Minnesota Twins: Remembering the Johan Santana era
Welcome back to Wayback Wednesday, a Puckett’s Pond look at the careers of former Minnesota Twins greats.
Way back during the 2000 season, a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher made his MLB debut with the Minnesota Twins. Although Johan Santana suffered through three seasons in the bullpen, he ended up becoming one of the greatest Twins starting pitchers of all-time. Let’s take a quick look at his humble beginnings.
Rightfully regarded as one the best Rule-5 selections of all-time, Santana turned into so much more. The Houston Astros left Santana unprotected for the Rule-5 draft prior to the 2000 season, a decision they surely regretted for a long time afterwards.
Minnesota held the first pick in that draft but chose pitcher Jared Camp instead. Luckily, the Twins had worked out a deal with the Florida Marlins, who held the second pick, to select Santana and swap them for Camp. Minnesota also received $50,000 to help cover the cost of the pick and the rest is, as they say, history.
His Twins beginnings
Santana made his MLB debut during the first game of the season against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Minnesota Twins used Santana mostly out of the bullpen that season and his numbers were uninspiring. He appeared in 30 games, five starts, and finished with a 6.49 ERA. Santana walked 54 batters and struck out 64 while pitching 84 innings during the 2000 season.
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He didn’t fare much better during the 2001 season finishing with a 4.74 ERA in only 43 2/3 innings pitched. However, Santana started putting everything together during the 2002-03 seasons. Santana pitched in 72 games and made 32 starts with going 20-9 with a 3.04 ERA.
Santana collected 306 strikeouts with only 96 walks while pitching 266 2/3 innings during that span. This was only a glimpse into what would become a Hall of Fame worthy career for Santana.
The Cy Young years
Between 2004-07 Santana epitomized what it means to be the ace of an MLB pitching staff. He won two Cy Young Awards (’04 and ’06) and led the American League in strikeouts for three out of those four seasons. On top of that, Santana averaged 34 starts during that span and helped the Minnesota Twins make the playoffs twice.
As good as his entire Twins career was, it all culminated in 2006 with one of the more dominant performances in recent memory. Santana won a league-high 19 games while making 34 starts during the ’06 season and finished with a league-best 2.77 ERA. He also led the American League with 245 strikeouts and 233 2/3 innings pitched during that season.
Santana won the pitching triple crown in 2006 en route to winning his second Cy Young Award. Minnesota had the makings of a top MLB rotation with Santana and Francisco Liriano. Unfortunately, Minnesota was unwilling to offer Santana the big money contract he would soon demand and traded him to the New York Mets following the 2007 season.
That was the beginning of the end for Santana’s MLB career. He started 34 games for the Mets during the 2008 season and even made an All-Star appearance in 2009. However, injuries derailed his career during his prime and we’ll never know what could have been.
Next: Breaking down the Twins All-Star hopefuls
Surprisingly, Santana was removed from the Hall of Fame ballot this year after failing to receive enough votes last year. That’s a shame because Santana was one of the best pitchers in MLB during the first decade of this century. At least Minnesota recognized his achievements and inducted him into the Twins Hall of Fame this year.