NJ - Once upon a time, Johan Santana was the best pitcher in the world. Now, at the age of 37, the former Mets ace is just looking to find a way to make it back to a big league mound.
After a series of lost years and odd, unpredictable non-arm injuries (Achilles in 2013, toe infection in 2015) the ex-AL Cy Young winner is attempting another comeback and hoping to latch on during the season.
It's always sad to see great players hang on too long at the end of their careers. Santana's last moment in the spotlight came way back in 2012 with the Mets when he no hit the Cardinals. At the time there was a lot of controversy over whether the injury prone 33 year old with shoulder problems should be throwing 134 pitches in a blowout game. The plan for Santana that night was to throw around 110 pitches. Did throwing those 25 extra pitches ruin the rest of his career? Maybe. Maybe not. For what it's worth Santana said in 2015 he would not change a thingfrom that night, which was the Mets' first no-hitter as a franchise. 2012 is the last time Santana pitched in the majors but his prime was excellent.
From 2004-2008 Santana was the best pitcher in the league. While he is no where near a hall of famer, his five year run bridged pitching greatness from Pedro to Kershaw. During this span he won two Cy Young awards, three ERA titles, three strikeout titles, and led the league in WHIP four times. Before the 2008 season he was traded from the Twins to the Mets for a package of prospects that included Carlos Gomez and Mike Pelfrey. After the trade Santana signed a 6 year, $137.5 million dollar extension that he unfortunately was never able to live up to.
Most people probably assumed he was already out of the game and in a lot of ways he has been. Following the no-hitter in June 2012 Santana missed all of 2013 with a shoulder issue. The Mets bought out his contract for 2014 where he signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. An achilles injury in June ended his season though. Last year was more of the same. He managed to get a minor league deal with the Blue Jays but a June toe injury once again cut his season short.
Now at 37 years old Santana is attempting yet another comeback. He is in the early stages of a throwing program and is hoping to be game ready by mid-season. Baseball has seen plenty of players attempt this before. Most do not make it. While a return to the majors is still unlikely a Santana comeback would be a great story. Crazier things have happened.