Sunday, June 27, 2010

When Your Ace Becomes A Joker

By: Kelson Fagan

It’s absolutely inevitable - your superstar (in any sport) hits the point in his career when he will never get any better. He will plateau among the elite of his sport for a few years, based on respect, guile and experience and then his attributes will slowly decay until he retires a mediocre pitcher that used to have an amazing changeup and a incredible fastball to go with it. No matter what sport, this will happen to your favorite star. (Wait, what are you saying, football players don’t throw changeups? Basketball players consider a “fastball” a mixture of cocaine and crack?) Ok you got me, we are talking baseball here and we are talking one baseball player. 

Johan(na) Santana (we are adding an “na” to his name, because he has been throwing like a drunk whore from the Austin season of “The Real World.”)

Johanna has never been amazing since he came to the Mets (which is fine, considering we gave up 4 players for him, only 1 of whom has been mildly successful in the majors - Carlos Gomez), but he was still absolutely exciting to watch. For a kid who grew up watching number one starters for the Mets whose names were “Leiter, Reed, Astacio and Tom Glavine’s Corpse,” Johanna was a real treat. His first year was great - lead the NL in ERA and broke 200 k’s for the 5th consecutive year. 

But numbers are just numbers in retrospect, I remember watching her first year and not being terribly impressed, sure she was a stopper, but I knew she wasn’t the Cy Young award winner we thought we were getting. You can argue that from 2005-2008, she hit his plateau. 200 IP+, 200 K’s,  3.00 ERA on average. Those are fantastic numbers and I’ll take them any day of the week over Pedro Astacio and Mike Hampton. Santana’s final calling card was the gusty game she pitched on the second to last day of the season in 2008, keeping the Mets playoff hopes alive for another day (which were then immediately erased by Tom Glavine’s Corpse). 

Last year, Johanna hit an extended rough patch, corrected herself and then started pitching well again (although her K/9 rate had dropped almost 1.5 points since her days with the Twins by this point). She ended up getting injured (like every other Mets opening day starter from 2009) and ended up on the DL for the rest of the year. 

2010 has arrived and Johanna arrived in all her glory. Pitching well for most of April and May (other than a complete rape and torture vs the Phillies on national TV), she cruised into June with a great ERA but with a K/9 rate hovering around 5.7 (down another 2 points from 2008-2009). Johanna isn’t striking out anybody anymore, she was getting lucky. Her luck has now run out. In the last 4 games, she has allowed at least 4 runs against high slugging teams (including the Adrian Gonzalez’s, the Indians and the “we only have Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, don’t even bother trying to remember any of our career Utility guys.”)

The worst part of this for me is that she has by far been the worst Mets starting pitcher for the month of June (and now this is not a month long problem, she can’t get above 90 on the gun and she can’t spot her change up anymore. I’m pretty sure Artie Lange’s “Beer League” team would rack up 10 runs against her.)

So what do you do when your ace becomes a joker? Here are some helpful hints from yours truly:

1) Tell her she’s pretty - She’s been called the cream of the crop for so long, that maybe she just needs for you to tell her that she’s the best, that she’ll get there again. Just because she’s 31 doesn’t mean she can’t look hot! Sure she’s got cankles that a cow would be jealous of, and yea, she goes all fish like during sex these days. But don’t scold her, just tell her how pretty she is. 

2) Buy her nice things - Don’t worry about the fact that you are already paying her $20 million a year to get repeatedly beaten like a hooker that keeps a little bit too much cash from her pimp. Give her a new car! Buy her a Louis Vitton purse! If she keeps getting lavished with gifts, maybe she will actually get her shit together and, you know, pitch like a number 1 starter that doesn’t get out pitched by RA Dickey (a career minor league knuckleballer). 

3) Do extra chores  - Listen, maybe she’s just tired from working so hard all these years. So, maybe you could make sure you drive her to the ballpark, dress her in her uniform, shine her cleats for her, and sure, a rubdown between every inning is MORE than expected. 

4) Stop Paying Attention To Her - If the above things don’t work, just sit her down on the bench and don’t play with her until she learns what shes done wrong, and that her behavior on the mount is unacceptable. No sunflower seeds, no gum, no crazy handshakes with Jose Reyes. She will learn her lesson real fast when she becomes the outcast of the team. 

5) Kill her - My preference would be to take her out back Old Yeller style, but perhaps a more sensible thing to do is to hire someone to come at your ace like she was Nancy Kerrigan (pre-olympics). If she’s injured, maybe you can void her contract and start from scratch.
It’s the worst thing in baseball when your superstar doesn’t measure up anymore, but we can get through this together, Johanna. You’re still a great teammate, and your goatee trimming is impeccable! This offseason, maybe you, me, Omar Minaya and some other GM could go to Aruba, and you about things. We’ll find you a good home where someone always buys up washed up players.

Then I wake up and remember that that place is the New York Mets. 

The Kooks - Naive


  1. Great stuff, would you mind if I piggy back off your post and do an analysis of his pithes with pitchfx? I enjoyed this a lot and I'd like to put some numbers behind it.

  2. The Pirates would kill for Johan.

  3. Mike - your spin off should be a list of Pirates players that we have considered Kelson's 5th option (Taking them out back and shooting them).

  4. That list might be too long for the blog to handle.