Time for the Mets to shut down Johan Santana for the season

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Johan Santana completes a no-hitter. (SNY )
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Right now, top Mets decision-makers are gathering to decide the 2012 fate of Johan Santana.

It was 81 days ago that Santana capped a dominant 11-start beginning to his 2012 season with the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. Santana's workload had been carefully monitored, but the pitch-limit went out the window as he pursued a feat that had eluded the Mets in their 50-year history.

Ultimately, it is impossible to know whether the decision to allow Santana to throw a career-high 134 pitches on June 1 caused his subsequent problems since. It is worth pointing out that Santana threw three consecutive strong starts to end June, and had an E.R.A. of 2.76 on June 30 after throwing eight shutout innings. This is also the game before he apparently hurt his ankle, tried to compensate, and to use the vague Mets parlance, "weakened" his shoulder in the process, landing him on the disabled list for much of July.

But either way, Santana has a problem now. Since June 1, his E.R.A. is 8.27. Over his past five starts, it is 15.63. And so, when Santana spoke to reporters about the possibility of getting shut down in 2012, with an aim toward resting and recovering for 2013, he didn't endorse it, but he didn't dismiss the possibility. If a competitor like Santana is entertaintaining such a notion, it's worth taking very seriously.

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For a manager who nearly broke down crying worried about his star pitcher on the night of the no-hitter, Terry Collins has been oddly evasive when talking about Santana. He proclaimed that he wasn't worried about his pitcher on Friday night, even after Santana's latest debacle, and pointed to rust as a reason for Santana's struggles.

As Adam Rubin reported over the weekend, payroll is expected to stay at the $90 million of 2012. That means no money for new players, essentially, and a third of their payroll is due to Johan Santana.

The Mets need Santana rested and as ready as possible to perform in 2013; once again, they'll have no margin for error. Nothing he can give the Mets now will matter much in this lost season. But he'll be crucial next year, if the Mets are to return to relevance.

Has Johan Santana has thrown his last pitch of 2012? If the Mets are thinking about the future, as they ought to be, the answer will be yes.

Elsewhere in New York sports:

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Mark Teixeira, still nursing his wrist injury, is expected back on Monday.

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Down 2-0 to the Portland Timbers at Red Bull Arena, the Red Bulls rallied for an epic 3-2 win.

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