The worst thing about coming back from vacation this summer was to see what happened to the Mets. I went away around the All-Star break, when the Mets were comfortably sitting on a 46-40 record. Now I come back and they are 56-63, meaning they have lost 23 of 33. Obviously there is more than something rotten in the state of Mets Nation now; but for a time, however brief, there were glorious stories this season, and Johan Santana's was the best of them all. Besides coming back successfully from surgery, he pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history. Could you blame Mets fans for the visions of sugar plums and the playoffs dancing in their heads?
Now that no-hitter looms as the best of times and worst of times in 2012. Santana threw 134 pitches to accomplish the task (a career high), and clearly while that June 1 victory was the apex of his comeback, it also was the beginning of a downward spiral for the pitcher, and then ultimately the team. Santana (6-9) now looks like he's throwing batting practice, and to say he is ineffective is putting it kindly to say the least. Whatever has happened to him has been distressing to the team and its fans.
Yesterday before the game I heard rumbling on the sports talk shows about "shutting down" Santana for a few weeks or even the rest of the season. The fans calling in seemed to be part of a chorus that is singing, "Save his career" and, at 33, one would suspect that has to be a concern for manager Terry Collins and the Mets management. It should also be of great concern to Santana, an aging player who still should have a number of years left in him.
So we go back to June 1. Terry Collins was hit with the questions about letting Santana pitch way too many pitches. It was clear at the time that no one, not even Collins, was going to stand in the way of destiny. Santana wanted it more than anyone, and you get the feeling that even wild horses wouldn't have been able to take him off the mound that night. Since then though Santana has not been the same pitcher, and the no-hitter is his last win to date.