 100% accountable for the holes in the 2013 squad and the team’s performance. The Pirates have had a “Wheeler and d’Arnaud” of their own each of the last 20 seasons, and have put up sub .500 seasons each time. Just like Alderson’s two Met teams. I’ll root for the team, from a distance, but this has been just another lame and disappointing offseason.
    • argonbunnies March 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm
      Yeah. Top prospects are a piece of the puzzle, but I think Alderson’s hype talks (and those of many fans and bloggers) over-estimate both (a) the impact they can make and (b) the quality of our other pieces. I mean, is Ruben Tejada really an acceptable SS in a division with Rollins, Desmond and Simmons?

      I have a much longer rant on that topic. Perhaps soon…

  7. Frank March 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm
    Actually a good thing. We want that automatic innings trigger of next year part of no conversation when we try to move him in July.
    • argonbunnies March 4, 2013 at 10:11 pm
      I totally forgot about that! Good call. Do you know what the trigger is?
      • Joe Janish March 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm
        The option for ’13 kicks in if Johan wins the Cy Young, or:

        is on the active roster for the final 30 days of 2013 season, and:

        pitches 215 innings in 2013, or

        pitches 420 innings in 2012-13, or

        pitches 630 innings in 2011-13

        • argonbunnies March 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm
          Thanks! Since those last 2 are impossible (requiring 303 and 513 innings in 2013, respectively), and the “final 30 days” issue would be up to our trade partner, basically we want to keep him away from 215 innings.

          I don’t see that as much of a risk regardless, but missing a start certainly makes it even less likely.

  8. Dan B March 5, 2013 at 8:22 am
    The Jeff Wilpon angle fascinates me. I have no insight into the Mets inner workings but my gut keeps telling me that his fingerprints are all over most of what is wrong with the Mets’ decision making. It’s funny but I have seen so many companies hurt by the father giving power to a clueless son. Has anyone ever heard of a positive associated with Jeffy? I keep seeing bad policies associated with Omar being enacted by Sandy. I blame the employer more then the employee.
    • Joe Janish March 5, 2013 at 10:18 am
      I believe Jeff is credited with spearheading the project to build Citi Field. Other than it being a Brooklyn Dodgers museum, it’s a nice park. So there’s that.

      Otherwise, I agree – policies and actions tend to trickle down from the top. It would seem to me that the further we get from Bernie Madoff’s arrest, the more control Jeff takes of the Mets operations.

    • NormE March 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm
      While I think that Jeffy is usually clueless, and can be harmful, I did read where he had some nice things to say about Jason Bay the other day. He was sorry things didn’t work out in NY but he was rooting for Jason in Seattle. A rare positive for the Wilpon wunderkind.
      • Joe Janish March 5, 2013 at 11:59 pm
        I think some philosopher or saint or smart guy once said “no one is all bad, and no one is all good.” Or something. Heck, even I have a good trait or two.