The Rushing Of Johan Santana

A few weeks back fans of the New York Mets nearly went into cardiac arrest when it was announced that Johan Santana was experiencing some stiffness in his left elbow which as we all know is his throwing arm.  Santana was scheduled to fly out of Florida and into New York for an MRI to see what exactly was wrong with the elbow but because of bad weather he did not make that flight.

There has been much speculation on why the elbow was hurt such as Santana was trying to get in shape while recovering from off-season knee surgery in order to play for Venezuela, his native country in the World Baseball Classic which Santana denies.  Whatever the case is Johan Santana has yet to pitch in exhibition game this year.  Since Santana has not participated in a game yet his opening day start on April 6th against The Cincinnati Reds has been in question.  The Mets have gone back and forth on whether Johan would make the opening day start.  Santana has been throwing much watched bullpen sessions and reportedly feeling no pain.  He has not gone to New York or anywhere else to get an MRI nor is it planned for Santana to get an MRI.  As of this writing Johan Santana is on the fast track to pitching opening day against the Reds.  My question is why is it so important for Santana to start opening day?

I understand that it’s great to have your number one pitcher pitching the first game of the season.  Every team in the majors likes to have the ace of their staff pitch the first game of the new season.  Santana is our ace and the Mets want him to pitch against the Reds but at what cost?  Santana’s recovery from the elbow stiffness has been put on the fast track so he can make the opening day start.  Personally I feel it’s more important that Santana be able to make his 30-34 starts than an opening day start.  Johan Santana is too important to this team to risk his health by rushing his recovery time.  I also don’t see why they don’t send him to Miami and get an MRI done on his elbow.  What is the harm to make sure there is nothing wrong with that left elbow?  I know Santana says his elbow is fine but this is the same guy who didn’t fully disclosed his knee problem last season.  Now I respect what he did the last month of September and especially that game on September 27, 2008 when he dominated the Marlins, keeping the Mets playoff dreams alive for another day.  Santana is a gamer and might have more guts than brains which is not always a good thing in sports.  Athletes are proud and want to play, it’s the team’s responsibility to monitor their athletes health and to decide whether or not they are physically able to play.  The Mets agree that Santana’s elbow is fine and fast tracking his recovery will not hurt Santana.

The Mets have a history of down playing the severity of injuries as we observed last year.  The Mets told us many times last year that Moises Alou injury was not serious and would not stop him from playing until it was finally revealed that he needed season ending surgery.  Billy Wagner’s injury was only minor according to the team but then he had to have surgery that not only ended his season last year but sidelined him for the 2009 season and ending his career with the Mets.  The Mets history of evaluating injuries also has to be called into question last season with the way they handled Ryan Church’s concussion he suffered in Atlanta.  The team let him travel on an airplane to Colorado, let him take some at bats and he had to be sidelined for much of the season. 

I’m all for our best pitcher opening up the season but not at the expense of his health.  If he would have stayed on his rehab schedule Santana would pitch on April 11th against the Marlins in Miami.  I think this start would have been better as it gives him more time to rehab and he would pitch in a warmer climate.  Santana needs to make all his starts not just one because it’s expected of an ace.  I also know he’s insistent on pitching for the Mets opening day but to rush Santana is not in the best interest of the Mets, their fans or Johan Santana himself.