Johan Santana, Sandy Alderson, And Jeremy Hefner: Out With The Old, In With The New


The end of yet another high profile player’s time in Flushing is at hand.  Barring a trade at the July deadline, or sooner, this coming September will effectively end Johan  Santana‘s career in Queens.  Fueled perhaps by Sandy Alderson’s chiding, the perception is Johan’s last season with the Mets is off to an acrimonious beginning.  Johan Santana recently stated any misunderstandings incurred with the general manager regarding his preparedness have been addressed and settled.  That however, does not mean the matter is satisfied and done.  In return for upwards of $31 million dollars, starting the regular season on the disabled list is not what the Mets had in mind.  Deserved or not, Johan  Santana bears the distinction of being the lone drama of Spring Training.  Of course, this is all just my opinion.  That said, the clock marking the beginning of the end of Johan’s Mets career officially starts now.

In a Tuesday column for the NYDN, Andy Martino and his unidentified Mets source, suggested Johan’s situation is devolving similarly to the way Carlos  Beltran‘s time here ended.  Matt, Sam, and I debated this in our most recent Rising Apple Podcast.  The only detail I’d like to further inject into Andy Martino’s point was Omar Minaya’s lingering affect upon Beltran’s entire equation.  But yes, there are brewing similarities between Beltran’s final year, and Johan’s.

August 22, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson speaks about pitcher Johan Santana (not pictured) during a press conference before a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In recent terms, how this organization approached injuries and/or diagnosis, and to what extent that caused other player relationships to sour, are all fair to criticize.  While there are two general managers, and three field managers to account for, ownership and the medical staff were constants.  If you recall just a few examples, the point is easily made.  Jerry Manuel famously fell short of labeling Ryan  Church (concussion) a malingerer.  Considering a strong second half by Carlos  Delgado (hip), there was great debate as to the extent of his injuries leading up to Willie Randolph’s firing.  His mounting hip problems were likewise befuddling to the Mets.  Jerry Manuel, and Dan Warthen in particular, questioned their pitcher’s fortitude, when John  Maine (shoulder) experienced arm troubles.  And Oliver  Perez (knee); although best left forgotten; also endured a rather indignant ending in Queens.  All those instances commonly suffered from a major lack of communication.  Each and every case no doubt made us scratch our heads.  But this shows the correlation between injuries, a change in the club’s demeanor, and departing players was not just limited to those coming off long term, mega money contracts, as Martino and the un-named source portend.

Considering examples named above, there was a day I would have shaken my pom-poms in support of Martino’s observation.  But no more.  At some point, we need to stop revisiting past practice in search of blaming a current condition.  In the cases of Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana, Sandy Alderson’s priorities lie in the team’s future.  When Omar Minaya signed them, he was preoccupied with an immediate, and fleeting circumstance of the here and now.

If Sandy comes off as callous sometimes, then so be it.  Being blunt pleases me more than misspeaking.  Personally, I do not care how Santana Gate ends, so long as the end comes.  Sandy Alderson was brought here to rebuild the club, and give the front office sorely needed structure.  Any successful general manager holds his manager and players accountable, which to a large degree didn’t exist under Omar Minaya’s tender and indecisive coddling.  Another part of the rebuilding process is transitioning the roster left behind by the prior regime.  For two years now, Sandy Alderson has done just that.  Now entering his third full season, we’ve gained separation, conversion, and correction under Sandy Alderson.  Therefore, in my view the age of antagonism is over.

I admit, I still wouldn’t let the Mets medical staff come anywhere near me with a band-aid.  But I’m through with the years of the media cornering Omar Minaya, and the manager of the day, into bait balls, and feeding themselves into a frenzy.  Aren’t you?  There has to come a time when greater METropolis; fans, media, and even unnamed Mets sources; finally untether from the previous condition and move forward with a free mind.  And so, continuing to string together past trends and tying them to the present, does not interest me.  I believe the general manager is doing things the right way.  Johan Santana’s and Carlos Beltran’s cases to me, scream of an organization now operating with conviction.  I do not see where – “here we go again” – fits into the mindset of our overall rebuilding effort.

What Sandy Alderson is doing is making cold baseball decisions.  When Sandy Alderson traded Carlos  Beltran, the Mets received pitcher Zach Wheeler in return.  With Jose  Reyes effectively rejected by the organization, Ruben  Tejada stepped in to play shortstop.  Although Ruben is currently off to a rough start in the Grapefruit League, fans have been quite happy with their diminutive replacement since day one.  As part of the continuing turnover, the reigning 2012 N.L. Cy  Young award winner was traded to the Blue Jays in exchange for Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  Will this new group pay off?  We’ll see.   For now, Sandy Alderson’s effects, even his prudence as it pertains to the outfield, own me.  We still have a year to figure the outfield and bullpen out.  But at this very moment, I have no reservations as to which group of players I would rather have.

To reiterate, in return for upwards of $31 million dollars, Johan Santana starting the regular season on the disabled list is not what the Mets had in mind.  Nor was his level of preparedness.  And so begins a potentially acrimonious end between a formerly dominant pitcher, and the New York Mets.  The next player in line to help Mets fans get over old bad habits, and allow Johan  Santana to take his sweet time coming back will be Jeremy  Hefner.  That’s where I believe as fans, our minds should be.

In 10.1 innings of Grapefruit League play, Jeremy is sporting a 2.61 ERA and 0.871 WHiP.  He has allowed seven hits, two walks, while striking out eight batters, thanks in large part to Friday’s start, in which he struck out seven.  Jeremy surrendered five hits, two of which were solo home runs, in a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Hefner is a known commodity to both the Mets, and separately by Sandy Alderson from his days in San Diego.  He was previously drafted twice by the Mets, in the 46th round of the 2004 draft, and in the 48th round of the 2005 draft, but never signed.  The Padres then drafted Jeremy in the fifth round of the 2007 amateur draft.  He stayed in their organization until 2011, when Sandy Alderson selected him off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who only a month earlier, selected him off waivers from San Diego.

In a six year minor league career, he posted an overall 51-36 won/loss record, with a combined 3.76 ERA, in 750.1 total innings pitched.  By the way, my old school thinking couldn’t be more thrilled with that much minor league experience.  I digress.  He averaged a 1.275 WHiP, an 8.8 H/9, 2.7 W/9, and 7.7 K/9.  In his first season with the Mets in Buffalo, Jeremy appeared in ten games, making nine starts.  In 61.2 innings, he limited hits allowed to fifty-five, walked ten, and struck out thirty-seven.  His 2.77 ERA, and 1.054 WHiP, were his minor league best.

Ever since Johan Santana went down in 2012, his spot in the rotation has belonged to Jeremy Hefner.  Granted, his major league debut did not go smoothly, as evidenced by a 5.06 ERA.  But that’s who I’ve been rooting for nonetheless.  It is high time others caught up and joined in with the transitioning of the New York Mets as well.  I’m not saying Jeremy Hefner; twenty-seven years old; is the definitive answer for anything, or even compares with Johan Santana.  What pleases me is that the Mets seem to have a quality pitcher to fill in, similar to the way Dillon Gee stepped in, and earned a spot in the rotation.  If I may, Jeremy Hefner was one of Sandy Alderson’s more savvy acquisitions. When you can provide the club with quality replacements, a general manager should speak to a long-recovering, thirty-four year old, one-time ace pitcher from a position of strength.

Out with the old – in with the new.

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