I came up with the idea for this post while writing my post on the 2011 Mets. In looking at the situation concerning Johan Santana, I couldn't help but think of another time in Mets history when they made a trade for another ace of the Minnesota Twins: Frank Viola.
Viola was a local New York City area product from East Meadow in Nassau County on Long Island and played his college baseball at St. John's University in Jamaica, NY a few miles from Shea Stadium. Viola was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 1981 draft and made the majors in 1982. After having struggled in his first two seasons, Viola hit his stride in 1984. Viola went 18-12 with a 3.21 ERA in 35 games started and 257.2 innings pitched. In 1985 he went 18-14 with a 4.09 ERA in 36 games started and 250.2 innings pitched. In 1986 he went 16-13 with a 4.51 ERA with a league leading 37 starts and 245.2 innings pitched. In the year of the Twins first World Championship of 1987, Viola went 17-10 with a 2.90 ERA in 36 starts and 251.2 innings pitched. In his Cy-Young Award winning season of 1988, Viola went 24-8 with a 2.64 ERA in 35 starts and 255.1 innings pitched. During that stretch (1984-1988), Viola went 93-56 with a 3.46 ERA in 179 starts and 1261 innings pitched. He averaged 36 starts and 252.2 innings pitched per season during these years. Viola was a workhorse of a pitcher for the Twins.
Santana came up with the Twins in 2000, and after a few seasons of pitching as a starter and a reliever Santana also found his way. In 2003, Santana went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 45 games of which he started 18 with 158.1 innings pitched. As a full-time starter in 2004, Santana went 20-6 with a league best 2.61ERA in 34 games started and 228.0 innings pitched leading to his winning his frat Cy-Young Award. In 2005 he went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA in 33 games started and 231.1 innings pitched. In 2006, Santana won his second Cy-Young award with a league best 19 wins with 7 losses and a league best 2.77 ERA in 34 starts and 233.2 innings pitched. In 2007 he went 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 33 starts with 219.1 innings pitched. From 2003-2007, Santana went a combined 82-35 with a 2.92 ERA with 152 games started (174 total games) and 1070.2 innings pitched. Like Viola, Santana was the workhorse of the staff in his prime years with the Twins.
Both pitchers were traded to the Mets in multiplayer deals (Viola during the 1989 season and Santana after the 2007 season) and pitched tremendously well in their first full National League seasons. After going 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 12 starts to finish the 1989 season, Viola went 20-12 with a 2.67 ERA with a league best 35 starts and a league most 247.2 innings pitched. In Santana's first season with the Mets in 2008 he went 16-7 with the league best in 2.53 ERA, games started (34) and innings pitched (234.1). The second full seasons were disappointing for both pitchers. Where Viola made the All-Star team with an 11-5 record, he finished the season with a 2-10 record in his last 12 starts and was allowed to sign with the Red Sox for the 1992 season. On the other side of the coin, Santana went a respectable 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts having to undergo season ending arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. Santana's 2010 campaign was also shortened due to the shoulder injury that is keeping him from playing today.
Though both players are significantly different physically, it seems to me that both of them felt the effects of being workhorse type pitchers during their years in Minnesota. When you're the ace of the staff it's expected and I would imagine that neither pitcher would complain about it. It just seems curious to me that both players seemed to falter after their departure from the land of 10,000 lakes. In Santana's case, he has time on his side to prove it differently. Only time will tell.
For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Frank Viola's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click Here to access Johan Santana's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com