You follow a team for long enough, you'd think you'd get used to all the worst parts. Inured to their foibles, to the facts of life surrounding the franchise, understanding that not everything is possible. That's the world of fandom when we aren't talking Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, any of those damn coastal elites. Which the Cubs qualify for, but not the White Sox. Fourth coast and all that. But It happened again. The Cleveland Indians let one of their best players of the last decade walk for a comparative pittance. And again, even now as a steel-hearted "analyst" who purports to be some kind of objective, once again, I'm crushed.
More than anyone else on the team at this point, Carlos Santana was the beginning of the new age. He was the great robbery, the great crime that built this fortune on the field we watched these past few years. How do you get a top prospect, a catching prospect with a supreme eye and country mile power, for Casey Blake? Luck, I guess, and taking advantage of a desperate Dodger team owned by a scam artist/parking lot owner. But he became a favorite of mine pretty quickly, and a center of the offense immediately. I became villainously angry at Ryan Kalish of all people when he blew Santana’s knee out that day in 2011, which in retrospect was probably a bit misplaced. And it didn’t seem to harm Santana too much. Since then he’s earned 21.3 fWAR for the Tribe, more than any other position player and trailing only Corey Kluber in that time for value. Considering how baseball players are judged based on averages and consistent production, Santana posting 3-4 wins every year was all anyone could have wanted.
Santana was the replacement for Victor Martinez after a fashion, the power-hitting catcehr who would help lift the team up. Perhaps that colored what people saw in him for his whole career. I never came across it directly, but there has always been a hardcore group that simply did not like Santana, or at least didn't give him his due. Again, his not being quite the raw hitter Martinez was probably had something to do with it. But it's foolish to call him anything but a great offensive force. He has that preternatural eye at the plate and was intensely consistent. More than that, he wasn't any worse than Martinez during his time as a catcher, and repeatedly showed a willingness to do whatever it took for the team. From third base to the outfield, and now being robbed of a Gold Glove at first, it's hard to call him anything but a great Indian. For all the vitriol he apparently caught in the media and among a subset of fan taht just can't appreciate a unique talent, it's going to be hard to see him not an Indian.
At least he's going to the Phillies. They have cool uniforms, have a similarly downtrodden past, and they're on the upswing. It could be worse. He'll look real good with his absurdly bloused pants, so high at the knee, and those bright red socks. BUt it's all too close to the departure of Jim Thome to that same team - the slugging, ever-walking first baseman leaving for greener pastures he so deserves - but at least the cupboard is a bit more stocked behind him. It probably isn’t a death knell for this run. They’re still very good and the offseason is young. They can make a move to replace him. Whether they will is another story.
It's just frustrating is all. yes, $60 million would be life altering for any of us. But in baseball terms that's probably market value for Santana. We know the team doesn’t have a ton of money to toss at free agents, but sometimes you’d think they should be a bit reckless. Besides, it’s not our money, I can be mad about it. I just hope this doesn’t make me slightly resentful of Edwin Encarnacion for taking Santana’s money.
He’ll be missed. He’ll be missed for how he flopped his chain out on home runs. For the savage brutalizations he constantly laid on the Royals. For the fact that he was just a really good baseball player. Because this team is about winning right now. And this is ridiculous. It was three years. Lindor isn’t a free agent for at least four. Everyone else will be old by then. Any fan of the team, of just baseball and fun teams sticking together, has every right to be upset. Santana wasn’t quite the heart of the franchise or anything like that. But losing a good, consistent, team-focused and fun player whose skillset is just so interesting, it’s a loss for everyone. Philadelphia is one lucky city.