QOTD: Whither Johan?

Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 12:53 PM EST

Contributed by: Mike D

As our friends south of the border celebrate Thanksgiving, several clubs have plenty for which to be thankful. The Minnesota Twins organization, having won three straight division crowns on a limited budget, likely offers thanks on a daily basis for the rapid development of its young, inexpensive stars -- and foremost among them is surely the winner of the 2004 AL Cy Young Award, Johan Santana.

Question Of The Day: With the benefit of hindsight, who was right in the Great Johan Santana Debate? Before I remind you of the dispute, consider these numbers:

2000, Age 21
2-3, 6.49, 30 G, 5 GS, 86 IP, 102 H, 54 BB, 64 K, 398 BF

2001, Age 22
1-0, 4.74, 15 G, 4 GS, 43 2/3 IP, 50 H, 16 BB, 28 K, 195 BF

2002, Age 23
8-6, 2.99, 27 G, 14 GS, 108 1/3 IP, 84 H, 49 BB, 137 K, 452 BF

2003, Age 24
12-3, 3.07, 45 G, 18 GS, 158 1/3 IP, 127 H, 47 BB, 169 K, 644 BF

2004, Age 25
20-6, 2.61, 34 G, 34 GS, 228 IP, 156 H, 54 BB, 265 K, 881 BF

Not bad, eh? Anyway, let's go back to mid-season, 2003. With a scuffling rotation of Lohse, Radke, Rogers, Mays and Reed, the Twins were hamstrung in their battle with the Royals and White Sox despite superior hitting, defence and relief pitching.

Many in the analytical community, most notably Baseball Prospectus and Aaron Gleeman, were charging the Twins' brass with incompetence -- or worse -- for keeping an arm as valuable as Johan's in the bullpen throughout the first half of the season. "Free Johan Santana!" was the rallying cry, as article after article blasted Minnesota for not realizing how much more Santana could add to the team in a starting role.

Of course, as the numbers bear out, Santana immediately established himself as a dominant ace upon promotion to the rotation, and he hasn't looked back. The "Free Johan Santana!" movement rejoiced. But an unnamed AL executive surprised BP's Gary Huckabay by ripping the site for its criticism of the Twins.

Consider this explosion: "You want to keep him down to 140-160 innings, not throw him to the wolves by putting him in the rotation at the start of the season! The Twins have handled this the right way, and you guys have been way out of line...You guys have been selling a line on Santana, no question, and you need to knock it off. It makes you look stupid."

So, today's question. Who should feel vindicated? The "Free Santana" folks, because Johan proved how valuable he can be immediately upon his insertion into the rotation? Or the Twins, for patiently easing Santana into the rotation and seeing their grooming come to fruition?

The floor is yours.