There are rumblings coming out spring training that New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana would like very much to play for his native Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Santana is not allowed to participate because he was shut down August last year and ended the season on the disabled list, but he could seek a waiver that would allow him to play if he’s proven to be healthy. Mets manager Terry Collins has said he could support Santana participating if it would help prepare him for the season. However, Santana leaving spring training in Port St. Lucie to pitch competitive games in March in the WBC is an idea that needs to be nixed, and the sooner the better.
It’s not that it wouldn’t be exciting to see Santana pitching for his home country in a competitive environment. Santana speaks openly about his love and admiration for his native Venezuela, and there’s no doubt that he would cherish the opportunity to represent his country. In a lot of ways, Santana has earned the right to pitch in the WBC if he wants, and the tournament would certainly be lacking something if Santana didn’t participate. But there’s no way the Mets can allow this to happen.
Assuming his option for next season doesn’t vest, the Mets will paw Santana $31 million in 2013, and they need to squeeze every bit of value out of Santana that they possibly can. Santana hasn’t made it through a full season since 2009, and there’s no way of knowing coming off his shoulder trouble if he’s going to be able to go a full season this year, so why allow him to use up some of what he has in the tank in March before the regular season even begins? How would allowing Santana to expend energy in meaningful games in March help Santana win games for the Mets in August in September?
For the Mets to have a good year, they’re going to need their starting rotation to lead the way, especially Santana. They simply can’t afford to risk his already fragile health by allowing him to play in the WBC. It’s not the ideal way to treat the man that delivered the team’s first ever no-hitter last year and has given the fans so much excitement over the years, but the Mets need to put their foot down, and just say no to Santana pitching in the WBC.