On this day, Monday, August 20, 2012, the issue and event dominating the Roosevelt Avenue Nine’s attention, is the most important bullpen session of Johan Santana’s career.
So, let’s tackle Johan Santana. No really, let’s tackle him. Because all pitchers want to do is pitch. They are stubborn that way. And that’s why, after his bullpen session in Flushing today, Johan, Dan Warthen, Terry Collins, and Sandy Alderson, will come together to analyze and discuss Johan’s immediate future.
I can’t take credit for the following small point, but I thought it brilliant enough to share and ponder. Saturday morning, a caller into WFAN pointed out the Nationals are capping Stephen Strasburg due to the organization’s adherence to policies safeguarding and promoting Strasburg’s right arm, his overall career, and long term health. Meanwhile, the Mets have taken an opposite tact in Johan Santana’s return season from major surgery, and have encouraged him to keep pitching based on the medical presumption his arm is healthy. Until today that is.
Let’s find out where every one stands first. Dan Warthen is one interesting pitching coach, isn’t he? He believes Johan only pitching three live innings during his rehab start in Brooklyn, then finishing up his prescribed work in the bullpen, effected Johan’s first start upon returning from the disabled list. Then in Johan’s latest start, Dan Warthen made it a point to impress Johan was perfect over his first three innings, until some pitches “…started leaking back over the plate” and ruined an otherwise very good effort. I admire Dan’s creativity in answering some questions put before him. He needed to think of something, right? But with every successive sub-par start since Johan’s no-hitter, Dan Warthen’s protectionism was all too apparent. So at this point, the only assessment on Warthen’s part I can take seriously was when he concurred, Johan Santana is potentially battling fatigue.
Lately, Coach Terry’s main concern has been getting Johan to understand if the Mets do in fact shut him down, it’s because they are taking into account his best interest. Coach Terry said he has accomplished impressing that sentiment in preliminary talks with Johan, leading up to today’s bullpen session. And a few posts ago, I expressed how I thought Terry Collins must be dealing with loud voices in his head, over letting Johan throw so many pitches during his no-hitter, against the manager’s better judgement. What was a manager to do? But after the game, he prophesied the effects that game could have on Johan down the road. Within the laws of cause and effect, the truth probably lies somewhere between permitting Johan to join the regular rotation so early in the season, and the after effects of his no-hitter. None the less, here we are. We’ve arrived at the crucible of Johan Santan’a season.
That leaves Sandy Alderson. What does he think? By no later than Monday afternoon, we should know. Sandy making the hard choice, and opting to shut Johan down is not out of the question. The GM is not only well prepared to make that decision, but well equipped to deal with the fallout, if any. The only question is will he? And if he does shut Johan down, I think the likelihood of backlash is negligible to nil.
As General Manager, Sandy makes the ultimate call. His options are to either include Johan in the now six man rotation, and keep him on a strict pitch count, or, pull the plug and just end his season now. I would like for the club to opt for the latter. Let him pack it up, and go home to rest his arm, thus allowing him to show up at Spring Training next season on a normal schedule, unlike the modified routine Johan undertook to prepare himself this year. Of course as General Manager, there is always the prospect of trading Johan Santana over the Winter to keep in mind. So Sandy must also safeguard that scenario as well. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
For right now, and this is just my opinion, Monday’s meeting of the minds stems from an unnecessary process the Mets undertook back in March, when they prematurely named Johann Santana the Opening Day starter on March 18th. I argued then, and then again, what’s the rush? Now today, after effectively hastening Johan’s return to the mound, the Mets are faced with having to hastily shut down Johan Santana with a little less than seven weeks remaining in the regular season.
In the end, this was a demonstration in how decisions come full circle.