Collins reflects on anniversary of Johan's no-no
MIAMI -- Sitting in the dugout, watching Johan Santana throw pitch after thrilling pitch, pitch after dangerous pitch, Mets manager Terry Collins felt physically ill. It was June 1, 2012, one of the most significant nights in franchise history, and Collins was unable to enjoy it.
"I was ill," Collins recalled. "Sicker than [anything]. Sick to my stomach."
One year has passed since that night, which in retrospect may have been the final apex of his career. Though Santana still hopes to pitch again, he underwent a second operation to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder in March, potentially ending his time in professional baseball.
Collins could not have envisioned such fallout at the time. No one could. Though he and others fretted over Santana's rapidly rising pitch count in his 11th start back from surgery, they also knew, in pitching coach Dan Warthen's words, that "there was no chance we would be able to take him out of the game, so it didn't matter."
"I was excited the whole time, and I was never overly concerned about the pitch count," Warthen said. "I still don't think that was the thing that ended his career by any means."
No one will ever know for sure whether the 134 pitches Santana threw that night played a small role, a significant role, or no role at all in his impending shoulder trouble. But that does not stop Collins from looking back on June 1 with a twinge of regret.
"I was very uncomfortable with the whole situation," the manager said. "Here this guy is and he's facing history, and I'm aware of that and I'm all excited for him. I really am. I wanted this guy to get a no-hitter so bad. And at the same token, I saw that pitch count keep rising."
Collins joked that he "almost wanted to have the catcher tell the hitters what was coming," sparing himself a fair bit of heartache. Eschewing superstition, he communicated with Santana throughout the later innings of the game, making it clear that he would remove his pitcher as soon as the Cardinals struck their first hit.
They never did. And so Collins sat in his office Friday afternoon, one year later, wondering again if he could have done anything differently. On the other side of the office wall, a group of Mets laughed and joked as they played a virtual poker game on their smartphones.
Santana was not among them.
As for Collins, he considers June 1, 2012, one of his two career highlights, ranking alongside the first game he managed. He keeps his wife's ticket stub from that night framed in his home, along with a signed shirt and ball. But he has never watched a replay of the game.
"I've seen it once," Collins said. "That was good enough."