I can still remember the feeling in my gut last year when the Tribe was playing the dastardly Boston Red Sox and Carlos Santana did (what we thought at the time was) a Joe Theisman impression. It was soul crushing because the Indians hadn’t even been all that interesting up until the point that Santana showed up in Cleveland. I love the Tribe, but even the most die-hard have to admit that Santana’s arrival injected some life into a relatively lifeless year last year. According to DP who was already in full man-crush mode on Santana from watching him in Columbus, we just had to see his swing. The minute he showed up we could see it.
In Carlos Santana’s second game he went two for four with a homer and three RBI. That was June 11th. By the end of the month, Santana was putting on a show. He had his average all the way up to 0.345 with an on-base percentage of 0.458. In 18 games that June Santana went hitless five times, had one hit seven times and had more than one hit six times. He had 15 RBI in eighteen games. We were talking about a kid who hadn’t played a lot of baseball in Columbus let alone at the major league level. He played 57 games in Columbus before getting time behind the plate for the major league squad.
By the time Santana got hurt on August 2nd in Boston his average had dropped precipitously. In the month of July, out of 26 games, Santana’s hit numbers looked a lot different. He was held hitless in 12 games. He had one hit in 10 games. He scored multi-hit games only 4 times. Granted the team around Santana wasn’t setting the world on fire either. The Tribe lost 14 games that month including six in a row from July 24th to July 30th against the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays. Point being though, that Carlos Santana was playing streaky, inconsistent baseball just like a rookie is supposed to.
Even as I watched Santana stand there and watch three strikes to end last night’s comeback rally against the Royals, I have to remind myself that Santana is still basically a rookie. Technically, I believe Santana played too much last year with his 150 at-bats and just over two months on the active roster. Still, we are talking about 46 games in a fast-tracked career. Add on top of that the expectations of having so little major league experience and yet being thrust into the cleanup spot in the batting order, and you have to take a step back.
This isn’t to say that I was down on Santana after the performance last night. I was disappointed that the Tribe lost, sure. I was disappointed with how it happened on three called strikes. But it goes back to one of my newer philosophies on professional sports. Oddly enough it was a philosophy I honed as I became a fan of Casey Blake who was ultimately traded (along with cash) for Carlos Santana. I later finely tuned it watching Ryan Hollins play for the Cavs.
The philosophy is this. Don’t be mad at the player for working their butt off and giving maximum effort in a role they weren’t necessarily suited to. That will probably be the first and last time that anyone puts Casey Blake, Ryan Hollins and Carlos Santana in the same paragraph in this kind of context, but because of Santana’s youth it makes sense. Santana has phenomenal potential. He could turn out to be a once-in-a-generation type of hitter behind the plate for the Tribe. Just remember Manny Ramirez though.
When Manny Ramirez started playing with the Tribe in 1993 he got to bat in the sixth spot of the order after Kenny Lofton, Wayne Kirby, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle and Paul Sorrento. In Manny’s second game his legend grew as he went 3-4 with two home runs and a double in a 7-3 win over the Yankees. Who knows how long it would have taken Manny to become Manny if he hadn’t been hitting in a lineup with Albert Belle who hit 0.290 and crushed 38 bombs.
I put this out there as a reminder to myself as much as a reminder to everyone else. This player deserves our patience.