When Minnesota declined to deliver a jumbo-sized contract to Santana and traded him to the Mets before the 2008 season, how much did the hint of arm problems for the left-hander factor into their decision?
"Zero," Mike Radcliff, Minnesota's vice-president of player personnel, said Tuesday. "Our ownership and our management didn't think that long of a contract was good business. It was just the length. That's always risk for a pitcher, whether it's a one-year deal or a 20-year deal. But we had no knowledge of any injury.
"It was the outlay that was required. And that goes along with that kind of a deal. Pitchers get hurt. That kind of length of contract is very risky, especially for a pitcher. It's just common sense. Logic tells you that."
Upon obtaining Santana, the Mets immediately struck a six-year, $137.5 million contract with him. As he heads for season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, Santana is still owed a minimum of $98.5 million over the next four years.
"There is a differentiation between a pitcher and a position guy," Radcliff said. "[Santana] throws 200 innings a year, but he's not the biggest guy, and he's not the strongest guy. He does throw more changeups and off-speed stuff, so you can lessen the risk with him.
"But with a No. 1 guy like him, the risk is exponential."
And quite simply, that's where baseball's more economically challenged teams must make the hard decisions, must separate reason from emotion when dealing with a franchise player who is about to become a free agent.
One contract like Santana's can cripple a team with limited resources for years if the player is injured for any length of time. Meantime, while a major inconvenience for a richer team, it doesn't necessarily reduce them to non-competitor status.
"That's the small-market, big-market discussion in a nutshell," Radcliff said. "The larger-market teams have money to overcome mistakes that others of us don't. They can say, 'We'll take the risk, no problem.' For teams like us and the Royals, it can be a problem."
This will be Santana's second surgery since becoming a Met -- he underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus when the season ended last October.
His only significant injury while with the Twins came in 2001, when he was sidelined from July 12-Sept. 21 with a partial tear of the flexor muscle in his elbow.
In Minnesota, Twins players, staff and officials were saddened to hear about Santana's impending surgery.
"I hope he's healthy as soon as possible and ready to go," Radcliff said.
Likes: Great picture here from the weekend reunion of the 1979 world champion ("We Are Fam-a-lee") Pirates in Pittsburgh. Great to hear that Chuck Tanner, the manager of that team, is doing well after suffering a heart attack and undergoing surgery this spring. Tanner is 80 now, and he was one of the centerpieces of what several players said was an emotional and touching reunion. "I can't believe after reminiscing that we didn't beat the Orioles in four games," cracked pitcher Bert Blyleven. "Everybody was 5-for-5, I won five games in that series, Jim Rooker won four. ... Just seeing everybody was great. We're still family." ... The Rockies beating San Francisco on Ryan Spillborgh's 14th-inning grand slam on Monday night? They're developing into the best story in baseball. ... Who else was waiting for the Tigers to blow that 10-0 lead in Anaheim on Monday night? Closer Fernando Rodney entered in the eighth inning for the first time all year and, based on the way he handled the ninth, that might not be the last time manager Jim Leyland summons him in the eighth. ... Nick Hornby with a new book due this fall, Juliet, Naked. ... Adele's frozen custard stand in Excelsior, Minn. The Fresh Peach was outstanding today. And the Coconut Cream was exquisite on Sunday. ... The ribs and chopped pork at Famous Dave's barbecue shack.
Dislikes: The way I figure it, if you're looking for a sure thing in this ragged economy, you could do a whole lot worse than owning one of the food joints behind security at the airport. You're unable to bring liquid through security, so you've got to buy water -- or something -- on the other side. And now that they don't feed you on flights, you've got to grab some food (unless you pack it at home, which would be a nightmare trying to get through security. So, basically, for any food or drink, you're held hostage by whatever prices (or they charge or crap they serve. And at the airport near me, the Starbucks now says they will not take regular Starbucks gift cards. Apparently because they're independent and can make their own rules. So that'll be $12 for a cup of coffee, bottle of juice and a yogurt parfait to take on the plane for an early morning flight. And as if that's not enough of a rip-off, the spot where you can really use a gift card won't accept them. Traveling is so much fun.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You got to do what you should
"With each other
"But we're not the same
"We get to
"Carry each other"
-- U2, One