Realistically, the New York Mets' 2012 season has been over for weeks. Now Johan Santana's season officially is done as well. And it could be a blessing in disguise.
The Mets announced on Wednesday, August 22, that they were shutting down the lefty for the rest of 2012. Santana, who missed all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, has been placed on the disabled list with lower back inflammation. The Mets see no benefit to bringing him back until Spring Training and I can't disagree with them. It's time to start thinking about next year.
"If you look back at the season and what we reasonably could have expected at the beginning of the year, he's actually accomplished quite a lot," general manager Sandy Alderson told Mets.com. "I'm very confident that he'll be back next season and ready to go, and hopefully in a stronger position than he was coming into this year."
Santana's ComebackIt was a mixed bag for Santana in his return from anterior capsule shoulder surgery. He was outstanding in the first two months of the season and threw the first no-hitter in franchise history on June 1. However, he wasn't the same pitcher afterwards. Santana went 3-7 with an 8.27 earned run average after throwing his no-no. Furthermore, he was 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA over his final five outings.
One could argue Mets manager Terry Collins left Santana in too long to complete his no-hitter (he needed 134 pitches), but it seemed like the right decision at the time. Besides, Santana's arm appears to be intact, so Collins is looking at the bright side despite his pitcher's final underwhelming statistics. Santana finished the year 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA. I'll give Santana this much -- he battled to get back on the mound this year. But it was time to pull the plug.
"We've tried to make it really clear that in the big scope of things, this has been a very positive year for him," Collins said. "He's made it through a surgery that nobody thought he could. He's healthy. He's got a tweak in his back, but with rest and exercises, it will go away."
Wait Until Next YearThe Mets have lots invested in Santana. He is signed for next season at $25.5 million and has a $5.5 million buyout on his $25 million team option for 2014. The team needs a decent return on that investment next season, especially since spending money on free agents seems highly unlikely.
Of course, shutting down Santana early doesn't guarantee success next season. The two-time Cy Young winner has a combined record of 17-18 since 2010. So are we witnessing the natural decline of a one-time great pitcher or was Santana's fade the result of fatigue or the side effects of surgery?
We'll have to wait until next year to find out.
Did the Mets make the right choice by shutting down Santana? Can he bounce back next season? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Adam Martini is a freelance sportswriter who grew up in Queens, N.Y. with a view of Shea Stadium from his bedroom window. He spent many nights in the upper deck at Shea rooting for the Mets. Adam follows back Mets fans on Twitter @PegCitySports.
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