Must-click link: Did Johan Santana trade his career for his no-hitter?

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A fantastic article from Phil Taylor at Sports Illustrated. It looks back to that night, three years ago tonight, when Johan Santana pitched the first and thus far the only no-hitter in Mets history. That was a significant feat, but one laden with questions and, for some, regrets.

Should Johan Santana have thrown 134 pitches to get the no-no when he was a year removed from major reconstructive surgery? Should Terry Collins have pulled him from the game? If Carlos Beltran’s hot shot to third been called fair, Santana would’ve been pulled from the game way before pitch 134, that’s for sure. So many questions.

But when we ask those questions, can we say with any degree of certainty that his high pitch count that night made what came next happen? Would his awful second half of the 2012 season and then, eventually, his being shut down again with major shoulder problems have happened if he had thrown, say, 95 pitches? Or was Santana’s shoulder a ticking time bomb anyway?

No one can answer these questions with any certainty. But Taylor asks Santana, Collins and others about it. Santana has no regrets. Collins certainly has some misgivings, though it’s hard to blame him for not taking Santana out of the game. Add in the excellent observations Taylor makes about the nature of no-hitters — their randomness and analytical insignificance on the one hand with their excitement and significance in the minds of players and fans — and you have a question that can probably never be answered with any certainty. But a question that is wonderful to debate over and over again.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”