Johan: A Farewell to Arms?
We heard the bad news a few days ago that Johan Santana, days away from returning to MLB for the Baltimore Orioles, was shot down not by his oft-injured shoulder, but by a torn Achilles tendon. What a way to go: fielding a ground ball in a simulated game.
Santana is 35 and this is no easy injury to recover from at any age; one has to wonder if his fine career is over. If so, the big lefty from Tovar, in the mountains near Merida, will go down as one of the best pitchers of the last decade, including his two memorable Cy Young seasons with the Twins in 2004 and 2006.
Johan may not, then, reach the Venezuelan record for Major League wins, still held by Fast Freddy Garcia with 156 (Santana is at 139). “The Chief” had his outstanding years pitching for Seattle and the White Sox, with whom he won a World Series in 2005, Ozzie Guillen at the helm. Freddy is currently playing, of course, for the EDA Rhinos of Taiwan. Freddy passed Zuliana lefty Wilson Alvarez for national bragging rights in 2006 with his 103rd win. (Freddy also tested positive for marijuana during that year’s World Baseball Classic. It’s unknown if it enhanced his performance, but he was the only player to bring a box of Twinkies to the dugout during the tournament.)
A stronger challenger to Garcia’s win total is also in Seattle: Valencia native right-hander King Felix Hernandez began the week with a career-high 15 strikeouts, although he got no decision in a game the Mariners won with a 5-run 9th inning sparked by 36-year-old VZ vet Endy Chavez. Felix wears #34 in honor of Freddy, and with 118 wins he should, bar injury, come close to passing him in 2015. (I think he’ll get to 130 by the end of this season.) Felix should also be in the running for his second Cy Young award, currently trailing Yankee wunderkind (and fake “rookie” after a few seasons in Japan) Masahiro Tanaka.
There was a bit of an injury scare for Henderson “Shutout” Alvarez of Miami (also via Valencia), who was removed in the sixth inning against the Cubs on Sunday after awkwardly stretching his leg whilst covering first base on defense. His shutout string ended at 26 innings as the Cubs scored after he exited the game. No reason to take a chance on a chilly spring day in the Windy City.
Finally, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez continues to make Milwaukee famous, chalking up save #19 against his former employers in Flushing on Wednesday. Forgive the Mets for looking out at the mound like Butch and Sundance and saying, “who IS that guy?”