My home internet has been on the fritz for a couple of days and didn't get fixed until a couple of hours ago, so maybe I'm a little late on this by web standards, but it seems that Shannon over at MetsPolice--whose work I otherwise adore, of course--is still playing a defeatist game of "What if?" in regards to Johan Santana's no-hitter one year ago tonight.
I began typing this response in the MetsPolice comment section, but as I realized a) it was getting a little long-winded, and b) sadly, I haven't been this fired up about anything Mets-related for a while, I decided it belonged better here. So without any further ado, here's my response:
The greatest orthopaedic surgeon on the planet said the injury was of a degenerative nature. Given that, it didn't matter if Santana made those 134 pitches all on one night or spread them out over 4 different starts. They were going to be thrown, and the injury was going to happen eventually, sooner rather than later, at that. The clock was honestly ticking before he even threw his first bullpen at Spring Training.
To that same end, he suffered the very same injury the first time around without any complete-game no-hitter around to take the blame. It's kinda hard to say "a" leads to "b" when "b" has already occurred once before without "a." Clearly, something about the way Johan Santana throws just isn't conducive to a healthy anterior capsule over time. For all we know, it may be the very same thing that made him a two-time Cy Young Award winner, albeit one with a somewhat disappointingly early expiration date.
You can't say Collins left him in too long and let him throw beyond a reasonable point of fatigue--thus contributing to more stress on the capsule--either. Santana's fastball during the last out was only a whopping 1 mph slower than the one Beltran hit down the line in the 6th. That is in no way indicative of someone whose rotator cuff has run out of gas.
All that out of the way, let me make a more general and more raw statement as a fan. Let's assume just for kicks that the no-hitter is what caused the injury and quite likely ended Santana's career (which it wasn't, btw).
Give me a choice between a) watching Johan Santana or any other pitcher throw a complete game no-hitter at age 33 or b) watching him hope to make it through the 5th inning on a good day as he continues to stay "healthy" into his 40s, and I will without hesitation choose the no-hitter. Every. Single. Time.
Nobody is going to pitch (or play any other position, for that matter) forever. The nature of professional sports is that careers are fleeting, and as a fan, it's all about quality, not quantity. If anyone honestly believes there is a single start Johan Santana could've possibly made this season that would have a prayer of being bigger than the one he already made a year ago, they're nuts. If his time with the Mets ending one year earlier was the price of the first no-hitter in the history of the team (which it wasn't, btw), then so be it. It was totally worth it.