Johan Santana undeservedly drops off Hall of Fame ballot

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The 2018 Hall of Fame voting results were just announced. The big news, of course, was that Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman were elected. An under-the-radar piece of news: former Twins and Mets pitcher Johan Santana received only 2.4 percent of the vote, pushing him off of the Hall of Fame ballot for good. He can be elected at a later time through the veterans committee, but BBWAA voting was his best chance.

Santana’s career, unfortunately, was much shorter than anticipated. He had a great 2010 season but underwent shoulder surgery in early September to repair a torn anterior capsule, ending his season sooner than anticipated. He missed the entire 2011 season and didn’t return until 2012. He threw a no-hitter on June 1 against the Cardinals, but otherwise struggled. The lefty battled an ankle injury as well as a back issue. Santana tore his shoulder capsule for a second time in 2013, requiring surgery. In 2014, he tore his Achilles tendon while in extended spring training with the Orioles. In 2015, rehabbing his shoulder with the Blue Jays, Santana suffered a toe infection. He tried again to return to the majors in 2016, but it didn’t happen.

Ultimately, Santana pitched 12 seasons in the majors, winning 139 games with a 3.20 ERA, and 1,988 strikeouts in 2,025 2/3 innings. He won two Cy Young Awards in in 2004 and ’06 with the Twins, earned the ERA title three times (’04, ’06, and ’08), and made the All-Star team four times. Among starters who threw at least 500 innings between 2002-10, Santana had the lowest ERA at 2.89. Adam Wainwright was the only other pitcher below 3.00 at 2.93. Santana was the best pitcher of his generation.

It’s understandable why Santana didn’t get much support, but his career is very similar to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. Koufax also pitched 12 seasons in the majors, retiring after the 1966 season due to arthritis. Santana had a better ERA+ — ERA adjusted for league and park factors — with a 136 mark to Koufax’s 131. They were also close in regular season wins with Santana earning 139 to Koufax’s 165. Other notable achievements:

Santana Koufax
Seasons 12 12
Innings 2,025 2/3 2,324 1/3
ERA+ 136 131
Wins 139 165
Cy Youngs 2 3
All-Star 4 7
ERA titles 3 5
Triple Crowns 1 3
No-hitters 1 4

Koufax also won the World Series three times and had a career 0.95 ERA in eight playoff appearances; Santana never reached the World Series and had a 3.95 ERA in the postseason. Koufax was the better pitcher, of course, but not by much.

Koufax was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972, his first year on the ballot, with 86.9 percent of the vote, higher than anyone else that year. That’s a stark departure from Santana’s support of 2.4 percent. Given the very similar paths their careers took, it’s a shame that Santana won’t get any more consideration for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 5-3, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closed out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before 15-game winner Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).