Santana to Critics: Drop Dead


Be nice to Ervin Santana, and he’ll be nice to you.

FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD

New York Daily News, October 30, 1975

Ever since it was announced a few days ago that the Angels would recall Ervin Santana to pitch one of the two games in yesterday’s Boston doubleheader, critics have been sharpening their knives in gleeful anticipation of destroying whatever was left of Ervin’s reputation.

In particular, people who claim to be Angels fans filled blogs and fan boards with proclamations of impending doom, almost as if they looked forward to it so they could write more nastiness. The press dutifully reported Santana’s woes this year that led to his demotion, but the undercurrent in many articles was that disaster was imminent, given Ervin’s problems pitching on the road in 2007.

As Ervin’s failures mounted this year, his attitude towards the press soured, especially after they kept repeating the same inane questions. Ervin became increasingly defensive, if not downright sullen.

Those of us who knew him in the minors saw a different Ervin Santana. He was sweet, gentle, playful. Happy-go-lucky.

And he was a **** good pitcher.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Dominican kids. They live life with a certain joy, if not naiveté, about the real world. They grow up in such poverty, with such low expectations in life, that they find fulfillment simply by playing ball.

The first-year Dominican players at Tempe see me running around with the camera and run up to ask, “Picture?!” I think they know maybe ten words of English. “Picture?!” is one of them. Your heart can’t help but go out to them, which is why I always send back photos to the clubhouse after the summer league trip (and why I’m working on them now).

So to read in the papers that Ervin’s attitude had soured was disturbing, because I knew that’s not Ervin.

FutureAngels.com was pretty much the only outlet this week that predicted a more positive outcome for Ervin yesterday. In my August 13 entry, I wrote that his Triple-A demotion was no more than an emotional "time out" to let Ervin compose himself away from the pennant race and the media glare. I noted that if you looked at his starts in the "normal" Triple-A ballparks, he was dominant. Pitching in the PCL’s high-altitude parks distorts statistics for both pitcher and hitter. So looking at those "normal" starts — on the road, no less — there was every reason to think he’d return with his head straight.

The Angels dropped him into a pressure cooker — Fenway Park, second game of a doubleheader, the Angels had lost the first game, they’re playing the team with the best winning percentage in the majors, and the Seattle Mariners are on the Angels’ heels for first place in the AL West.

Ervin responded with a big DROP DEAD to his critics.

Ervin took a perfect game into the 5th inning last night, and finished by allowing one run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings with five strikeouts and no walks.

The beat writers reported that, after the game, Ervin refused to grant interviews to them. Coach Alfredo Griffin came up and cajoled Ervin into answering questions — but he’d only do it in Spanish. (Ervin speaks acceptable English.) Griffin translated the answers, which makes you wonder whether what Alfredo said in English was what Ervin said in Spanish.

Santana’s disdain for his critics can be summed up by comparison to an infamous New York Daily News headline published on October 30, 1975. The City of New York was on the brink of municipal bankruptcy, and was seeking a bailout from the federal government. President Gerald Ford promised to veto any bill bailing out the city. The Daily News responded with the infamous tabloid headline, “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD”. Ford never said it, but that didn’t stop the paper from running the inflammatory headline.

Of course, this was only one start, but it earned him the right to remain in the big leagues. The papers quote Angels manager Mike Scioscia as saying Ervin will get another start next week — at home, against either New York (pressure cooker time) or Toronto.

The media have their job to do, but as the cliché goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

As for the instant-gratification know-nothings who soil Angels fan boards with their presence, they’ll just move on to attacking someone else. These were the people who at various times have called Garret Anderson "lazy," called John Lackey "Lacknuts," wanted Chone Figgins released, wrote that Casey Kotchman was "a slow-running singles hitter who will never amount to anything," etc., ad nauseam.

Well, to quote the Daily NewsDROP DEAD.

8 Comments

Santana definitely needed some time down in the minors. I too feel that it was a positive move and not something that should have been looked at as most news outlets and fans took it! I really enjoy your site and your blog and hope that you guys keep it up!

John

http://majorleagueballhawk.com

http://majorleagueballhawk.mlblogs.com

Stephen,
I appreciate your website and blog because it covers the lowest of Angels minor leaguers and teams.

However, you constantly come off as arrogant and childish.

When I used to visit the Angels MLB board, you were constantly getting into inane arguments with some of the most incompetent posters I have ever seen. I never go on that message board anymore because of them, yet, judging by your constant complaining, you still visit that board quite frequently.

I suggest you channel this energy and visit a blog with real, knowledgable fans. May I suggest Halos Heaven?

And while I’m at it, you always find the need to post your “I told you so” rants about all of your favorites, like Kotchman, McPherson, Santana, etc. Santana deserved to be sent down, he deserved to be slammed in the media, he deserved all of these things. He pitches one good game upon his return and now all of a sudden it’s, “yep, I’m the smartest guy around. I knew Santana just needed some PCL action?” Santana is Ramon Ortiz in a different body and a model of inconsistency. Let’s see him rattle off a string of quality starts before you make yourself out to be God’s gift to Angels baseball.

Good day.

You’re entitled to your opinion, but let me point out that you engage in name-calling and then call me “childish,” so I’ll just pass on responding further.

With the exception of Halos Heaven … I have looked at that site. For openers, the main difference between Halos Heaven and the MLB board is that Halos Heaven doesn’t have a profanity filter, otherwise the level of baseball knowledge is about the same. People routinely drop the “f-bomb.” I’m fully capable of using profanity too, but I think on a public board where children might read the posts that it sets a bad example.

Beyond that, I did a search a few months ago of posts on that site and found that its proprietor had posted a number of false statements and smears about me.

For example … Back in October 2005, I put FutureAngels.com in hibernation. It was very public as to why. My father had suffered a massive heart attack, was in a coma for six weeks, and was unlikely to make it. At the same time, I’d been told that my day job was scheduled for elimination in the 2006 budget, so I was no longer willing to absorb $2,000/year losses running the site when I might be on the unemployment line at any time.

All this was posted on the site and publicly available for many months.

The Halos Heaven proprietor chose to post a lie, claiming the Angels had shut me down because I was using their copyrighted logo.

For openers, I am well aware of copyright law, because I’ve been ripped off many times by sleazy people who lack integrity and want to make a buck off someone else’s hard work. So you never see any professional team’s logo on the site unless I have permission.

(The photos don’t account because copyright law considers them “art” and it’s not a legal issue unless I mass-produce them for sale, which I don’t. If they’re used for a news function, such as the photos in this column, then it’s perfectly legal.)

Beyond that, though, the fact of the matter is that the Halo Heaven proprietor chose to exploit my personal tragedy to smear my reputation. I will never have anything to do with a person like that.

Thanks for responding to 10% of my post.

As for the “proprietor” of HH, I’m sure he didn’t know about your family issues, he just had some misinformation.

And the fact that you compared HH to the MLB board with profanity is mind-boggling. You can’t accept any criticism of players that you saw when they were 18-year-olds playing away from their parents for the first time.

You sure can dish out the criticism of those with differing views from yourself, though.

Sample size of one, Stephen. “Drop dead” is so wholly inappropriate as to be laughable. He’s posted a terrible line throughout the entire season, and predictably, on the road. Santana can be very good. Will he? Who knows. His big problem in the minors was inconsistency. Surprise! He’s been inconsistent in the majors, too. Will you issue a mea culpa the next time he blows up away from home?

I truly appreciate how you defend the Angels minor league system and the Angels careful approach to home grown talent as the foundation for their success. I also hate some of the negativity of some of the bloggers who predict ire doom for every move that the Angels make. For instance, acquiring Gary Matthews Jr. doesn’t seem like such a bad move now does it?

Moving Santana down to AAA was the right move at the time, and although I can’t say I was confident he’d do well when he came back, I was most certainly pulling for him. He is a great kid with tremendous talent, and he’s first and foremost an Angel, who in his young career has already done some “magical” things in an Angels uniform.

I hate bandwagon fans, know it all bloggers who repeatedly advocate pushing the panic button. It certainly seems some of these so called expert opinions almost want some of these young kids to fail so that they can be “right” in saying Stoneman is terrible and that they needed to trade the farm for a superstar.

Quite often the same hypocritical people who trashed Bobby Jenks as a fat, alcoholic clubhouse cancer, now ridicule Stoneman for letting him go.

I understand that as fans, you want a winning team. But as fans, we should also support and be loyal to our players. Garret Anderson may be frustrating to watch sometimes when he grounds out to second base…again, but he’s a lifelong Angel, and helped bring a World Series championship to LA. There is inherent value in him being a lifelong Angel, a homegrown talent, rather than some mercenary like ARod. You look at any championship team, and you see a core of guys who grew up together in the minors and pull for each other. You look at the Yankees, and that core is essentially gone. You see guys like A-Rod and Jeter not get along which effects the chemistry of the club. For the angels, that core of Erstad-Salmon-Percival-Glaus-Washburn-Anderson-Kennedy is gone. It had to happen so that a new generation of talented youngsters can start a new Angels tradition. I really hope that we keep our starting core of Lackey-Escobar-Weaver-Santana-Saunders together. And hitters like Kotchman, Kendrick, Wood, Morales, can step up and form a new nucleus. What made 2002 so gratifying was that we had an Angel team core finally persevere. As an Angel fan, maybe naively, that’s what I’m rooting for, for guys like Santana to succeed, because that kind of tradition, and that brand of baseball is most worth being a fan of.

Garret Anderson with similar sentiments toward his own critics last night. It was expecially appropriate that this game happened two days after Jonah Keri of ESPN.com posted an article on the Boston-LA series, including as one of his major subjects the fact that “Garret Anderson is English for Really Bad Baseball Player.”

As far as Santana, I went on record before the game as believing he had a decent shot to do well despite his problems. I thought it was fairly clever of Scioscia to set up the Match-ups as Bucholz-Lackey, Santana-Beckett rather than a straight up match of ace vs ace, young guy vs young guy. While the first one didn’t work out as well as I had hoped, the second one was everything we could have asked for.

I’m still glad Ervin was sent down though, as he needed to regain some focus and confidence in his pitches.

My one reservation about Ervin returning is that if Bartolo manages to get healthy, who will be the odd man out? It has always been my opinion that Joe Saunders is actually the best of our three young pitchers in terms of how good he is “right now.” He is a rock of unshakeable confidence on the mound, and his ERA only climbed as high as it did in 2006 because of forearm fatigue problems which led to collapses in four starts.

My opinion then, is that it can’t be Joe. I don’t think Weaver will be moved. That only leaves Ervin or Colon. Given Colon’s veteran status, Mike will likely use him over Santana, which I suppose leaves the bullpen.

Five runs, all earned, six innings.

http://tinyurl.com/ypn75p

Critics to Stephen Smith: measure your words lest you be forced to eat them.

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