Johan Santana coming back, don't we? Yes, the man once revered by most major league teams will with any luck be returning to the Mets' rotation this spring, but that doesn't mean we'll be seeing the Johan of old. Mets fans need to grasp on to this idea mighty quick, or they'll be setting themselves, and Johan, up for failure.
Lets pretend for a minute that Johan Santana didn't have a major shoulder surgery. One that only a handful of pitchers have ever returned from. One so new, that there is no list of sterling examples of pitchers who've returned to glory. What type of Johan Santana would we have then.
Well, first and foremost, we'd have a Johan Santana who will be 33 years old on opening day and one who hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors since September 2010. You'd also be witnessing the return of a once dominant pitcher whose strikeouts per nine innings ration has fallen from 9.7 to 6.5 since 2007. One whose now giving up an close to an extra walk per game as well. Simply put, pre-surgery Johan was no longer the dominant pitcher the Mets traded for in February of 2008.
One of the only starting pitchers to returned from this surgery, Chien-Ming Wang, who once lead Major League Baseball in wins from 2006-2007, started 11 games for the Nationals last season. He went a modest 4-3, pitching no more than six innings an outing and was never really dominant over that time. Why should we expect that Johan's results would be drastically different.
So what should fans expect now. I certainly wouldn't expect an improvement on his pre-surgery numbers. Johan Santana peaked some time ago now, probably before he ever strapped on a Mets uniform. That isn't to say his career is over, but at the same time, fans shouldn't expect a Cy Young caliber performance next season.
What they will most certainly get is one of the team's leaders back, which is important without question, but that won't be enough if fans don't temper their thoughts of grandeur as the season approaches. Johan Santana, much like the 2012 New York Mets, will be a work in progress. Accepting that at this point will make things a whole lot easier moving forward.
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