Aug 20

Mets Matters: Santana Decision And Shuffling Off From Buffalo

Sometime this afternoon we could get a clearer reading on what’s to happen with Johan Santana for the remainder of the season: Do they keep running him out there are shut him down to give him a head start on preparation for 2013?

Currently, Santana is scheduled to start Thursday against Colorado with extra rest. If he comes through, the Mets might opt to keep giving him extended rest between starts.

What we need to remember is this has been a grueling rehab for Santana coming off shoulder surgery and his arm has already exceeded what it normally goes through in a regular season. 

If Santana’s current problems are fatigue related, then shutting him down might be the prudent decision.

In other Mets’ news:

* It appears the Mets will lose ties with their Class AAA Buffalo affiliate, which is a shame as that locale makes it easier to shuttle players up and down. 

Most disappointing is Buffalo is the Mets’ third Triple-A attachment in the past decade (Norfolk, Va., and New Orleans). Las Vegas could be next.

Word is Buffalo, like Norfolk, because disenchanted from the Mets’ lack of attention or promotion to their affiliates, not to mention a poor quality of play.  Buffalo has a major league caliber stadium, so would it kill the Mets to play an exhibition game there (coming out of spring training) or even a regular season game? I would think a Mets-Pirates games would be attractive and fill the place.

Ideally, you’d like a strong relationship between the big club and its top minor league affiliate.

* The Mets open a stretch tonight of seven straight games against NL weaklings Colorado and Houston, the latter just sacked its manager. 

“Well, we’re not exactly playing great right now,’’ Terry Collins said.

The Mets follow those two series with series at Philadelphia and Miami. So, this would be the Mets’ best opportunity to get on a roll to finish over .500. That’s still what I’d like for this team.

Aug 19

Collins, Alderson To Discuss Santana’s Future

The suggestion I made yesterday about resting Johan Santana for the remainder of the season is on the table and will be discussed tomorrow. Good idea.

Neither Terry Collins nor GM Sandy Alderson have stated their preference, and the manager has Santana penciled in for Thursday.

However, pencils do come with erasers.

Reportedly, Santana will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, and is agreeable to being shut down if that’s management’s decision.

“What he is basically is saying is if that’s what we think we should do to make sure he’s healthy next year, he’s on board with it,” Collins said. “He understands the whole thought process behind it.”

Aug 18

Time For Mets To Shelve Santana

It is time the Mets care for one of their own. It is time to put the health of one of their players ahead of the possibility of getting a few good games. 

It is time for the Mets to shutdown Johan Santana for the rest of the season. I wrote that several starts ago and Santana has done nothing to refute that reasoning since.

SANTANA: Shut him down. (AP)

After last night’s pasting, Terry Collins said there’s nothing wrong with Santana physically. As manager, he really can’t say anything else. He can’t admit to pitching Santana hurt. But, Collins didn’t come across as believable last night. He came across as someone trying to talk himself out of the inevitable.

Maybe he’s not hurt – at least not yet.

There are three reasons why a pitcher of Santana’s caliber fades so fast: injury, fatigue and losing the skills.

We know from the first half Santana has shown flashes of being the dominant ace the Mets need. We know from the no-hitter he can still be scintillating for an evening.

He hasn’t forgotten how to pitch. 

We also know since the no-hitter he hasn’t been the same.

It is time the Mets remember Santana is coming off a severe shoulder surgery, of which rehab began last December. The calendar says August, but the calendar in Santana’s arm has already recognized a full year plus two months. 

Santana has given us the season’s marquee moment and countless other gems during his tenure with the Mets. He’s helped change the culture. He’s been a leader for the younger players, and not just the pitchers. He’s been a winner in every respect.

Santana has also given us six straight games of allowing at least six runs. It’s a franchise worst stretch as well as a personal one. There’s no bite and little movement on his pitches. He doesn’t challenge hitters inside as he used to. He’s pitching defensive.

He’s been on the disabled list, but with an ankle injury. Did that injury alter his mechanics?

Nobody on the Mets will admit as much, but an alteration can be so subtle it would be hard to notice.

Bobby Ojeda, who should know about such things, said Santana is pitching on fumes. Santana might not be injured now, but seems fatigued and if he keeps going like this an injury is inevitable.

With no playoffs, there’s no reason to keep him going. 

The Mets need to take this decision away from Santana. Sure, he’s a competitor and wants to pitch. He has that mentality, but it is one not conducive to self-preservation. They must realize Santana already exceeded expectations for this year and has nothing left to prove.

The Mets, for Santana’s well being, need to shut him down now as to preserve him for the future. If they don’t, they risk not having him in the future.

Aug 11

Which Johan Santana Shows Up Tonight?

Watching Johan Santana pitch this season has been much like reading the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde. A twisting tale of the agony and ecstasy in the duality that some say exists in all of us. Although not quite as extreme, the concept is not lost on what has been s strange season for the Mets left-handed ace.

Leading up to and including his date with Mets history and lore on June 1st, Santana was on top of the baseball world as he led the Mets with a 2.38 ERA and subdued any talk that he was on the decline after an 18 month recovery from anterior capsular surgery in his left shoulder. The Mets ace was back and had once again become an intimidating presence on the mound – capped off by tossing his 131-pitch no-hitter, the first in Mets franchise history.

However, that night would become a turning point to the season for Santana and just like that a change set in that transform him and his performance into the antithesis of what we had come to expect.

After June 1, the former Cy Young award winner was suddenly in the throws of a pitching slump – unquestionably the worst stretch of his career. In his next eight starts, Santana pitched to an unsightly 6.54 ERA, The swagger was gone, the confidence at a season low, and the dugout whispers suddenly turned into worries and a deep and abiding concern. The Mets say an ankle injury was the cause and soon the southpaw was placed on the DL which seemed like a good excuse to give his seemingly dead arm some much needed rest. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

That said, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal offers up an encouraging report on Johan Santana who will take the mound tonight against the rival Atlanta Braves. Fresh off Santana’s three inning rehab start in Brooklyn, pitching coach Dan Warthen spoke with Costa and if he’s right, we may see the crafty lefthander who thrilled us for the first two months of the season:

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the difference was evident in Santana’s overall demeanor. “There were four or five starts where it just wasn’t Johan,” Warthen said. “He generally lights up a room. He has enough energy to light up this whole city on game day.” After the no-hitter, Warthen said, “He was having the kind of energy that would light up a 20-watt bulb.” The fatigue led to reduced arm speed, Warthen said, which led to lapses in control. Santana initially dismissed the ankle injury. But two more dreadful outings convinced the Mets he needed a breather. Now, they will find out if it was enough.

Santana’s fastball hit 90 miles per hour during a rehab start in Brooklyn last weekend, a benchmark he hadn’t reached in a while. “I think you will see pretty much what you saw early in the season the rest of the year,” Warthen said. “I think we’ll see 87 to 90 miles per hour. I think we’ll see better control. But I think you’re going to see a stronger, probably more consistent high-end velocity guy next year. I don’t think you’re going to see the whole Santana package until next year.”

Maybe this journey in duality will have a much happier ending than the one in Stevenson’s classic did.

NOTE: John had to have emergency surgery on Thursday and will be hospitalized until Sunday. Please wish him a speedy recovery and in the meantime I’ll post here in the interim.

Jul 21

Mets Considering Shutdown Options With Santana

After another horrid start by Johan Santana – at least six runs in last three starts – the Mets are clearly worried about his arm. They insist he’s not injured of this related to his high pitch count in his no-hitter.

Maybe they are correct. Maybe it’s denial. But, something isn’t right with Santana and you don’t have to be a pitching coach to see it. His fastball last night clocked at two, three mph., slower than it had been. He’s also not challenging hitters as he used to. In previous seasons, and maybe earlier this year, he would have challenged Matt Kemp instead of having Josh Thole set up in the left-handed batters box.

The Mets are considering pushing him back a start, skipping him in the rotation altogether and putting him on the DL to “get some energy back in his arm,” said Terry Collins.

Over his last three starts, Santana has given up 19 earned runs over 12.2 innings for a lofty 13.50 ERA. ), and became just the third pitcher in franchise history to give up six or more earned runs in three consecutive starts.

Santana insists his health is fine, but that the problem is not commanding his fastball. If something were wrong, the competitor in him wouldn’t allow him to admit it, just gut it out. Even so his ERA is 3.98 ERA, over a run higher than at the time of the no-hitter (2.75).

Santana’s next scheduled start is Wednesday afternoon against the Nationals. We’ll see. I’ll take the DL option just to shut it all down and start over.