Twins all-time great Johan Santana was born in Tovar, Venezuela on March 13, 1979.
With the first pick in the 1999 Rule 5 draft, the Twins selected Cleveland pitcher Jared Camp. The Marlins selected 20-year-old Santana from the Astros with the second pick. In a prearranged deal, Twins GM Terry Ryan then traded Camp to the Marlins for Santana plus cash money.
Camp never made it to the majors. Santana, on the other hand, posted a 93-44 record over eight seasons with the Twins, winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2004 and 2006, the latter unanimously.
Santana was part of a remarkable stretch for Twins baseball, during which they won the Central Division four out of five seasons from 2002 to 2006 (and again in 2009 and ‘10, after Santana’s departure).
That great run of baseball, of course, was made possible by great pitching. From July 5 to 7, 2004, Brad Radke, Santana, and Kyle Lohse threw three consecutive shutouts versus the Royals at the Metrodome. The Twins outscored the Royals 25-0 over the three-game series.
Santana entered the record books three times on September 24, 2004, winning his 13th straight decision, breaking the team record set by Radke in 1997. He also became the first Venezuelan 20-game winner in major league history, and broke Bert Blyleven’s team single-season strikeout record. Bert K’ed 258 in 1973. Santana took a no-decision in his final start of the season, finishing with a league-leading 2.61 ERA, 0.921 WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched), and 265 strikeouts en route to winning his first Cy Young Award.
The Twins lost the 2004 Division Series 3-1 to the Yankees, but it certainly wasn’t Santana’s fault. He pitched seven shutouts innings in Game 1, as the Twins beat Mike Mussina and the Yankees 2-0. He gave up one run over fine innings in Game 4, leaving with the lead, but the Twins eventually lost 6-5 in 11 innings.
In 2005 Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA, led the league with a 0.971 WHIP, led the majors with 238 strikeouts, and finished third in Cy Young balloting to 21-game winner Bartolo Colón and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. For the sabermetrically inclined, Santana’s WAR (wins above replacement) was 7.2, whereas Colón and Rivera’s were each 4.0 (per Baseball Reference).
In 2006 Santana led the majors with a 2.77 ERA, 0.997 WHIP, 245 strikeouts, and 19 wins (tied with Chien-Ming Wang), and won his second Cy Young Award, this time by unanimous decision. It was his third consecutive season leading the league (or majors) in strikeouts and WHIP.
Santana set a team record on August 19, 2007, striking out 17 Rangers in just eight innings on a Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome. He did not issue a walk or allow a run, and gave up only two hits, both to steroid-addled Sammy Sosa. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth as the Twins won 1-0 on a Michael Cuddyer home run leading off the second.
Twins GM Bill Smith did the prudent thing on February 2, 2008, trading Santana to the Mets, who promptly signed him to a six-year, $137.5 million extension. In return the Twins received Carlos Gomez, and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Gomez hit for the eighth cycle in Twins history on May 7, 2008, and scored one of the most exciting runs in team history in the bottom of the 12th of Game 163 on October 6, 2009. Humber pitched a perfect game for the White Sox on April 21, 2012.
After three very good seasons in New York, Santana missed all of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.
He came back in 2012, and pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1 versus the Cardinals at home in Queens. He pitched his final major league game just over two months later on August 17 at age 33. Plenty of people, including Mets manager Terry Collins, have wondered if it was wise to let Santana complete his 134-pitch no-hitter. Santana, for his part, has no regrets.
On January 19, 2018, Twins president Dave St. Peter announced that Santana had been elected to the team Hall of Fame. He was inducted on August 4.
He appeared on just 2.4% of Hall of Fame ballots in 2018, his first year of eligibility. Because failed to garner at least 5% of the vote, he will not appear on future ballots.
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