When healthy, Santana is a quality pitcher. He'll win games and people will watch. Because he would have been trade bait this summer, the media would have had a field day covering his starts and reporting on potential suitors.
But there's another part to all of this, and that's that the Mets didn't lose much when general manager Sandy Alderson announced on Thursday that Santana has a probable re-tear of the anterior capsule of his left shoulder. Santana is headed for surgery on the shoulder, the same one that got operated on in 2010.
But what did the Mets really expect to get from him this year anyway? This is a guy who hasn't been fully healthy in years, and he was shut down at the start of spring training because of a lack of arm strength. Never expect much from a 34-year-old pitcher with a bum shoulder.
Santana's career with the Mets is most likely over, and that means it's time to state the honest truth: Johan Santana was as much of a bust as Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla were. His contract -- six years and $137.5 million -- was just as bad, if not worse, than any of the other bad ones the Mets have given out.
Everybody is quick to note that the Mets owe Santana $31 million this season, and because the contract is not insured, they're on the hook for all of it. But really, the Mets have been throwing away money on Santana for some time.
That's because all the Mets really got from him was one great season and a no-hitter. Throw in some buzz at the ballpark and that's it.
In 2008, Santana's first year with the Mets, he won 16 games and was every bit the ace that the Mets had hoped he would be, leading the National League with a 2.53 earned run average and finishing third in Cy Young voting. In 2009 he won 13 games and in 2010 he won 11 games, but both seasons were cut short due to injuries. He missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder, but came back last year to pitch a no-hitter on June 1. He wasn't the same pitcher after that, and a back injury ended his season in August.
Santana went 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA in four seasons with the Mets. He started 30 or more games just once (2008).
When people say that Mets ownership is cheap, that they don't want to spend the money needed to win, it's important to remember this contract. If anything, the Wilpons have spent too much money on bad contracts: Bay, Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, throw in Pedro Martinez for good measure, and, yes, Santana.
This is not to knock the Mets, or even Santana, who was an ace in year one with the Mets before injuries started to take their toll.
The Mets were not wrong to give Santana what was, at the time, a record contract for a pitcher. He was a star and there were plenty of other teams who would have given him that kind of money.
But the way things played out, Santana's contract ended up being a bad one. And the Mets know a thing or two about bad contracts.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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