It was five years ago yesterday that fans of the New York Mets watched their beleaguered starter Johan Santana no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals. At the time, the Mets had never accomplished the feat, despite Tom Seaver bringing ones to the ninth three times. The stories of Jimmy Qualls, Leron Lee and Joe Wallis iced in Mets’ hearts. The St. Louis Cardinals were no-hit for the first time in 22 years, since Fernando Valenzuela shut them down in 1991. However, everyone blames Terry Collins for letting Santana throw 134 pitches that night.
There is a reasonable argument to be made that Collins letting Santana throw 134 pitches effectively ended his career and the 2012 season. Let us look at that in detail. The 2012 season for the New York Mets was a case of two different halves. Before the All-Star Break, the team was hot, and after the break, everything fell apart. By August, Santana was missing in action, Jordany Valdespin was making errors in center field and R.A. Dickey was the only player worth following. On paper, the 2012 Mets were going to be no better than fourth place team, behind that of the Braves, Phillies and Nationals. The early part of the season was great, but it was unrealistic to expect that the Mets were going to be playoff contenders.
This writer wonders how many people remember that Santana had been on a hot streak in late May/early June 2012. Just a start prior, Santana threw a three-hit shutout of the San Diego Padres. Statistically, Santana performed better in the shutout than the no-hitter just six days later. Santana threw a “Maddux” of just 96 pitches, tagging out Yonder Alonso to end the game. In this day and age, anyone throwing back to back complete games is rare. In fact, Santana’s is the last time the Mets had back-to-back complete game shutouts. After the no-hitter, everything fell apart on June 8 when he gave up back to back to back home runs to Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones of the New York Yankees.
Since the no-hitter, Santana only appeared in ten more starts. His season ended on August 22 with a season-ending back injury. His final game, August 17, he gave up six runs in five innings to the Washington Nationals. Since that date, he has never appeared in a Major League Baseball game, despite numerous comeback attempts. Terry Collins says the decision to let Santana throw 134 pitches for the no-hitter was a big mistake that haunts him to this day, but in reality, he did the right thing. Santana was coming back from an injury that easily could have ended his career. Even if Santana threw less pitches in the no-hitter, it was quite possible he could have had his career ended anyway with the back injury.
June 1, 2012 is still an important day in the history of the New York Mets. The stories of Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan never throwing a no-hitter for the Mets died. In their place, the Mets have something to look at every June 1. Hopefully someday the Mets will throw another one to go along with it. Terry Collins should not regret letting Santana throw 134 pitches that day. Ten, twenty, fifty years from now, that will just be a statistic.