It may be hard to believe, but former New York Mets’ ace Johan Santana has been out of the game for over five years. Santana hasn’t pitched since the middle of the 2012 season after a second tear in the capsule of his pitching shoulder derailed his career. There have been several failed comeback attempts for Santana, who hasn’t officially retired but has been out of the game long enough to become eligible for the Hall of Fame. Santana is one of 33 players listed on the 2018 ballot, which is now available for voters, who have until December 31st to make their selections. Any player who receives 75% of the vote will be inducted in the 2018 Hall of Fame class next summer.
The ballot is a loaded one, featuring heavyweights such as first time eligibles like Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Omar Vizquel to go along with a group of holdovers that includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa among others. Santana’s case is one of the most intriguing of anyone on the list since he was dominant for an eight year stretch, posting a 122-60 record and winning two American League Cy Young Award winners with the Minnesota Twins. The Twins shipped Santana to the Mets in 2008 and he was great for them too, going 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA in 109 starts over four seasons. Santana missed two full years for the Mets due to injury, but he did deliver the Mets’ first no hitter on June 1 of 2012, when he tossed 134 pitches to baffle the St. Louis Cardinals. That outing became Santana’s personal Waterloo as he struggled in a few starts after that before the new injury was uncovered.
Overall, Santana went 139-78 with a 3.20 ERA in his 12 year career. There is no doubt that at his peak Santana was a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher, but injuries ruined his career. Santana won’t go in on the first ballot, but it will be interesting to see how voters view his candidacy. A potential comparison for Santana could be Sandy Koufax, who also lasted only 12 years before elbow problems ended his career. Koufax posted better numbers than Santana, going 165-87 with a 2.76 ERA, but his career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 49.0 is actually lower than Santana’s mark of 51.4. Santana definitely pitched well enough to be a Hall of Famer, but it will come down to whether the voters hold the fact that his career was cut short against him. This is a debate that will likely rage on for the next few years, perhaps giving Santana a shot down the line as the current glut of Hall worthy players begins to resolve itself.