Johan Santana: The One Who Got Away


It was the philosopher Sean William Scott who said: “When you love something, you set it free, and if it’s meant to be, you just… You take it back.” And after a few weeks of all quiet on the Central front, it appears that the Twins may not yet be done in free agency. Rumors of a possible reunion with former Twin and AL Cy Young Johan Santana continue to persist.

This is certainly not a new topic for discussion when it comes to the Twins, however, based upon the moves that they have already made this offseason, the context of these conversations have changed dramatically. The initial Santana rumors made me a bit leery at first. I felt the same way when the Twins announced that former Twin and Major League Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor was joining the coaching staff. It felt like a very Twinsian, non-move.



1. The act of a professional baseball team adding players or coaching personnel that contribute very little if nothing to the overall success of the team going forward, but do appeal to the blind sentimentality of homer fans who long for the good old days. Best characterized by moves that masquerade as being legitimate by using a guise of nostalgia to lure foolhardy Minnesotan’s into thinking we somehow know better than the rest of baseball.


“There Billy Smith goes again with another Twinsian deal. Guy brings back Jacque Jones for one more go-around before being put out to pasture.”

“Hey, I wonder if Jason Kubel can still hit. Jim Thome can still play, can’t he? God I can’t wait till Torii Hunter‘s contract is up.”

However, such feelings of unease stem largely from an overall reluctance to believe that the front office would actually make real moves in free agency. A reticence that has been for the time being, mildly placated (don’t get complacent, looking at you Terry Ryan) by the moves made to bolster the starting rotation this offseason.

Basically, what I mean, is that if the Twins had just gone out and signed Johan Santana, and then stuck with their more typical bargain shopping this offseason, I wouldn’t have been very happy. But now, having signed at least a few capable major league starters, I am allowed to entertain largely optimistic — most likely, unlikely — thoughts about a potential return for Johan Santana.

The definition above (now to be found on Urban Dictionary), is largely a joke, because we are all homers in the end. In the same way, when I think about the glory days with Santana, I am not certain I can view the topic entirely objectively. After all, we have had a rough go of it when it comes to pitching since Santana’s departure for New York.

In one of my favorite movies, The American President, Michael J. Fox’s character gives a rousing speech to Michael Douglas about the nature of leadership that slightly doctored, could apply well to the Twins’ pitching woes of late:

“People want pitching, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine talent, they’ll watch anyone who steps to the mound and gets hitters out. They want pitching. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

Much like the Vikings and their much-maligned quarterback Christian Ponder, the Twins have been desperate for some kind of light in the darkness that has been our starting pitching in recent years. We have seen flashes of the inexplicable success that comes along with any 162 game season, but little if nothing ever emerged to make you think that this success was sustainable.

I mean, I got excited to watch Andrew Albers pitch last year. Could there be any better description of the vast and gaping void that all Twins’ fans have descended into? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a knock on Albers, but he isn’t going to be able to do what he did consistently at the Major League Level.

Do you remember what it was like to have the best pitcher in baseball? Every game Santana pitched was an event. Something you didn’t want to miss. The game that you would try to buy tickets to.

He isn’t the same guy he used to be, but we aren’t the same team either. I am not saying that we should move mountains to get him, or that he would even be able to produce right away, as he likely wouldn’t be starting at Target Field any time soon, but having gained two competent starters in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, along with retaining the services of the at least serviceable, Mike Pelfrey, taking a chance on Santana starts to make more sense.

My problem with some of the Twinsian moves in the past is that they at times seemed like a vain attempt to build goodwill among the fans. When it makes sense, I like the fact that so many former members of the team have found their way back to the organization. The only problem is when this continuity keeps people in the same place too long and ends up hurting the team.

Bringing Santana back may be right at the tipping point between these two extremes, as there are a lot of details that we are not privy to about how healthy he actually is, but if perhaps for equal parts nostalgia as well as the potential for promise, it would be fun to see him in a Twins uniform again.

If nothing else, his return to Minnesota at Target Field would make the standing ovation Jacque Jones got at the exhibition games in 2010 sound like crickets in -60 degree weather.