Mets dragging Santana down with them - Newsday

Mets dragging Santana down with them

New York Mets Johan Santana pitches against the New York Mets Johan Santana pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field in Flushing, New York, Tuesday, August 4, 2009. (David Pokress/Newsday/MCT) Photo Credit: MCT/David Pokress

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Wallace Matthews Newsday columnist Wallace Matthews

Matthews writes on professional sports, with a specialty in professional boxing. ...

So far, the only benefit Johan Santana has derived out of being a Met is getting to co-star in a sandwich commercial with CC Sabathia.

In every other respect, he is getting eaten alive.

His team is hopelessly out of the division race, and close to DOA in the wild card. Time and again, he has been let down, by the bats, by the gloves, and last night, by the closer who was supposed to be the cure for what ailed last year's Mets.

It is tough to know which is more barren, the Mets farm system post-Tony Bernazard or the team's bank account post-Bernie Madoff.

And worst of all, the team Santana left behind is right in the thick of things in the AL Central, as the Twins were every year he was there.

And unlike the Mets, the Twins seem to have a future, their farm system having proven the ability to identify and develop the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, Matt Garza and, oh yeah, Johan Santana.

Leaving Minneapolis for New York was supposed to be a career boost for Santana. Instead, it has been more like a career setback, his standing among the best pitchers in baseball falling, it seems, in sync with the death spiral of the team for which he plays.

Before the game, Jerry Manuel channelled his inner Nietzsche, suggesting that Santana might gain strength from the trials and tribulations of this unmitigated disaster of a season.

But Santana didn't come here to build his character, he came to build his bank account. He waived his no-trade clause to join a ballclub that he believed would not only fatten his wallet, but fill his jewelry box. And while the seven-year, $137.5 million contract he signed before last season may have accomplished that mission, his display case remains empty and in every other way, Santana is certainly paying a price.

"It was a crazy one, but it's not the first time I've been through something like this,'' Santana said after last night's game went from a "sure'' 7-5 victory to a sickening 12-7 loss. "When I left the game, I felt I did my job. It's one of those crazy seasons but we just got to keep our heads up.''

It will be the second straight "one of those crazy seasons'' for Santana and the Mets. Meanwhile, the Twins, who finished first in four of the six years in which Santana was their ace, are now within 21/2 games of the lead in the AL Central.

You can't help but wonder how much better they would be this year if they still had Santana on their staff. More importantly, you wonder if Santana ever wonders about it.

Because the truth of it is, in two seasons, Santana hasn't been able to make all that much of a difference for the Mets.

The Twins, however, with no starter having more than 10 wins, could benefit greatly from having Santana in their rotation. And, probably, vice versa.

Had he stayed a Twin, Santana wouldn't be as rich, but you've got to believe he would be a lot happier on a team that seems to be perennially in contention rather than a team that always seems to play its way out of it, a team that renews itself from within rather than one that rots from the inside out.

Moving from Minneapolis to New York was supposed to be a big step up in the career of Santana. But rather than elevating his new teammates to his level, more and more it looks as if the Mets are dragging Santana down to theirs.

When Santana left the game last night, he had a 7-5 lead and sat just three outs removed from his 13th win of the season. But Rodriguez imploded, allowing two runs on three ringing hits, and Santana came up empty. Sean Green hit Mark DeRosa with a pitch as the Cardinals scored the go-ahead run in the 10th, and then Green surrendered a grand slam to Albert Pujols to make it 12-7.

"These things happen,'' Santana said. "I still gotta be positive about the things this team is capable of doing.''

Still, you can't help but wonder if Santana allowed himself a glance up at the out-of-town scoreboard, or a peek at the AL Central standings to keep track of his old team while his new one was running off the rails.

Compared to what he left behind, a sandwich commercial with Sabathia doesn't seem like much consolation.

You also may be interested in: