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.