Friday, March 29, 2013

Johan, We Hardly Knew Ye

Dominance is fleeting, especially when you throw lighting for a living. New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana looks like he is done for the year, and maybe for good, after re-tearing his anterior capsule. Santana's career in Queens had been a rocky one after being traded by the Twins five years ago. He has not pitched more than 200 innings in a season since the 2008 campaign. 

It's difficult to see ballplayers slowly lose their stuff, but it's especially tough in Santana's case. Minnesota fans thought he would carry the team back to their first World Series championship since 1991. The rotation has not even come within a whiff of the dominance it had since Santana left. 

The mid-2000 Twins team led by him, Francisco Liriano and his Mississippi Mud-dirty slider, and the pre-eminent workhorse, Brad Radke was one of the best pitching rotations the team had ever seen. Liriano won the pitching triple crown, leading the league in ERA, strikeouts, and wins (tied with Chien-Ming Wang.) Those guys, along with Mauer, Morneau, and the Piranhas gave Minnesota baseball it's pride back after Bud Selig and his gang threatened to contract the Twins in 2002. The Twinkies did not win in dominant fashion, but they could count on to be competitive in the AL Central. They only had one losing season (2007) during Johan's tenure. 

It was fun to see Santana at the helm of that tight knit group. It looked like he was doing the best with what he had, which back then, was a lot. A wicked changeup, a mid-ninety's fastball, and an crazy ability to dig out his best stuff in the dog days of the baseball season. He was 51-24 in August and September from 2002-08. He was probably the most productive Minnesota resident during the lake-and-cabin months. 

I was happy to see Johan pitch a no-hitter last season, the first in Mets franchise history. It was a much deserved feather in his cap. 

I hope things get better for you, Johan. If not, I'm sure there's a cabin on Lake Mill Lacs with your name on it. 

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