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.

2013 Spring Training

About the Author

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.

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