It’s no secret that things are a little dicey these days between the New York Mets and pitcher Johan Santana. The lines of communication between the two parties don’t appear to be open, and there has been a bitter and angry back and forth between Santana and the Mets through the media. But if the Mets want someone to blame for what has gone on between them and their star pitcher, they should just look in the mirror.
The Mets have not been supportive or understanding of Santana, and they have not given him the benefit of the doubt, which he has earned the right to have. Although the team was right to prevent Santana from pitching for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, it couldn’t have made him happy to have that decision made for him, when in reality, there was little possibility of him being able to pitch anyway.
Then when Santana did not progress as scheduled during training camp, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson accused him via the media of not coming to spring training in pitching shape, which was an unfounded accusation and a colossal mistake. Few people in the game take their work as seriously as Santana, and to think that he didn’t do everything he could to be prepared for spring training is a huge leap and a great deviation from what has been true in the past. It’s borderline absurd for the Mets to think that an aging and rather diminutive pitcher with a history of injuries that ended last season on the disabled list would arrive to spring training in perfect condition, as if he were a 25-year old with no injury history.
Instead of taking it easy on the veteran and giving Santana more time to get his arm in shape and get himself on track for the season, they accused Santana of not taking things seriously and being ready for the season. Angered by the accusation, Santana threw an unscheduled bullpen session intended to shut his critics up about being unready or unwilling to pitch, a throwing session that he probably wasn’t ready for and that probably shouldn’t have happened. That bullpen session may have done more harm than good, setting Santana back even further, and making it less likely that he will be ready to start the regular season as part of the starting rotation. Now as a way to make up for everything, pitching coach Dan Warthen is allowing Santana to dictate terms with regards to his pitching schedule going forward, which may end up being another mistake.
If the Mets brass had just kept their mouths shut and let Santana, Warthen, and manager Terry Collins go about their business, this whole situation may have gone a lot differently, and there wouldn’t be this feeling of animosity surrounding Santana and the team. Of course, they only have themselves to blame for that.