With yesterday’s surgery, Johan Santana‘s Mets career is essentially over. The trials of the last few years of injuries and rehab will not happen again in a Mets uniform. The hope that we always seemed to have with every minor league rehab outing and the end of every DL stint is a thing of the past. And while Johan’s time with the Mets was largely stalled by injuries, it really wasn’t as bad as it could have been.Johan Santana provided the Mets with a lot more than 109 starts and 46 wins in his six years under contract. He was the optimism that 2008 might not simply be a continuation of the end of 2007. He was the best pitcher in baseball at the time and he was on the Mets. It wasn’t any other team that was able to pull of that trade and signing in February of 2008. For a little while the Mets were no longer the laughing stock of baseball. Santana was the reason for that. He was the hope.
Throughout the 2008 season he proved he was worth all those prospects and all that money. On September 27, he pitched a three-hit shutout and kept the Mets season alive until the last day of the regular season. On October 1, he had knee surgery. Shea Stadium was electric on that September afternoon, erupting after each of his nine strikeouts. I still think of that game when I hear “Smooth” by Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana.
Unfortunately that knee injury was seemingly the first snowflake in his avalanche of injuries. His 2009 season was cut short by bone chips in his elbow. His 2010 season was also ended by an injury, as it was his first anterior capsule surgery.
However, shortly before that injury he provided a very cool moment for fans watching his July 6 start against the Reds. In the midst of a long at-bat, Gary Cohen mentioned Johan’s offensive prowess and also his lack of Major League home runs. Before you knew it, he had crushed a ball towards at the right field foul pole. For a few minutes Gary Cohen was psychic and Johan Santana was the reason.
Recovery and rehab kept him from pitching for the Mets in 2011. Yet 2012 brought new hope for Santana and the last years of his Mets career.
Johan was on the team to start the 2012 season, he even started on Opening Day. Through his first 11 starts he had a 2.38 ERA and looked like the player the Mets were so excited about on that February night in 2008. The greatest moment of not only his Mets career, but likely his entire career came on June 1, 2012. The Mets finally had a pitcher throw a no-hitter in their uniform. Johan showed the same perseverance as his last start of 2008 when he threw 134 pitches on the road to history.
After that game on June 1 Terry Collins called Johan Santana his hero. Collins was talking simply about that night, but it could really be said about Johan’s entire Mets career.
Behind the surgeries and DL trips was a hero that Mets fans barely got the chance to fully embrace. He was the optimism in what turned into a trying era of Mets baseball. At a minimum, he was the bridge from the last glimpse of Mets success to what will hopefully be newfound success in 2014 and beyond. At most, he is forever an image in Mets history.
Thank you, Johan Santana. The memories may have been few, but they were definitely great, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.