In the 2018 season, former catcher Carlos Santana hit a wall in production. Carlos only hit .229 with 24 home runs and 86 runs batted in. Switching leagues was not as easy as he may have thought, and it appeared as though he wasn’t as comfortable in Philadelphia. But with his roughest season since 2015 behind him, Carlos’ fortune changed. In just a calendar year, Santana’s journey advanced from a struggling switch-hitter in the NL to a resurgent name now playing for his former team, the Cleveland Indians.
An Odd, but Welcome Return
On December 3rd, 2018, the Phillies traded Carlos Santana to the Seattle Mariners in a five-player swap. The former Indians backstop was not on the Mariners long, as he was part of a three-team trade that sent him back to Cleveland on December 3rd. Though the team had to give up two solid prospects in Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser, they made the move to beef up their offense. After having one of his worst years as a pro in the National League, Carlos was headed back to the place he called home.
Not only was this a big trade for the Indians, who were getting back an familiar veteran face in the clubhouse, but it was big for Carlos. In interviews before the season, “Slamtana” talked about his love for Cleveland and regretted not re-signing with the club back in 2017. Also, most people do not know, but he never sold his house after he signed with Philadelphia.
Carlos starts off on fire
The key to the Indians’ success was in how they were going to start the 2019 season. But the team had one big injury to get through during the first month of the season. Francisco Lindor was injured during spring training and was going to be out at least four weeks of the season. Francona had to lean on Carlos early in the season and he did not disappoint. While the young Indians were able to stay above .500 until Lindor returned, the team was struggling to score runs. All the Indians could do was scratch and claw their way to victories that were lead mostly by Carlos’ timely hitting.
After April was over, Carlos hit .294 with three home runs and 13 runs batted in. Lindor was activated off the IL, but had a slow start at the plate and was struggling. The Indians lost Cory Kluber shortly after that to a broken arm from a line drive. Mike Clevinger went out with a hamstring injury that cost him all of May and most of June. As a result, the only starters that were left to carry the staff were Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia later in the year and spent time on the IL. The Indians All-Stars were all in support of “Cookie” when they did a promotional commercial for Stand Up 2 Cancer – Carlos Santana included.
Carlos Voted as All-Star Starter
At this point, Santana’s 2019 season was going extremely well. He was playing some of his best baseball and the fans of Cleveland were appreciating it. Major League Baseball changed up the format for All-Star voting in 2019. They took the top two vote-getters by position, which turned into another vote between those two players to see who was going to start. This worked in Carlos’s favor because the All-Star game was being played in Cleveland. Just a year removed from the worst season of his career while in Philadelphia, Carlos was voted the starting first baseman for the American League.
Cleveland received much praise on social media about how the All-Star game festivities and events went smoothly. Since Cleveland was hosting, Carlos was invited to take part in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, Carlos didn’t make it out of the first round as he was beaten by eventual winner Pete Alonso. We saw a record-setting Home Run Derby as Alonso was able to beat Vladmir Guerrero Jr. Alonso was able to outlast the competition, even though Vlad Jr. hit 91 total home runs that night. It was unfortunate that Carlos did not do better, but this was one of the epic displays fans had ever seen. In the All-Star game itself, Cleveland pitcher Shane Bieber was named AL MVP for his three strikeout performance in his lone inning of work.
Falling Short of the Playoffs
After the All-Star break, the Wild Card race was heating up in the American League. The Indians were in a tight Wild Card race with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. The Indians’ records against the Rays (1-6) and Oakland (1-5) were not good. As a result, the Indians had to finish ahead of both teams because they would lose the tie-breaker and couldn’t even force a play-in game.
Unfortunately, the team was unable to accomplish the feat. They were eliminated on September 27th by the eventual World Series Champions: the Washington Nationals. It was the first time in four years the team did not reach the playoffs.
The Final Numbers for Carlos
2020 should be an exciting year for the young Cleveland Indians. They should have a strong pitching staff again. The young pitchers who earned valuable experience this past season have the chance to be a force this upcoming season. This was a statistical career-year for Carlos and he was rewarded for it. He was named a 2019 Silver Slugger winner along with Lindor and Roberto Perez.
Carlos had career highs in batting average (.281), OPS (.911), runs batted in (93), hits (161), and runs scored (110). One could argue Carlos was happy to be back in Cleveland, as it showed in his play on the field. This second stint with the Indians has started well and hopefully will continue into 2020.
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