Johan Santana: Missing Entire 2011 Season Changes Nothing for the New York Mets

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIMarch 13, 2011

NEW YORK - AUGUST 28:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros on August 28, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

On the heels of a recent story in the North Bergen Record by Steve Popper and Bob Klapisch, New York Mets fans are ready to pack it in already.

Let's face it though: Most Mets fans have already packed it in, but there were a few still hanging on.

The article published yesterday cites unnamed members (as usual) of the Mets organization. It claimed that they're ready to shut Johan Santana down completely because he has not been progressing as he continues to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder.

Popper and Klapisch completely embarrassed themselves on this one, in my opinion. To cite "unnamed sources" is nothing new in sports, but to not have follow-up statements from general manager Sandy Alderson, manager Terry Collins or pitching coach Dan Warthen should raise eyebrows among readers.

Yet people are already jumping all over this story, including ESPN's Buster Olney, and making their way to their local churches to light candles and mourn the death of the Mets' 2011 season.

Santana himself said he was "surprised" when news of the article reached him and said there have been no setbacks in his rehab.

For the sake of realism, let's get a few things straight.

Santana is attempting to come back from major shoulder surgery. The idea that he'd come back and pitch is one thing, but thinking he can be a positive force for the Mets this season is something else entirely.

I expect Santana back some time around the late-June, early-July deadline the Mets have set. But do I expect the Mets to climb into first place upon his return and win the NL East? No.

That said, even if Santana did miss the entire 2011 season, how does that change anything?

It's common sense for an organization anticipating the return of a player like Santana to not allow that anticipation to govern their decisions in March.

In other words, build the team as if Santana was never coming back. Put the best players on the team now, and worry about moving them to make room if, and when, Santana comes back.

That's what the Mets have done this spring. Collins is expected to formally announce his starting rotation very soon, with Chris Young and Chris Capuano expected to join Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese.

If the Mets carry a long man, which they're expected to, Collins has said he prefers Pat Misch.

The Mets have built their rotation to contend, not simply tread water until the life preserver that is Johan Santana returns.

Additionally, since when does the Mets' season rest on Santana's shoulders?

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks the Mets can contend this season, so there's no way Santana is the difference between contender and the NL East basement.

Santana certainly carries potential and the possibility of winning a few extra games with him, but haven't the Mets struggled to win as many games with Santana has they have in the three years he's been here?

Most Mets fans will tell you that Santana has been a much better pitcher than the win/loss column would suggest. Still, the Mets still haven't been able to get back to the postseason with Santana, so why does the idea of not having him set fans on edge?

Look, the Mets are a good team, they really are. If the Mets can stay healthy, get solid performances out of their starters and a bounce-back season or two, they should be able to contend for the wild card.

And make no mistake, I think having Santana would make that easier.

But not having him doesn't send them straight to the basement from day one, and it certainly shouldn't change anyone's perspective of the Mets.



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